Amateur Images in News : Indices of Power Struggles in the Fragmented Public Space
For the last few years, with breaking news involving disasters, catastrophes, wars, attacks, amateur images have been seen in the news, used as ever before on TV and newspapers. These images are related to terrorist attacks in New York, and London, the Tsunami, the war in Iraq, public executions, Happy Slapping. My research project concerns the images diffused on French TV and printed in French newspapers between 1991 (the first war in Iraq) and 2006 (Saddam Hussein’s execution). This work places them in a production-diffusion-reception process that includes three different actors: the amateurs, the media, the receivers and in the background: the fragmented public space (a concept developed by Bernard Miège). In this perspective, Information and Communication Sciences (a French field of research) allows studying amateur images in news using an interdisciplinary approach. This allows including a long-term perspective as well as a mix of micro- and macro levels. Studying a contemporary topic reduces the number of available (academic) sources. Consequently, we will lean on academic literature on images, media (and public space) and the ‘social anchorage’ of techniques. Additionally, my theoretical framework will be combined with fieldwork, which will be based on frame analysis, interviews with image professionals (to understand the evolution of images, and the related historical context ...), interviews with journalists, graphical editors, photo-reporters, interviews with receivers, and media observations to understand the construction/diffusion of amateur images, ... . The combination of the theoretical framework and my fieldwork will allow to construct (and to balance) the main thread of this research project: the presence of amateur images in the news (between actors’ strategies, social and identity construction, and social logics) seem to be indicators of power struggles in a fragmented public space. Also, this re-emergence (since amateur images are not new in themselves) will reveal power struggles of ‘images trying to take over the text’, of amateurs versus professional, of self-expression versus the expression of ‘us’, of media’s objectivity versus amateurs’ subjectivity, of manipulation versus information, of the ‘centre’ as a referent versus the ‘periphery’, of participatory journalism versus traditional journalism. As this is an undecided struggle, it is important to take an interest in the strategies, and to privilege nuance, distance, and articulation in this research project.