Mobile phone cultures and the reporting of crises and disasters

Larissa Hjorth and Kyoung-hwa Yonnie Kim’s ‘The Mourning After: A case study of social media in the 3.11 earthquake disaster in Japan’ (2011) and Stuart Allan’s ‘Citizen Journalism and the Rise of “Mass Self-Communication”: Reporting the London bombings’ (2007), both explore the significance of how citizens use mobile phones and social media during natural disasters and crises. Because mobile phones, allow us to be on the move and give us access to the Internet wherever we go, this means that we can access the latest news as well report on events that we experience firsthand. In Hjorth and Kim’s article, it is argued that social media helps users to deal with their situation (Hjorth and Kim, Television and New Media, 2011, p. 552) and provides an outlet to channel their thoughts and opinions in times of crises or disasters. Social media provides an effective means to capture and share information quickly and efficiently. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter give the public a virtual space for people to network and consolidate action. In addition to this, social media offers a sense of intimacy (Hjorth and Kim, 2011, Television and New Media, p. 554) and immediacy for example in the immediate aftermath following the London bombings citizen journalists were sharing with the online world the crisis they were baring witness to and their perspective on it.

Kim and Hjorth do briefly mention that there are limitations of social media, namely that users are defining their own boundaries because they have the power to choose who they connect to and what content they expose themselves to (Hjorth and Kim, 2011, Television and New Media, p. 554). I think this limitation also applies to other media formats, for instance when watching TV, a viewer can choose whether they would like to watch a cooking show or whether they would rather watch the news. Social media like a TV remote gives the user control to what they want and consume what they like.

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