Amateur disaster footage is a type of online video that depicts first-hand accounts of frightening events. Along with Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms, raw footage has changed the course of political and social action around the globe. YouTube, as a video sharing platform, has the added dimension of captivating audiences with visuals. These videos have a kind of horrible allure that brings millions of views.
Producers of amateur disaster footage are usually civilians with camera phones or camcorders who were at the scene of the event at the right time to capture it. More young adults produce these videos, causing their spread across social media platforms. Shaky, low-quality cell phone footage and mediocre audio give these videos an authentic feel that makes the viewer feel like s/he is really in such a dangerous situation.
Amateur raw footage on YouTube has played an important role in increasing social activism, such as in the riots and demonstrations of the Arab Spring in 2010. Civilians posted first-hand accounts of the violence in order to spread the word about the severity of the situation. This led to a fast-paced movement in the Middle East that included thousands of people. Amateur footage broadcasted the events to the world – garnering more support and awareness from both Western audiences and the rest of the world.
In the case of localized senseless acts of violence, amateur footage is a type of “yellow journalism,” a technique to pull in viewers with eye-catching and often gruesome images. For example, the people who uploaded the many videos of the Boston Marathon bombing and September 11th were not focused on organizing widespread activist support. They just felt the need to document such a catastrophic event. Broadcast stations gathered this raw footage and used it to increase their views.
Watching footage, especially repeatedly, of these terrifying situations can be emotionally and psychologically damaging. Therefore, it is important to take small doses of this intense videography. Amateur raw footage of violence and disasters is a powerful tool for inspiring emotion and action.