Ideas, thoughts, and discussions on C4D
Visuals in media representations: misused?

Visuals in media representations: misused?

In recent years there is much more focus on the visualizations in media representations, looking at the images and photographs which go viral. But there are a number of overarching questions looking at these news coverages and images presented, while looking at the nature of the conflict and the recipient reading and encoding the image or video along with the text or voice-over. How can the photographs in online news coverages or on social media platforms be analyzed? What are the coding criteria that allow observations be made by participants, actors in specific settings, foregrounds and put in particular evaluations?

Source: Winner World Press Photo 2019,

By for example looking at the photograph of John Moore, who won the prestigious World Press Photo contest with the photograph entitled ‘’Crying girl on the border’’. The image was selected out of 78,801 photographs, submitted by 4,738 photographers (source: World Press Photo). In the picture, we can see a 2-year-old Honduran girl crying as she and her mother were taken into custody by US border officials at the US and Mexican border in McAllen, Texas. This was under Trump’s administration and ended under pressure of public and law makers, who terminated the controversial policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the US-Mexico border. It was foreseen that the photograph was going viral and widely published to portray the US government’s family separation policy.

Yet, it appeared later on that the child was never separated from her mother. The photographer commented that ”when you put a human face and a humanized issue, that you make people feel. And that if you make people feel, people feel compassion’’ (source: Newsd) . According to the photographer that would be okay, whereas other journalists believe that the photographer overstepped his role as photojournalist. How trustworthy is the representation of the photograph for the different actors involved such as photographers, participants and recipients of the media representation? Or the contest jury and viewer of the international and largely recognized World Press Photo contest?

Source: Child in an ambulance after being pulled out of a building hit by an airstrike, Aleppo Media Centre, Guardian.

The same would count for particular babies or children in war or extreme poverty zones, used in aid campaigns or by media correspondents or journalists. The photograph of the boy sitting dazed and bloodied in the back of an ambulance, after surviving the airstrike in Aleppo highlighted the desperation of the Syrian Civil war and the struggle for the control of the city. The image went viral for more than thousands of times on social media platforms. It appeared that the initial tweet by a  Telegraph reporter was retweeted more than 12,000 times (source: The Guardian). The scene was marked as the ‘’Horror of Aleppo’’. Sentiment and affiliation with the little boy was created with text passages as ‘’That little boy in the back of the ambulance, alone and dazed. Bloody awful. What can we do?’’ (source: The Guardian) Most remarkably is that the article was amended, to clarify that more than one person captured footage of the little boy after his rescue. It becomes clear that global media representations are tremendously important for global news agencies and media journalists.

It seems that new forms of journalism with the usage of visuals play a significant role here, whereas there is an increase of journalism on a daily basis due to the advanced developments of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) worldwide. Also think of local citizens or citizen journalists, who have access to a smartphone with their camera to publish their photos right away on the web. The examples here above show that there is an intensification on self-promotion movements by global media agencies or (citizen) journalists, plus that entertainment values and sensationalism seem to play an important role. Looking at the visual images, it can also be said that there are several stages of analyzing the representations. For example consider the relationship between the image as a form of representation and the people who produced them. Not all recipients see the same image content and interpret visuals differently.

The way images are displayed, perceived and interpreted, play an important role for the perception and interpretation of the visual. But also the viewers’ background information, interest, previous knowledge and interaction with the visual message is key to create its meaning. That also depends on the process of meaning making of the initiator and the situational context and the multimodal message. The challenge of visual communication is the so-called term ‘’visual turn’’; in which the visual communication aspects of communication should be acknowledged as being important and should be examined on trustworthiness. Attention should be drawn to the role of visualizations and the text design, especially in global media representations.

How do you feel about the role of visualization in global news representations in our increased globalized world?

#ICT4Development #Visuals #Media #Representations #Misused?


  1. Nabila Zayati

    Hi Marijke, and good to meet you at Aidea’s blog!

    You brought up one of the most of technology’s hot topics center and ever-present in all aspects of our lives, especially in the media sector.

    I definitely agree with you about the widespread misuse of visual contents on the web. However, I strongly believe that the problem is not about the use of technology but consists in the environment where these technologies are applied. When it comes to journalists’ work for example, they have to respect the deontological code which is updated according to the emerging aspects of online journalism, in the majority of democratic states.

    I wrote about the interaction between media and technology in my recent posts on the blog Activism through the senses and you’re welcome to visit it.

    Thanks for sharing, have a nice week ahead!

  2. Marijke Karla Boven

    Dear Nabila,

    Welcome to our blog site! Thank you for your comment on my blog post, it is indeed a hot topic in our increased globalized world nowadays.

    Yes it is definitely about the respect of deontological codes used by journalists in the emerging online world, with more and more forms of online journalism; especially in this time of the Corona virus. My point is to carefully use photo’s or images portrayed by journalists and aid workers and not to disabuse these images in its context – to manipulate the interpretation, setting or its meaning.

    The local or the one who is portrayed should also have a ”voice” in the media representation according to me. To give a ”visual turn” to the one portrayed, in the right situational context with a multimodel message in global media coverages.

    Thank you for your comment and interesting, I will visit, read and comment on your writings.

    Have a good evening still!

  3. Imran

    Interesting read Marijke! I totally agree with you both. Representation is highly influenced by the given context, which is necessary to be able to interpret a certain image. However, sentimental images are bound to go viral and, thanks to ICT means, could be taken by any other person on the internet without the original context. This could ultimately lead to “Fake news” and misuse of images. Not sure how to tackle these issues and protect its original meaning. Thanks for more food for thought! Imran

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