Amateur disaster footage arguably has its roots in yellow journalism, the graphic and dramatic coverage that has graced the front pages of newspapers since the late 19th century. With the advent of photography, coverage of gruesome events became a lot easier, such as with Jacob Riis’ photojournalism project, How the Other Half Lives. The new dimension of movement was extremely important in developing this genre – video documentation of horrific events was incredibly valuable.
Now the genre is becoming easier, more widespread, and more comprehensive. With video sharing platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo, the motivation for sharing footage has increased. With applications on smartphones, ordinary citizens can film and upload footage in minutes. Applications such as Vine, Instagram, and Snapchat use a video capture capability with a limited duration, giving rise to the “video tweet,” an ultra-short, unedited video. The quick versatility of these videos make them integral to the genre amateur disaster footage.
In the future, tweets, blog posts, and videos will get shorter and shorter to accommodate the lightning-quick speed of data. Disaster coverage will always be in demand, due to the inherent fascination for horrific events humans have. I predict that disaster coverage will become shorter and more graphic. It will also be easier to upload and search for. Developers will create smartphone applications to group these videos, in order to inspire and help activists.
Ideally, the spread of disaster footage would be controlled. These violent images can be incredibly disturbing and traumatic and when shown to a broader audience, such as young children, can cause significant emotional damage. We as a society need to understand the detrimental power of these videos and create restrictions on the audience.