Strategic Witnessing in an Age of Video Activism

Ristovska, Sandra
Media, Culture & Society

Witnessing is infused in ethical and legal discourses that operate within the matrix of knowledge, responsibility, and action. Through an analysis of the non-governmental organization WITNESS, this article shows how this matrix has been at the heart of the development of professionalized human rights video activism that emphasizes goal-driven, tactical and audience-oriented approaches to witness documentation. By professionalizing video activism, human rights organizations like WITNESS configure the act of bearing witness as a form of social activism that differs from longstanding modes of activist involvement. Using the term strategic witnessing to describe this development, this article suggests a conceptual framework through which we can think about evolving forms of media witnessing in the contemporary media moment.