Deathscapes

Alan Kurdi - images of death online (1) - parallax 3

Deathscapes

Images of death online (1)

As a photo-journalistic image becomes a meme online, the body of this one child, Alan Kurdi, has come to represent the suffering of thousands.

The global circulation of Alan’s body became a grim symbol of the refugee crisis resulting from the Syrian civil war, and armed conflict in neighbouring countries such as Iraq. The photograph of him face-down in the sand,arguably played a role at the time in softening public attitudes and media coverage around the EU, in the UK particularly.

a chart shows the number of tweets by day mentioning Migrants versus Refugees after the Kurdis incident
Source: Vis, F., & Goriunova, O. (Eds.). (2015). The Iconic Image on Social Media: A Rapid Research Response to the Death of Aylan Kurdi. The Visual Social Media Lab, Goldsmiths (University of London).

[imagecaption]The Iconic Image on Social Media: A Rapid Research Response to the Death of Aylan Kurdi. The Visual Social Media Lab, Goldsmiths (University of London).[/imagecaption]

Researchers have been studying the online trajectory and influence of this photo, and different versions of the image. For example, in the infographic above, researchers at the Visual Social Media Lab at Goldsmiths show how digitally networked images of the little boy appeared to raise public awareness on the plight of Syrian refugees in light of the ongoing policy-paralysis in Brussels and in EU member-states about how to respond to the rising death-toll at sea.

Using a range of social media, and web-monitoring tools (e.g. Twitter, Pulsar), findings in this study show a shift in perception, online at least, towards populations fleeing the war in Syria. They appear to show awareness that this is a humanitarian, rather than an ‘immigration’ crisis. Other studies from news organizations (e.g. BBC Trending 2015) corroborate these findings


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All viewers are respectfully advised that the site contains images of and references to the deaths in custody of Indigenous peoples, Black people and refugees that may cause distress.

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