Media Witnessing: Exploring the Audience of Distant Suffering

Kyriakidou, Maria
Media, culture & society

This article aims at demonstrating the relevance of the concept of ‘media witnessing’ as an analytical lens for the study of audience engagement with media reports of distant suffering. Drawing upon existing theoretical work on the concept, the article approaches media witnessing as a distinct modality of audience experience and constructs an analytical framework for its study. Applying this framework on an empirical study of Greek audiences, the article provides a typology of witnessing, consisting of four different types of audience engagement with media stories of human suffering. This typology illustrates the complexities inherent in the practice of watching suffering on television, as well as the limitations of mediated cosmopolitan imagination.