The frames of #aidrefugees

By Kelley Johnson

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The #aidrefugees campaign raised over 1.7 million USD for the UNHCR, and provided an interesting case study of how Twitter can be a powerful promotional and knowledge tool for fundraising. However, when we analyse the tweets through the lens of Communication for Development, we can reach some conclusions that are both interesting and relevant to development today.

The #aidrefugees campaign is a collaboration between UNHCR, the White House, the fundraising platform Kickstarter and several other organizations designed to raise funds for the refugee crisis.

In their book, Politics and the Twitter Revolution, John H. Parmalee and Shannon L. Bichard give us an interesting framework for analyzing tweets by politicians on the campaign trail, but the basic underlying ideas can be used for a different campaign, namely  fundraising. According to frame analysis, we are looking for “keywords, stock phrases, stereotyped images, sources of information and sentences that provide thematically reinforcing clusters of facts of judgments”.

While doing a quick analysis of people tweeting with the #aidrefugees hashtag, we immediately see a pattern.

“Millions of refugees need urgent assistance. We can help. Join @UNRefugeeAgency & @Kickstarter to #AidRefugees”

The tweet above is very likely automatically generated, because the majority of the tweets using the hashtag tweet those exact words. Therefore, this phrase would qualify as a stock phrase for the campaign.

An ongoing theme in the tweets seems to be one of hope and action. @aishatyler tweeted

“We can do more than feel powerless. We can do something. #AidRefugees”. @holst44 tweeted “Don’t just look at tragic images in your feed and shake your head at what a shame it all is. You can #AidRefugees.”

Another point brought up by Parmalee et. al. about frame analysis was that dialogs seem to be one sided in political campaigns, and that seems to be the case here too. There is no dialogue in this hashtag about how we can help refugees in general, or about how the raised money is to be spent, it is simply a call for donations.

According to a short analysis of the tweets using the #aidrefugees hashtag, the framing themes of the campaign seem to be the urgency of the crisis, and that ordinary people, who make up the majority of the people using the hashtag, can do something to help the situation.

Works Cited

Entman 1993 as referenced by Parmalee

Parmalee, J.H; Bichard, S.L 2013: Politics and the Twitter Revolution. How Tweets

Influence the Relationship between Political Leaders and the Public. Plymouth: Lexington Books.

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