“Bring in the Audience!” Exploring an Interdisciplinary Approach to Investigating Audience Reactions to Mediated Distant Suffering
Scholarly work on audience reactions to mediated distant suffering tends to focus on the moral, ethical and/or emotional aspects involved (Höijer 2001; Chouliaraki 2006; Scott 2014) while there is also a bias in foregrounding negative reactions such as denial, skepticism or indifference (Moeller 1999; Seu 2010). Hence, more complex and qualified aspects of audience reception risk staying under-explored in future scholarly work. This article acknowledges the complex nature and identifies a broad range of aspects (psychological, cultural, sociological,…) that can influence people’s attitude towards distant societies and suffering. The objective is to explore different processes and aspects that can be integrated in research on audience reactions to images of distant suffering, from different disciplines within social sciences. Cultural anthropology and sociology of new media are briefly discussed in this regard while social psychology is looked in more closely. An interdisciplinary theoretical basis is quintessential in understanding the audience and its complex relation to distant suffering. In this respect, the presented article responds to the call for more empirical and theoretical audience research in the field of mediated suffering by taking the first step towards interdisciplinary and multi-methodological research (Joye 2013; Ong 2014; Orgad and Seu 2014).