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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Humanitarianism and the Media (PGSP11468)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryRun by an award-winning international journalist with a background in providing media training to aid agencies, this optional course will bring together critical ideas and a rich understanding of contemporary practice. Students will learn to understand how and why different forms of media are becoming increasingly central to the conceptualisation and practice of humanitarianism.

In order to do this, the course has been divided into three blocks. The first addresses the intersection of humanitarianism and journalism, including issues pertaining fundraising imperatives, the creation of humanitarian 'emergencies' and debates about the effects of 'aid porn'. Case studies will include the Ethiopian famine of 1984 and the East African drought of 2011.

The second section of the course then addresses the complex ways in which media and humanitarianism both intersect with, and reshape, warfare. This includes examining the historical origins of humanitarianism at a time of war; the characteristics and uses of hate media in the conflicts of the 1990s, including Rwanda and Yugoslavia; and contemporary activists' attempts to use social media to digitally 'witness' and map the suffering of civilians in Darfur and Syria. Finally, the third section juxtaposes older, participatory approaches to post-disaster communication with new, ironic forms of humanitarian campaigning, including the production of new virtual reality films, computer games and mobile apps by UN and humanitarian agencies.

In discussing these three areas students will learn to negotiate complex political and ethical arguments, which involve the use of mediation to renegotiate the boundaries between humanitarianism, international development and human rights. In so doing, they will consider the mixed effects of the increasingly mediated nature of humanitarianism, and the ways in which it both exacerbates and contests deep disparities which exist between the Global North and the Global South.
Course description The course will be delivered over 10 weeks involving a weekly two-hour lecture session and a one-hour seminar session. The seminar will be held after the lecture and at a different time in the week depending on room availability. The two hour lecture slot will involve two lecture sessions of 45 minutes with one break and a 15 minute Q and A session at the end of the lecture. The exception to this will be when a VR film is screened instead.

This session structure will ensure adequate time to review the material and to discuss theoretical and practical questions. This will allow students without previous experience of media studies to gain a good working knowledge of its relevance to humanitarianism and to international development more broadly.

The one-hour seminar will be student-led and will encourage reflection and critical engagement with the readings, theories and case studies. The seminars will involve a range of different activities. These include individual and group presentations, small and large group discussions and debates. In particular, I would like to put into practice some of the teaching and learning strategies I learned as part of my visiting fellowship to Sweden, which guide students through the steps involved in constructing a sophisticated critical argument.

So for example, we might begin by asking two students to discuss how the readings relate to each other. A subsequent week might involve asking a pair of students to outline the merits of the arguments contained in one of the readings, whilst another pair 'opposes' them by pointing out the flaws or limitations of that argument, using other critical work. In this way, we gradually move towards debates which involve considering the relationships between multiple theoretical texts, including the ways in which they support one another, develop one another, and/or exist in tension with one another.

This approach can be particularly useful when there are many international students in the class, who may have different expectations of what teaching and learning at university involves.Exercises will vary each week depending on the topic of the lecture.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2018/19, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  40
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 10, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Students will be assessed on two summative assignments:

A 1,000-word essay (20%) due in week 5 based on a question of their choice from the topics in the first half of the term. The purpose of the essay will be to i) ensure students have an emerging understanding of the concepts and different theoretical perspectives presented in the first half of the term and ii) to give them an opportunity to explore the application of those concepts to case study material. Students will receive feedback from this essay prior to the final summative assignment.

A 3,000-word essay (80%) based on a question of their choice from topics covered during the course.

The reason for the heavier weighting on the final assignment is to allow students who are new to humanitarianism and/or media studies to develop a good working understanding of the concepts and debates that will be introduced during the semester.
Feedback Feedback will be given through peer and seminar leader written in-class feedback on seminar presentations and group work (weeks 2 and 10). Students will also receive formative feedback on their short essay (wk 6 - 8) that will provide guidance in writing the longer essay. Verbal feedback will be offered to students in preparation of their final assignment (wk 7 - 10)
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Identify and analyse a variety of relationships between different forms of media and humanitarianism
  2. Assess the effects of mediation on the conceptualisation and practice of humanitarianism
  3. Contextualise the growing role of media in humanitarianism both historically and politically
  4. Relate academic ideas to industry structures, debates and practices (and vice versa)
  5. Discuss how mediated (or mediatised) forms of humanitarianism intersect with warfare, journalism, advocacy and governance
Reading List
Calhoun, C., 2010. The idea of emergency: Humanitarian action and global (dis) order. In D Fassin and M. Pandolfi (Eds.) Contemporary States of Emergency: the politics of military and humanitarian interventions. New York: Zone Books.

Chouliaraki, L., 2013. The ironic spectator: Solidarity in the age of post-humanitarianism. John Wiley & Sons.

*Cottle, S. and Cooper, G. (Eds.). 2015. Humanitarianism, Communications and Change. Lang, Peter New York.

*Dogra, N., 2012. Representations of global poverty: Aid, development and international NGOs (Vol. 6). IB Tauris.

*Hoffman, P.J. and Weiss, T.G., 2006. Sword & salve: Confronting new wars and humanitarian crises. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

*Franks, S., 2014. Reporting disasters: Famine, aid, politics and the media. Hurst.

McLagan, M., and McKee, Y. (Eds.), 2012. Sensible Politics: The Visual Culture of Nongovernmental Activism. New York: Zone Books.

*Meier, P. 2015. Digital Humanitarians: How Big Data is Changing the Face of Humanitarian Response. London, New York: Taylor and Francis.

Madianou, M., Longboan, L. and Ong, J.C., 2015. Finding a Voice Through Humanitarian Technologies? Communication Technologies and Participation in Disaster Recovery. International Journal of Communication, 9, p.19.

Moeller, S.D., 1999. Compassion fatigue: How the media sell disease, famine, war and death. New York, London: Psychology Press.

Orgad, S. and Seu, I.B., 2014. The mediation of humanitarianism: Toward a research framework. Communication, Culture & Critique, 7(1), pp.6-36.

Orgad, S., 2013. Visualizers of solidarity: organizational politics in humanitarian and international development NGOs. Visual Communication, 12(3), pp.295-314.

Powers, M., 2014. The structural organization of NGO publicity work: Explaining divergent publicity strategies at humanitarian and human rights organizations. International Journal of Communication, 8, p.18.

Richey, L.A. (Ed.), 2015. Celebrity Humanitarianism and North-South Relations: Politics, Place and Power. New York: Routledge.

Scott, M., 2014. The mediation of distant suffering: An empirical contribution beyond television news texts. Media, Culture & Society, 36(1), pp.3-19.

*Somerville, K., 2012. Radio Propaganda and the Broadcasting of Hatred: Historical development and Definitions. London: Palgrave Macmillan
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Graduates will be aware of how important different forms of media are being used within humanitarian campaigning and within humanitarian communications more broadly. They will be able to identify historical and emerging approaches to mediation within the humanitarianism, and to understand how these are structured in relation to different kinds of media, multilateral and non-governmental organisations. In so doing, they will learn to navigate contemporary ethical and political dilemmas with the media and humanitarian industries, which pertain to issues such as fundraising, image guidelines, the loss of editorial control, how to cope with audience preferences, the effects of sophisticated new media technology and the media representation of vulnerable groups, like refugees.

Graduates of the course will also be skilled in independent research, verbal debate and public speaking, as well as being able to write clearly and persuasively about complex subjects. The aim of all of this is to provide students with a critical approach to humanitarian media practice: so making them aware of a variety of different career-paths, including disaster and post-disaster communications, humanitarian campaigning, international journalism, and the production of digital apps, sit-reps or multimedia projects.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Kate Wright
Tel: (0131 6)51 1480
Course secretaryMiss Kate Ferguson
Tel: (0131 6)51 5122
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