Picture This: How Digital Storytelling Campaigns for Refugees Elicit Empathy from a Distant Audience
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This study is concerned with understanding the barriers to empathy in the context of humanitarian imagery (shock effect, positive images, and digital storytelling). The research questions ask: how can digital storytelling campaigns for refugees be designed to elicit empathy from a distant audience, while ethically representing the refugees and their stories? What platforms and mediums are most conducive to this? This study draws from literature in psychology and humanitarian communication, news publications, and 7 primary source interviews to analyze 5 individual humanitarian photos, and 7 case studies of digital storytelling campaigns under 3 format categories (short film, photo series, and web documentary). The implementation of narrative devices in digital storytelling generates evocative campaigns intended to raise awareness. Although awareness and emotional response do not actually solve the root of the problem, the objective of this study is to consider the ethics behind refugee imagery and storytelling and better understand what about the way a refugee's narrative is shared evokes empathy from a distant audience and ultimately increases the viewer's motivation to act.