Mobiles Facing Death: Affective Witnessing And The Intimate Companionship Of Devices

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Larissa Hjorth
Kathleen Mae Cumiskey


From disasters to celebrations, camera phone practices play a key role in the abundance of shared images globally (Frosh 2015; Hjorth and Hendry 2015; Hjorth and Burgess 2014; Van House et al. 2005). Photography has always had a complicated relationship with death. This paper focuses on how mobile devices, through the broadcasting of troubling material, can simultaneously lead to misrecognition of the self (Wendt 2015) alongside an often-public evidentiary experience of trauma and grief. In this paper we will focus on the companionship of mobile devices in users’ most desperate hours. Use of mobile devices in crisis situations generate affective responses and uses. We will draw from case studies to highlight the power of the mobile to not only remind us that media has always been social, but that mobile media is challenging how the social is constituted by the political and the personal, and the ethical mediation between both. The ethical, psychological, moral and existential challenges that this new kind of witnessing poses will be explored.

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Troubled Images