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Social Media, Gender and the Mediatisation of War: Exploring the German Armed Forces’ Visual Representation of the Afghanistan Operation on Facebook



Studies on the mediatisation of war point to attempts of governments to regulate the visual perspective of their involvements in armed conflict – the most notable example being the practice of ‘embedded reporting’ in Iraq and Afghanistan. This paper focuses on a different strategy of visual meaning-making, namely, the publication of images on social media by armed forces themselves. Specifically, we argue that the mediatisation of war literature could profit from an increased engagement with feminist research, both within Critical Security/Critical Military Studies and within Science and Technology Studies that highlight the close connection between masculinity, technology and control. More specifically, it examines the German military mission in Afghanistan as represented on the Bundeswehr’s, the German Armed Forces, official channel on Facebook. Germany constitutes an interesting, and largely neglected, case for the growing literature on the mediatisation of war: its strong antimilitarist political culture makes the representation of war particularly delicate. The paper examines specific representational patterns of Germany’s involvement in Afghanistan and discusses the implications which arise from what is placed inside the Bundeswehr’s frame of visibility and what remains out of its view. A response by Laura Shepherd is available here:
[This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Global
Discourse. The final version is available online here:]
Social Media, Gender and the Mediatisation of War: Exploring the German
Armed Forces’ Visual Representation of the Afghanistan Operation on
David Shima and Frank A. Stengelb
aDepartment of International Relations and International Organization, University of
Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands,;
bResearch Group on International Political Sociology, Kiel University, Kiel, Germany,
Studies on the mediatisation of war point to attempts of governments to regulate the
visual perspective of their involvements in armed conflict the most notable example
being the practice of ‘embedded reporting’ in Iraq and Afghanistan. This paper focuses
on a different strategy of visual meaning-making, namely, the publication of images on
social media by armed forces themselves. Specifically, we argue that the mediatisation
of war literature could profit from an increased engagement with feminist research, both
within Critical Security/Critical Military Studies and within Science and Technology
Studies that highlight the close connection between masculinity, technology and
control. The article examines the German military mission in Afghanistan as
represented on the German armed forcesofficial Facebook page. Germany constitutes
an interesting, and largely neglected, case for the growing literature on the
mediatisation of war: its strong antimilitarist political culture makes the representation
of war particularly delicate. The paper examines specific representational patterns of
Germany’s involvement in Afghanistan and discusses the implications which arise from
what is placed inside the frame of visibility and what remains out of its view.
Keywords: social media, military, Facebook, mediatisation of war, Feminist Security
Studies, Feminist Science and Technology Studies, Critical Military Studies, Germany,
This article examines the (gendered) visual representation of the military operation in
Afghanistan on the German armed forces’ official Facebook page. The paper is situated
within a larger body of literature that examines the mediatisation of war.2 At least for those
not immediately caught up in it, and this certainly applies to the majority of people living in
‘Western’ societies, war is experienced only indirectly through its representation in different
media. Thus, many people’s understanding of specific conflicts, their causes, actual or
potential consequences and justification (or lack thereof) is influenced by particular and
unavoidably partial representations of war (Cottle 2006; Hoskins and O’Loughlin 2010;
Maltby 2012). Given the importance of public support for states’ ability to (legitimately)
wage war (e.g. Der Derian 2009; Carruthers 2011; Stahl 2010), one core focus of the literature
on the mediatisation of war is how states seek ‘to control the visualisation and representation
of their own wars’ (Kaempf 2013, 596).3 Aside from trying to influence the media’s
representations for example through censorship, by constraining access to the battlefield or
1 This is a fully co-authored article. Author names appear in alphabetical order. Previous versions of this article
were presented at the workshop “Visual Culture and the Legitimation of Military Interventions” at the
University of Magdeburg in August 2014, the 2012 and 2015 Annual Convention of the International
Studies Association in San Diego and New Orleans, respectively. The authors would like to thank the
participants in these events, and in particular Anna Geis, Lene Hansen, Juha Vuori and Gabi Schlag, as
well as Jana Jarren and the reviewers and editors of Global Discourse, for their insightful comments.
Malte Kayßer and Philipp Olbrich have provided valuable research assistance, which is gratefully
2 In communication studies, mediatisation is often understood with a narrower focus on cultural and social
change as a result communication increasingly taking place via different media (inter alia Hepp and Krotz
2014). For example, if people increasingly communicate not face to face but via digital social media, this
will have an effect on society. As opposed to that, we use the term here more broadly to refer to the
representation of war and violent conflict in different media, in line with the usage in the mediatisation of
war literature.
3 We focus here on states and their agencies but as the example of the Islamic State makes clear, this also applies
to non-state actors (see Rid and Hecker 2009).
embedded journalism, states also produce their own representations of armed conflict and
military operations. In this context, social media like Twitter, Facebook or YouTube are
crucial (Seo and Ebrahim 2016).4
In this paper, we turn our attention to one particular facet that has only begun to
receive attention, namely armed forces’ activities on digital social media (Crilley 2016; Forte
2014; Jackson 2016; Maltby and Thornham 2016), which are a crucial site of legitimating the
military and its activities, particularly so because they de facto ‘collapse the gap between the
military and the media’, which makes them an interesting topic in its own regard (Crilley
2016, 51). Moreover, analysts of military recruiting have also pointed to the importance of
paying attention to the production of media by states themselves (Rech 2014). We examine
the German armed forces’ – the Bundeswehr’s – visual representation of the International
Security Assistance Force (ISAF) on Facebook as one instance of this larger phenomenon.
Specifically, we ask how the German ISAF mission is represented in photographic images
and what impression of the operation this invokes.5 This project is of both empirical and
theoretical relevance. Firstly, Germany is a particularly interesting empirical case in regards
to the legitimation of war, not only because it has received virtually no scholarly attention but
also due to what is commonly referred to as its antimilitarist culture (see Nonhoff and Stengel
2014 for a critical discussion of the literature).6 As opposed to the United States for example,
which is said to have a ‘deeply embedded’ militarist culture (Harding and Kershner 2011, 81),
4 This not just includes traditional news media like magazines (the US Stars and Stripes and the German
magazine Y being just two examples) but also popular culture, with some state agencies even producing
their own comics (see Shim forthcoming).
5 Given the limited space available and the general thematic focus of this special issue on visuality, we omit a
detailed discussion of the relevance of visual media in general and photography in particular. This has, in
any case, been provided elsewhere (see, in particular, Hansen 2011, 2015; Shim 2014).
6 The only two contributions on the German armed forces’ social media presence are a descriptive overview of
these activities (Jacobs 2016) and an evaluation of its effectiveness in reaching the intended audience
(Günther 2016).
after the Second World War military force was rejected as a legitimate instrument of German
foreign policy. This provides an additional obstacle to the legitimation of military operations
(Berger 1998; Maull 2000). Afghanistan stands out as Germany’s most intensive military
operation since the end of the Second World War. Secondly, with respect to theory we argue
that the mediatisation of war literature could benefit from an increased engagement with
feminist research in International Relations (IR) and Science and Technology Studies (STS)
that draws our attention to the interface between technology and masculinity, here specifically
in a military context (Carver 2008; Godfrey et al. 2012; Masters 2008).7 The German case
demonstrates the relevance of gender in the mediatisation of war. As we will argue in detail
below, a large part of why certain representations, visual and otherwise, seem convincing
and/or appealing because they can draw on established constructions of masculinity and
Gender constructions and the mediatisation of war
War presents an especially difficult policy to legitimize, not only because it is costly, both in
economic terms and in lives lost, but also because soldiers are explicitly trained to kill, which
outside of war is seen as highly immoral in virtually all societies and subject to severe
criminal punishment. This makes military operations difficult to ‘sell’ to the public
(Kaufmann 2004), and governments try to control how military operations are represented in
different media. Research on the mediatisation of war examines how the representation,
including visually, of war contributes to the latter’s normalisation. Examples include Der
Derian’s (2009) analysis of the representation and production of war in and through (new)
media technologies such as film and video games or Stahl’s (2010) insightful account of the
consumption and entertainment of war in US popular culture. According to these studies, the
7 We would like to thank Laura Shepherd for pointing us to this aspect.
mediatisation of war implicates a development after which war becomes virtuous (Der Derian
2009), that is a preferred, and ultimately normal, means of politics in international relations.
The literature on the mediatisation of war has provided valuable insights into how
mediatisation contributes to the legitimation of war. Nevertheless, it could benefit from
increased engagement with feminist research, in particular Feminist Security Studies, which,
like the mediatisation of war literature, focuses on dynamics of militarisation. What feminism
adds is a theoretical account of why certain representations make military operations seem
legitimate. The argument, in a nutshell, is that certain representations draw on established
gender constructions and corresponding behavioural norms, and this resonance makes them
seem plausible. Because gender discourse cuts across, and intersects with, different thematic
(say, security or human rights) discourses, gendered behavioural norms influence how people
act in all kinds of social situations – independent of their sex. Gender discourse orders the
world according to the masculine/feminine dichotomy, and because of the mutual infusion of
gender discourse and (gendered) thematic discourses, certain attributes such as hard/soft,
rational/irrational, strong/weak, active/passive, public/private or aggressor/victim become
associated with a specific gender.8 Masculinity and femininity are constructed as opposites,
and the former is usually privileged over the latter (Hooper 2001, 43f). With respect to
military violence specifically, feminist scholars have pointed to a number of ways in which
masculinity and militarism/militarisation are linked (e.g. Cohn 1987; Enloe 2000, 2007;
Godfrey et al. 2012; Goldstein 2001), and how gender constructions help legitimise the use of
military force and delegitimise criticism and nonviolent alternatives (Shepherd 2006; Young
8 In reality, gender discourse is more complicated than the binary suggests, with different forms of masculinity
and femininity, ordered in a hierarchical fashion (Connell 2005). We leave this discussion aside here due
to limited space.
Particularly relevant in the context of this study is the nexus between technology,
(various forms of) masculinity and notions of control that has been a core concern of feminist
technoscience/feminist STS (for an overview, see Wajcman 2009) and, if to a lesser extent,
Feminist Security Studies (Carver 2008; Cohn 1987; Masters 2008). As we will discuss in
more detail below, the most notable feature of the photographs published on the
Bundeswehr’s Facebook page is the prominence of technical equipment, mostly vehicles of
various sorts. What might seem unremarkable at first glance makes much sense if read in
through a feminist lens. The interesting point here is that technology and science are not
gender-neutral. Quite to the contrary, technology and machinery are closely associated with
masculinity, which in turn is connected to control over nature (and women) (Mellström 2002;
Wajcman 2009). As research in Feminist Security Studies shows, this argument also applies
to military operations and the use of force in that a technical representation also invokes the
notion of control over, in this case, the enemy, analogous to nature in technological discourse.
For instance, Carver (2006, 2008) has pointed to the close association between machine
metaphors and different forms of ‘Western’ masculinity (‘warrior-protector’ and ‘rational-
bureaucratic’). Machines, Carver points out, are associated with certain human qualities,
including ‘rationality, logic, economy, functionality, specialization, infallibility, consistency,
value, reliability, interchangeability, and most importantly, freedom from emotion,
personality and will’ (Carver 2006, 464), all of which are closely associated with masculinity.
Far from being neutral, then, a depiction of machinery is closely associated with masculinist
notions of control. In a similar fashion, feminist scholars of militarism/militarisation have
pointed to the importance of so-called ‘cyborganization’ (Godfrey et al. 2012, 556), that is,
the technological enhancement of the military subject. In this context, in particular Masters’s
(2008) work on the increasing role of technology in the United States is highly relevant.
Without going into too much detail, Masters points to the connection between the figure of
the cyborg and a desire for dominance and control. She argues that after the Vietnam War,
casualties became increasingly unacceptable, and the response to that was the increasing
reliance on technology to minimize, if only symbolically at the level of representation, the
exposure of the vulnerable, and thus unreliable, human body to violence. Read this way, an
increasing reliance on technology (body armour, drones, etc.) presents an attempt to make the
soldier invincible (if only virtually) and ultimately to make death itself controllable.9 If one
pushes this thought further, one could argue that a visual representation of machinery and of
the military-subject-as-cyborg creates the appearance of military violence, and ultimately the
enemy, as something that can be subjected to rational control. Although Masters herself
speaks more about the actual process of replacing humans with technology in the practice of
warfare, we argue that also a visual representation of the soldier in a cyborganized way makes
him appear less prone to breakdowns, emotional or physical, and more machine-like,
invincible and in control. As a result, armed violence appears amenable to technical solutions.
Thus, in a nutshell, the more technical and the less human a representation, the more it
invokes an appearance of ‘doability’, of control.
Everything under (the warrior-protectors’) control: the visual representation of
‘This is not a war’ – The peculiarity of the German case
In the context of the visual legitimation of war, Germany is a particularly interesting case,
mainly due to what constructivist scholars have called the country’s antimilitarist culture,
which mainly manifests itself in a widespread rejection of military force in international
politics (inter alia Berger 1998; Maull 2000). Since then, consecutive governments have
9 In the US context, Masters argues, the desire to control (the representation of) death stems from the experience
of the Vietnam War which ‘exposed the vulnerability of the human body’ (Masters 2008, 93). In the
German context, one could argue, it stems from the antimilitarist culture that emerged after 1945.
increasingly committed the Bundeswehr to multinational operations, culminating in ISAF as
the Bundeswehr’s most expensive and by far bloodiest mission to date. Despite an
increasingly violent operation, German decision-makers were reluctant to divert from the
initial framing of the operation as a humanitarian or stabilization mission. Despite an
increasing combat orientation of the operation, this only changed after the 2009 Kunduz
airstrike that, called in by a German colonel, killed up to 142 people, including a large
number of civilians (Noetzel 2011).10 Before 2009, German decision-makers had avoided
using terms like ‘war’ with respect to anything the Bundeswehr was involved in, but the
airstrike triggered an engagement with an ‘operational reality’ that soldiers had described as
war for quite some time, and was followed by the adoption of counterinsurgency doctrine and
a generally ‘more offensive force posture’ (Noetzel 2011, 398). However, decision-makers
remained disinclined to fully adopt the war terminology. Thus, when Defense Minister Karl-
Theodor zu Guttenberg (2009), in what can only be described as a very reluctant formulation,
referred to the situation in Afghanistan as ‘war-like’ (kriegsähnlich), he was criticized in the
ISAF has since then been discontinued and replaced by the much scaled-down
Operation Resolute Support, but the debate about the mission illustrates the continued
relevance of antimilitarist discourse. Thus, if anything, the increased combat orientation of the
German operation in Afghanistan has strengthened the scepticism of the general public
towards combat operations (Zeit Online 2014). This, we argue, is important because discourse
limits what can legitimately be said and done, including which form of visuality is acceptable.
For instance, while studies of the US have pointed to the importance of a sublime aesthetics
(e.g. Bleiker 2009, ch. 3), we would argue that in the German case this would clash with
sedimented discursive practices of antimilitarism, whereas in US society it resonates with
10 The exact number of casualties is unclear.
discursive patterns that highlight the importance of military strength (Ferguson 2009)
combined with a strong notion of exceptionalism. In that sense, we would expect quite a
different form of visual legitimation of the military and its activities than in a US context.11
Focusing on the Bundeswehr’s Facebook presence allows us to trace how the German armed
forces navigate the tension between an ‘operational reality’ that does at times involve
violence and a society still highly sceptical of any form of military violence.
Visual data and coding
The empirical analysis is based on all photo albums on the ISAF operation included on the
Bundeswehr’s official Facebook page ( The page is
maintained by the Bundeswehr’s social media team, and photographs were provided by the
Bundeswehr itself. Our corpus includes all albums made available until February 2015, which
includes not just the mission but also the gradual withdrawal of troops and equipment and the
conclusion of ISAF in December 2014. In February 2015, the Bundeswehr’s Facebook page
had 187 photo albums covering not just different operations but also manoeuvres and
outreach events. 34 albums focus on the ISAF mission (plus one album with cover
photographs). The albums included overall 411 photographic images. Each album is
accompanied by a headline and, mostly, a one-paragraph caption of the album and/or its
context. Equally, each individual photograph is explained by a caption. Since the captions
under the images are provided in German, it can be assumed that the target group is a German
or, more precisely, a German-speaking public.13 On Facebook, viewers can express approval
11 Although one should keep in mind that to actually determine this one would have to do a cross-national
comparison which is beyond the scope of this article.
12 The Facebook page only became the Bundeswehr’s official presence in 2013. From 2010 until 2013, the page
had been maintained by a private Facebook user who had established the site because no site existed
(Bundeswehr 2013).
13 The Bundeswehr’s increased presence on social media comes amid increased recruiting efforts of the
Bundeswehr after the moratorium of conscription in 2011 and attempts to raise awareness for, and the
by liking images, albums or whole Facebook pages as well as leave comments. As of
February 2015, the Bundeswehr’s Facebook page had 323,616 likes. View counts are not
In regards to our methodological approach, two aspects need to be explicated. Firstly, our
analysis of the images themselves followed an open coding procedure, with analytical
categories being built largely in a bottom-up fashion. The system of categories was
continuously adapted during the coding process. One should however not mistake this for a
purely inductive, tabula rasa approach. We consider the assumption that a researcher can
approach the data without theoretical categories in mind problematic because the researching
subject is always already embedded in specific discourses that inform how data is understood
(Reichertz 2009). Rather, our coding process can be described as a back and forth between
theory and research material in, if you will, an abductive fashion rather than being either
inductive or deductive. As a result, our analytical categories were adapted during the analysis.
For example, during our first round of very general, descriptive coding we noticed that a large
number of images portrayed machinery in one way or another. To make sense of this
empirical finding, we turned to, ultimately, feminist research that emphasizes the close
connection between masculinity, technology and control. Thus, subsequent, more in-depth
coding processes were informed by categories – in the sense of sensitizing concepts as it is
understood in Grounded Theory (Bowen 2006) – derived from the theory. As a result, our
attention shifted during the analysis towards a focus on cyborgian practices and how this
affects the overall impression the images convey. Secondly, due to the relatively large number
of images (with corresponding captions) in our corpus and the limited space available, the our
acceptance of, the armed forces’ increasingly ‘robust’ international role in German society. According to
the Bundeswehr, its YouTube and Flickr channels are intended to provide ‘a “first-hand”, extensive,
realistic and above all transparent image of the daily routine and operational reality of our soldiers’
(BMVg 2011) for German citizens. It is reasonable to assume that the Facebook page also serves mainly
this purpose.
empirical discussion is illustrative rather than exhaustive and does not delve as much in depth
as other visual methodologies, such as iconology.14 Following Butler (2009), our empirical
discussion is focused above all on the question of what is included in the frame and what is
excluded and which impression of ISAF this invokes. As noted above, our discussion of what
is shown is guided primarily by a focus on the cyborgian militarised subject and its
connection to notions of control(ability). To be clear, this is by no means the only lens one
could use, and neither is our discussion exhaustive. However, the main purpose is to illustrate
the theoretical added value of a gender lens in regards to the mediatisation of war, so a
general, rather illustrative, discussion might suffice in this context. Nevertheless, readers
should keep in mind that a fully-fledged analysis of the photographs would ideally require a
more thorough discussion than can be achieved within the narrow scope of this paper.
Inside the frame: cyborgian soldiers and machinery
The visual representation of ISAF on the Bundeswehr’s Facebook page, we argue, presents an
image of calm control, and a core aspect of this representation is the display of technology. To
begin with, a large portion of the images simply show vehicles (trucks, armoured personnel
carriers, and aircraft). For example, of the overall 411 images, 99 contain different armoured
vehicles, 25 other vehicles.15 22 images show transport helicopters, 15 combat helicopters,
and 20 feature transport aircraft. Many images also show quite mundane, routine processes
like for instance the loading process of a howitzer onto or from a transport airplane. As noted
above, technology itself is closely linked to masculinist notions of control over nature, and the
display largely of machinery invokes the association that the Afghanistan conflict is
something that is amenable to rational, technocratic solutions. Especially the display of
relatively unexciting, mundane, routine tasks like the loading of a transport plane invoke the
14 Schlag and Heck (2012) for example analyse a single image.
15 Note that some images show different types of vehicles at once, so the numbers cannot simply be added up.
impression of rational control.
This becomes even more clear if we connect the display of machinery to the representation of
the militarised subject, which appears as a cyborg. Let us consider the example of one
particular photographic image of German soldiers on patrol in Fayzabad.16 The image shows a
group of six soldiers wearing camouflage battle dress and peaked caps. They carry weapons
(mostly assault rifles and one light machine gun) slung over their shoulders, and their posture
suggests a routine situation. The soldiers walk towards the camera, followed by an armoured
off-road vehicle. Further in the background, one can see other soldiers in what appears to be a
military camp. Without being able to provide an in-depth analysis of the image, a few aspects
are worth noting in regards to the production of an impression of calm control. Most
importantly, the image of the German patrol displays the very cyborganization that feminist
scholars have highlighted as relevant changes in the representation of war. Let us consider the
example of sunglasses, which has been cited in the literature as an example for a ‘cyborgian
relationship’ (Godfrey et al. 2012, 555, 556).17 Sunglasses draw on the principle of visual
dissymmetry and as such can help to establish barriers that separate an inside, the one who
sees (from behind the shades), from an outside, the one who is seen. For sunglasses do not
only repel sunlight and broken bits of glasses but protect their wearers from the intruding gaze
of an external other. Good examples are perhaps the following brief episodes. In the online
edition of the British periodical Soldier Magazine, the official monthly publication of the
16 Due to legal restrictions, this particular image could not be reproduced here, but it is available online:
17 The literature on the effect of sunglasses and their effect on the outside viewer is still limited. But Brown
(2015) has recently examined their connection to notions of ‘cool’ in fashion. Coolness above all stands
for a limited emotional involvement, again a typically masculine feature, commonly considered virtuous
particularly in dangerous situations.
British Army, a reader in a December 2010 letter to the editors criticised a dress code
imposed by his supervisors after which military personnel of his battle group in Afghanistan
were not permitted, among others, to wear sunglasses while on patrol because they would
prevent social interaction with local Afghan people. Other recent reports also indicate the
importance of direct eye-to-eye contact to overcome distance and boundaries, establish trust
and connection and enable social communication between people. For instance, police
officers in Scotland and Vietnam have been banned from wearing sunglasses citing the
intimidating effect of mirrored shades or the need to maintain appropriate manners while on
duty in the public. The hindrance to establish – eye – contact concurs with the narrative of
superior warfare: because sunglasses as cyborgian enhancements function like barriers and
shields (either against sunlight, splinters or penetrating looks), depictions of sunglass soldiers
make them appear not only remote and intimidating but also less vulnerable and vincible.
Very much in line with Masters’s (2008) argument that the reduction of the presence of the
human body through increased cyborganization makes war seem more controllable, we would
argue that also sunglasses make soldiers seem less prone to damage and, thus, more reliable.18
Hiding the eyes of the soldiers, sunglasses also strengthen the impression of the (male) soldier
as a rational, emotionally detached, ‘cool’ professional who is fully in control.
Other equipment can be read as fulfilling a similar function. Protective vests,
weapons, helmets, even camouflage to hide the soldier from the enemy’s view contribute to
the impression of lethal effectiveness, toughness, reliability and formidability.19 In the patrol
image, the armoured personnel carrier is another useful example. It reinforces the overall
18 In this context, also the shape and colour of sunglasses is relevant, that is, their aesthetics matter. For
depictions of troops or special forces with, say, sunglasses in retro shape with their oversized glasses or
with pink-coloured frames are hardly imaginable and would not unfold their effects (e.g. to tell of a
superior male warrior) like military-used sunglasses.
19 This is further supported, somewhat paradoxically, by the casual wear of their guns and the absence of combat
helmets, which reinforced the impression of coolness in the face of danger.
impression of the German soldier as in control, not least due to his technological
enhancements. Equipment like armoured personnel carriers mainly serve to bring the
unpredictabilities of war – improvised explosive devices, ambushes and the like – under the
control of the warrior-protector. Rather than danger, they suggest security, almost
invulnerability. The focus on the, in Masters’s (2008, 94) words, ‘hardware’ (the equipment)
instead of the ‘wetware’ that is the human soldier contributes to the image of calm control and
at the same time also signals to domestic audiences that German soldiers are less prone to
injury.20 In the patrol image this impression is further reinforced by the largely impassionate
but alert demeanour and facial expressions of the soldiers. They walk towards the camera,
suggesting that they are not afraid of confrontation. Their relatively unemotional facial
expressions convey both calm and concentration. Despite their heavy gear – the protective
vests alone weigh at least ten kilograms –, the soldiers do not show any signs of exhaustion,
walking with straight backs. They seem very much in control of the situation. This imagery
ties in with established gendered discursive patterns of the soldier as the protector of the (less
manly) citizen (Young 2003).
If one shifts the attention from the perspective of the sender (in this case, the
Bundeswehr’s social media team) to the receiver by looking at the number of likes as an
indicator for popularity, what is remarkable, especially from a gender perspective, is the
prominence of the figure of the sniper.21 On average, photographs from our corpus received
132.7 likes. Among the 15 most-liked images, six images portray a sniper, three depict a
helicopter in flight and one each shows soldiers during the public showing of a soccer
20 Whether the soldiers have all the equipment they need to be protected is a recurring issue of debate in the
German Bundestag.
21 Likes are a technical feature for Facebook to express an active, unambiguously positive association with
specific online content like for instance photographs or status updates (Ringelhan et al. 2015, 6), and can
even be used in research to accurately predict individual traits and attributes (Kosinski et al. 2013; Hong et
al. 2017). Moreover, if someone likes online content, this is presented to the user’s Facebook friends,
which means that the effect multiplies (Gerlitz and Helmond 2013).
match,22 a field hospital, a howitzer being fired, armoured personnel carriers in the snow, a
soldier on guard duty and a howitzer being unloaded from a cargo plane, respectively. Figure
1 below shows a selection of the most-liked images as thumbnails, descending according to
number of likes.23
22 Due to legal restrictions, this particular image could not be reproduced here. It is available online:
23 It should be noted that landscapes are also a prominent motif among the ISAF photographs, which also
reinforce the impression of calm. Since our main focus here is on the connection between masculinity,
technology and control, we leave this discussion aside (on landscape photography, see Marien 2002).
Since a detailed discussion of all the images is beyond the scope of this article, let us
pick out the figure of the sniper as an example for the relevance of masculinity and
technology. The relative prominence of snipers is, per se, not surprising given the popularity
of the figure in visual culture. Snipers cast prominently in movies and video games grossing
high profits in commercial sales.24 As the popularity of the sniper figure resonates well
beyond national or cultural boundaries, it is perhaps more appropriate to speak of a visual
economy (and not a visual culture) of sniper representations (Poole 1997). The figure of the
sniper is interesting for several reasons. Firstly, snipers are considered as a particularly elite
type of soldier, in popular culture (Woodward and Jenkins 2012) as well as among military
and police personnel (Kraska 1996), drawing again on gendered constructions. Being almost
the archetype of the calm, detached professional, the sniper never misses his (and not her)
target. The figure itself is closely related to the visual: snipers’ craftsmanship requires them to
observe and monitor their targets without being seen. Wearing camouflage suits to remain
invisible and evade the watchful eyes of their enemies, they can take their time to spot,
identify and kill their targets, often from great distances. Quite often operating behind enemy
lines, snipers are specially trained and supplied with equipment other troops would not catch
sight of. Because their activities require special skills, snipers often combine particular
24 Some examples for movies prominently featuring the figure of the sniper are American Sniper (2014), Lone
Survivor (2013), Jack Reacher (2012), The American (2010), Vantage Point (2008), Shooter (2007),
Smokin’ Aces (2006), Jarhead (2005), Tears of Sun (2003), D.C. Sniper: 23 Days of Fear (2003), Phone
Booth (2002), Sniper 2 (2002), Enemy at the Gates (2001), Spy Game (2001), The Jackal (1997), Assassins
(1996), Leon The Professional (1994), Sniper (1993), Quigley Down Under (1990), Full Metal Jacket
(1987), Two Minute Warning (1976), and The Deadly Tower (1975). Video games include Sniper: Ghost
Warrior III (2017), Sniper Elite IV (2017), Sniper Elite III (2014), Sniper: Ghost Warrior II (2013), Sniper
Elite V2 (2012), Sniper: Ghost Warrior (2010), Sniper: Art of Victory (2008), Sniper Elite (2005),
Worldwar II Sniper: Call to Victory (2004), Line of Sight (2003) and countless other so called First-person
shooter games that include the possibility to slip into the role of snipers with perhaps the most prominent
examples being the Call of Duty, Battlefield and Rainbow Six series.
markers that are associated with elite, heroic and superior forces. This construction of the
sniper as a superior, that is, particularly manly, soldier, is reinforced through some of the
commentaries by viewers. For instance, one image that shows a sniper firing (the second right
image in the bottom row in figure 1) is accompanied by a heated discussion about which
weapon can be seen in the photograph, with one user reprimanding others for their lack of
knowledge, claiming that ‘[o]ur snipers would tear off your heads’ if they could hear that
inaccurate ‘drivel’.25
At the same time, snipers almost always kill from a safe distance and remain hidden
from view, much more so from enemy bullets – a fact that however does not undermine their
aura of heroism. But not only do snipers enjoy a positive image thanks to their superior skills
at killing the enemy; snipers have another crucial characteristic that distinguishes them from
other soldiers, namely precision. Not only do they precisely hit their target but, quite similar
to a neurosurgeon removing a brain tumour, snipers hit nothing but their individual target.
Snipers do not cause ‘collateral damage’. Thus, in a way, they are the ground troop equivalent
of so called precision-guided munitions (‘smart bombs’). Similar to the logic concerning the
increasing use of precision-guided munitions in military operation (see Zehfuss 2010),
representations of snipers are part of a narrative of clean, ethical and superior warfare. The
practice of making photographic close-ups of snipers, who are mostly shown in full battle
dress and ready for combat, decontextualizes them from their surroundings so that the gaze of
the viewer is solely focused on their aura of military professionalism.
25 The comment is available here:
Outside the frame: what remains hidden from view
In conjunction with the absence of certain elements and practices from the
photographs, the rational-technocratic image of the mission is reinforced. We discuss three
aspects in particular: the enemy, emotions, and destruction. This absence contributes the
image of the war in Afghanistan as non-threatening, as essentially under control.
The enemy
The first thing that is striking about the pictures is the complete absence of the enemy.
While we see some Afghan civilians (in friendly conversation with German soldiers) or
soldiers of allied nations, the enemy is entirely absent. Even those images that show troops in
contact only portray ‘our’ soldiers, while the Taliban are left outside the frame. There is of
course a rational explanation for that. It might for instance be due to the fact that the pictures
have been taken by a Bundeswehr photographer, who for obvious reasons will not likely be
embedded with the Taliban. Similarly, the reason might be that a great portion of the fighting
takes place over relatively great distances, which makes it more difficult to capture both war
parties, much less so in a single frame. But the important element here is not the reason for
the absence but what this absence does. For if we look at the construction of meaning through
visual imagery, what matters most is not what a photographer (or author) intended but how an
image works in the context in which it is published. So how does the absence of the enemy
influence the interpretation of the war an audience might get? Arguably, the striking absence
of the enemy in the pictures further contributes to taking the war out of the war, if you will.
For it is the presence of the enemy that makes all the difference between target practice at the
firing range and combat. Indeed, almost all the pictures from actual military operations could
as well be photographs from training sessions or manoeuvres. Looking at the pictures, what
fails to materialize is a sense of the mortal danger that the soldiers in fact are in, and this
further increases the impact of the aesthetics of war insofar as is also makes the whole
endeavour seem a lot less dangerous and ugly than it actually is in real life.
What is furthermore striking is the almost complete absence of any kind of emotions
such as anger, joy or worry; facial expressions in the pictures are limited to detached
professionalism. Emotions in general are under-represented in the pictures, but what is
particularly remarkable for the representation of an endeavour that involves killing is the
absence of fear, grief and (emotional) exhaustion. Even the (few) images of actual enemy
contact usually show soldiers behind cover engaging the enemy (which himself remains
hidden from view, see below). As mentioned above, these images could equally portray
military exercises; the only clue that what one is seeing is not a manoeuvre is the absence of
blank-firing adaptors on the barrels of the soldiers’ rifles. This stands in stark contrast to the
portrayal of war in photojournalism, which focuses on the (negative) physical (older
photojournalism) or emotional (recent photojournalism) effects of armed conflict on soldiers
and civilians (e.g. Chouliaraki 2013; Liu 2015). The imagery presented by the Bundeswehr
analysed here is marked by a striking absence of both physical and emotional effects of
While it seems evident that militaries cannot be expected to show (shocking) images
of death and injury of their own soldiers – although coffins of fallen members of the
Bundeswehr are shown (indicating that the question is also how human loss is visualized) – it
is important to point out the effects of this way of seeing and showing. Withstanding the risk
of death and existential fear, the soldiers are professionals and in control of the situation. This
arguably builds on long established constructions of masculinity as rational and in control (as
opposed to emotional femininity). These pictures of professional soldiers who ‘keep their
cool’ even under fire present a warrior aesthetics strikingly similar to popular war movies like
Black Hawk Down (2001), Lone Survivor (2013) or 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of
Benghazi (2016).
This image of the professional, detached soldier is further reinforced by the technical
language of the captions that describe combat situations with neutral military slang as ‘troops
in contact’, as if the combatants were not shooting at each other but having a civilized
conversation. Of course, in military jargon it is clear what troops in contact means. And while
a civilian audience will most likely understand what is meant, the technical language
nevertheless hides that what we see is humans trying to kill each other, not merely some
trained professionals doing just another job like surgeons, plumbers and journalists (on the
effects of ‘neutral’ language, see Thomas 2011). Consider for a moment that the pictures were
not showing soldiers but any other group of people shooting at other people, say, members of
a gang. Such a picture would most likely disturb viewers (as it should). Even if we were just
to see other professionals trained to handle weapons, namely law enforcement officers, it is
likely that a picture of a fire fight with automatic weapons would leave us wondering what
might be going on that triggers such an extreme display of violence. For what is going on in
these pictures is indeed very much out of the ordinary (especially for Germany as a stereotype
‘civilian power’), and presenting it in the technical language of professionalism works to
silence that fact.
Death, destruction and suffering
Previous studies of aesthetics and war have also highlighted sublime representations
of fallen combatants, which is entirely lacking in the Bundeswehr images. This is not to say
that there are no pictures of fallen soldiers. However, these are limited to detached, formal
military rituals, in which soldiers in uniform carry a casket onto a plane. We do see death in
caskets, but these pictures show resolve, not grief, devastation or destruction. We do not see
(human) soldiers mourning their fallen friends. What we see is military personnel carrying an
anonymous coffin into an airplane. While these pictures contribute to German soldiers as in
principle ‘grievable’ (Butler 2009), the grief itself is not being shown.
Furthermore, while actually people die in Afghanistan and material objects are
destroyed on a daily basis as a result also of German decisions – as the 2009 Kunduz airstrike
demonstrated –, we see no trace of that in the pictures. Moreover, while German soldiers are
‘grievable’, and thus worth living, Afghans are entirely absent. Not only are the Taliban
absent but also are fallen ANA members. The civilian population only features as extras that
German soldiers can talk to on patrol. This absence makes war even more acceptable (Zehfuss
2009), as dead Afghans remain hidden from view and thus present no obstacle to ‘our’
waging war ‘over there’.
Neither are there close-up pictures of soldiers in, or shortly after battle. To no avail
will one search for any battlefield portraits as the, if you will, ‘classical’ images of journalistic
war photography that reveal war’s suffering not simply through twisted dead bodies and
destroyed homes, but through a portrait of the soldier after battle (see Danchev 2011). There
are no pictures of battle fatigue or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The reason cannot
possibly be that there are no such scenes, for the number of German soldiers suffering from
PTSD (in particular returnees from Afghanistan) continues to rise (Biesold 2009, 46). Neither
do we see injuries of any kind, much less so lasting ones. Indeed, what can be seen, and this is
strikingly similar to military training at home, are images of rescue exercises of injured
soldiers, as if the mission was itself only a drill. The photographs feature only those who have
recovered, thus reinforcing the image of an almost invincible soldier. For instance, three of
the pictures viewed more than average times are those of a major general returning to his post
after an injury that he ‘fully recovered’ from. What we do not learn about are the hundreds of
soldiers who do not return or who do not recover.
In that sense, what is lacking in these pictures from ‘war-like situations’ (in
Guttenberg’s [2009] words), is war, and this omission crucially reinforces the aesthetic image
of war that the photographs create. For while photographs of the suffering of war provoke an
ethical response from their viewers (Danchev, 2011: 117), these pictures do not. Overall, the
portrayal of the German – and mostly male – soldier as an unemotional, rational professional
resonates with established gendered constructions of the soldier as a ‘warrior-protector’,
which, as a number of feminist studies have pointed out, helps justify military operations and
the need for armed forces in general (e.g. Carver 2008; Young 2003). These hierarchical
gendered constructions juxtapose an ‘alpha-male’ hegemonic masculinity (represented by the
soldier) with various more vulnerable subordinated masculinities and femininities, with the
latter being in need of protection provided by the former (Carver 2008, 79).
With respect to war photography, many researchers have focused on the portrayal of
violence and the question of whether images of human suffering invite or distract from a
critical engagement by obscuring human suffering through a specific aesthetic (Carrabine
2011; Debrix 2006). Others have asked how images can contribute to securitization (Hansen
2011; Möller 2007; Schlag and Heck 2013). In contrast, we argue that what makes the
depiction of war compatible with German antimilitarism is a way of seeing that does not at all
include human suffering. As a consequence, the war in Afghanistan becomes visually
normalized in the sense that what could be called the core business of war – killing and
destruction – is hidden by visually appealing imagery. To be clear, we do not contend that the
Bundeswehr intentionally downplays the amount of suffering in war – we simply do not know
that. Rather, we argue that no matter what the aims of the Bundeswehr are, the pictures
nevertheless work in a particular way and create a particular representation of war as
something aesthetic, appealing and non-threatening or at the very least not fundamentally
dangerous or about killing. In this vein, the Bundeswehr’s photographic depiction of the
Afghanistan deployment very much works as a – in Welsch’s terms – ‘sugar-coating of the
real with aesthetic flair’ (1996: 2).
In this study, we have examined the visual representation of the ISAF operation on the
Bundeswehr’s official Facebook page. In doing so, we make a contribution to IR scholarship
on security and visuality which has so far paid little attention to the military use of social
media in general and to the German visual politics of war in particular. In our analysis, we
have focused in particular on two aspects. Firstly, building on insights from gender and
feminist security studies, we have argued that the display of machinery and the representation
of cyborganized soldiers as cool, calm and strong professionals contributes to the impression
of the war in Afghanistan as manageable and under control. Secondly, also the visual absence
of suffering, emotions and the enemy reinforces this view of the conflict as something that
can be brought under control by rational means. After the withdrawal of ISAF, this stands in
contrast to representations of the conflict in Afghanistan that highlight rising casualty
numbers, increasingly negative assessments of the situation by terrorism experts (Hoffman
2015) and of what is seen as an entirely unclear future for Afghanistan (Murtazashvili 2016).
What is highly remarkable particularly against the background of a once widely uncontested
antimilitarist culture is the militarized masculinity portrayed in the ISAF images. Arguably,
these pictures are what could be called a counterhegemonic intervention – based on a
militarized masculinity – against the dominant antimilitarist discourse. For what we can see
here is, in a way, a ‘return of the (male) German warrior’ (if in a cyborgian version), one who
is not ashamed to display the tools of (mostly) his craft.26
More generally, as far as the study of German foreign and security policy is
concerned, this article points to the importance of both, visuality and gender. It shows how
visual imagery can contribute to a specific and (unavoidably) partial representation of reality
26 The phrase of the returning warrior is borrowed from Managhan’s (2012) article about the Canadian security
that can help (de)legitimize certain policies, in this case, out-of-area operations. However,
Facebook is only one, if important, site for the visual struggles for the authoritative reading of
German military operations (and government policy more generally). Thus, it would be
worthwhile exploring to what extent visual representations on other media like Instagram,
Tumblr, YouTube or Twitter resemble, or differ from, the one on Facebook. Moreover, while
a cross-national comparison is well beyond the scope of this article, such an analysis would
help establish national idiosyncrasies as much as common patterns, for instance in NATO
countries. Similarly, the analysis demonstrates the importance of gender constructions in the
legitimation of military operations, as many of the visual representations draw on established
discursive practices from gender discourse for legitimacy. Aside from a few exceptions
(Engelkamp and Offermann 2012; Schoenes 2011), this aspect has been neglected altogether
in the study of German foreign and security policy. Given the centrality of gender(ed)
constructions for the legitimation of violence in international politics, highlighted by feminist
security studies, scholars of German foreign and security policy need to pay much more
attention to this aspect.
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... Media framing and representation have been a topic of interest for many scholars from various disciplines, such as media, politics, linguistics, gender studies, and cultural studies (Fiig, 2010;Lachover, 2017;Sowmyashree & Meera, 2018). The representation of women and gender issues on social media also received some space in academic scholarship, which seems to be increasing (Derdar, 2021;Ramesh & Ashraya, 2018;Shim & Stengel, 2017). Like framing, media representation is defined as how media constructs identities and realities through media text and aims to shape the audiences' worldview. ...
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Although rape is prevalent in Bangladesh, we have limited knowledge about how the media reports rape news. This study analyzed 10,191 headlines of rape news shared on ten Bangladeshi media’s Facebook pages between 2013 and 2021. The aim was to investigate the media’s rape news-sharing behavior by exploring the frequent topics of rape news. Following a computer-assisted textual analysis of the Bangla news headlines, this study found that media outlets share rape news on social media that is more likely to contain issues related to rape victims and judicial processes of rape crime. The news headlines provide information about rape victims, indicating their age groups and relations (e.g., teenager, young lady, girl, woman, wife), along with information about judicial processes (e.g., case, arrest, complaint, remand). The analysis further explored other prevalent topics in rape news that the media emphasizes, such as the elements used in rape (e.g., the promise of love and marriage, private video), the act of raping (e.g., tying, forcing, blackmailing, confining), and the places, states, and time of rape (e.g., alone, home, field). This study contributes to the theoretical understanding of news-sharing behavior, gender-based violence, and media framing of rape issues. It also offers methodological guidance to semi-automated social media text analysis for the Bangla language.
... Methodologically, studies of military social media images in general analyse entire corpuses or sub-corpuses of images posted to forces' social media accounts (e.g. Shim and Stengel 2017). Smaller-n studies of specific recruitment campaigns that consist of a few key items can apply more in-depth analysis to each one (e.g. ...
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In 2017, the British Army opened its ‘This is Belonging’ recruitment campaign, aimed at groups of young people who were considered traditionally less likely to join the Army, with marketing at Pride in London aimed at LGBTQ youth. The campaign’s next phase, in 2018, consisted of live-action and animated YouTube videos targeting specific groups including young women, religiously observant youth, emotionally sensitive young men, youth with average fitness levels, and, in the animations, LGBTQ youth again. While every other theme appeared in both sets of videos, the live-action set contained a video depicting homosocial male bonding instead of any LGBTQ theme. The Army’s acknowledgement of LGBTQ identities during recruitment in 2017–18 suggested certain advances from the 2000s position where LGBTQ personnel were expected to keep their sexuality private. A close audiovisual analysis of the LGBTQ-themed video, ‘Can I be Gay in the Army?’, and its intertextual relationship with the other videos nevertheless reveals hesitancy over how to represent a legibly gay male soldier that hints at limits to the institution’s inclusion of sexual difference. Drawing on both ‘LGBT’ and ‘Queer’ scholarship, the paper illustrates how concepts of domesticity and futurity can contribute to critical understandings of LGBTQ military inclusion.
... In addition to the literature on private security, the study contributes to the works of critical security scholars who in recent years have paid more attention to the ways in which security actors promote themselves and legitimize their actions using visualbased social media, including armed forces (e.g. Crilley et al., 2020;Jester, 2021;Mann, 2018;Shim and Stengel, 2017), terrorist networks (Heck, 2017) or humanitarian organizations (Waters and Jones, 2011). Yet, because of their almost exclusive focus on imagery, scholars fail to capture how especially video-based online platforms are real game changers for political actors to 'enhance the appeal of . . . ...
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Private security companies (PSCs) blur the lines between the public and the private sector through the provision of services to state militaries. Based on a multi-modal qualitative content analysis of YouTube recruitment videos aimed at veterans, we show how PSCs also challenge these boundaries through their hiring practices. By relating to veterans’ past as hero warriors and by envisioning their future as corporate soldiers, the companies appear as ‘like-military’ and as allowing ex-militaries to ‘continue their mission’. The findings contribute to scholarly debates about the privatization of security. They illustrate that similarly to the public sector, the private is also re-constituted through the military values that veterans introduce. The study adds to the literature on the visualization of war showing how video-based platforms allow security actors such as PSCs to construct their corporate identity in ambivalent ways by appealing to different emotional levels and by giving rise to different narratives.
The chapter presents the research results based on content analysis of memes with themes related to the war in Ukraine. The research material consisted of 310 memes published on the Polish website in two periods. The presented analysis was carried out using the author's categorization key and taking the concept of the mediatization of war into account, as well as the theory of compassion fatigue by Susan Moeller. The research showed that memes related to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict often serve an informational and conversational function. The authors of these memes were also most likely to address topics related to aid and support for Ukraine. The image of Ukrainian society also plays an essential role in the research material. It may indicate that in the entertainment space of the Internet, whose representative is website, the issues of the war are primarily viewed in a social context. The high score of the thematic category ‘Other’ indicates the complex nature of memes as messages about current events. As part of the analysis, the authors also presented results relating to the overtones of memes. They classified their components as audio-visual materials that are integral to such messages. An essential aspect of the research is a quantitative analysis of the publications and reactions of users. The reduction in interest in the subject of aid and about a tenfold decrease in the number of meme publications recorded in the second research period indicate the occurrence of compassion fatigue—both among authors of memes and among recipients.
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Arms sales cause serious harm and the public is – on some level – aware of this, yet their sale continues apace. Militarisation is the engendering of support for war, broadly understood, and this includes the manufacture/sale of weapons. This article examines the Twitter feeds of three large US arms manufacturers: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman (as part of a larger project where approximately 900 tweets were examined). It argues that productive tensions of exposure (knowing) and revelation (societal acknowledgement) engender militarisation within arms manufacturers’ Twitter feeds. It finds that arms manufacturers represent themselves as accessible/transparent through regular updates and high volumes of information. They also distract from the violence of their products by presenting themselves as drivers of human progress, which occurs in social, environmental and technological dimensions. Taken as a whole, the representations of accessibility and distracting content on social media function to facilitate the arms trade in this case. Accessible, transparente, progressive : conceptualiser la militarisation de l’espace numérique à travers la présence de fabricants d’armes sur les réseaux sociaux
Military recruitment strategies continue to evolve in line with developments in broader socio-political contexts. In what can be seen as a fairly recent development, both men and women are now central to recruitment campaigns. Such changes can be viewed as signalling a shift towards equality in military forces. Critics argue, however, that changes in this respect are superficial and serve to mask the prevailing masculine dominance in the military. Using multimodal critical discourse analysis, I examine the representation of service personnel in a recently published recruitment brochure produced by the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. The primary focus, however, is on how female personnel are depicted. The findings reveal that the recruitment efforts attempt to convey that the Japanese military promotes equality. Female and male service members are shown performing roles interchangeably. However, contradictions are also evident and in some instances clear distinctions are made along gendered lines. The military is also discursively constructed as an institution of care, which supports female personnel and enables them to achieve personal and career success. The first contribution the study makes is to research on multimodal texts which are used for political communication. Secondly, it enhances critical scholarship on military recruitment strategies.
Contributing to the lately growing literature on political online humour in international politics this article focuses on satiric narratives in recruitment videos of the Swedish Armed Forces. We argue that using the method of narrative analysis provides valuable insights into institutional practices and is a helpful tool for analyzing humorous audio-visual content. Although military recruitment videos on the official YouTube channels are surprisingly often funny and entertaining very little research has been done on the issue so far. We argue that satirical narratives help to legitimize and normalize the institution of the military as part of every day. Humour helps to hide certain unwanted elements of the narrative by taking away the attention of viewers from certain aspects and making it more difficult to criticize the content of online self-promotion by claiming it should not be taken so seriously.KeywordsNarrative analysisHumourSatireMilitaryInstitutionalization
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Recent scholarship in international relations (IR) and international political sociology (IPS) has made significant contributions to the study of images. Chief among such studies on visual politics has been the focus on popular visual media including cartoons, film, photography, and video games. This article takes a look at another prominent medium: the comic. Comics provide ample potential starting points for IR scholars and political sociologists; the comic’s aesthetic qualities—the way in which it narrates geopolitical events to public audiences through condensed image-word relations—reveals a distinct politics of representation. Thus, the study of comics contributes to a better understanding of visuality—theoretically, methodologically, and empirically. This article complements existing work by engaging an example outside of familiar European-language contexts. It discusses a comic booklet that was published by the South Korean Ministry of National Defense in the aftermath of the sinking of the Cheonan, a navy vessel that was allegedly sunk by a North Korean torpedo in 2010. Recognizing comics as narrative sites of (geo)politics, the article explores the booklet’s own way of seeing by discussing its dramatic structure and rhetorical devices. In this way, the article provides an exemplary reading of comics, which can serve as a conceptual basis for future studies in the field.
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Social media platforms have become important in spreading propaganda images during conflicts, as demonstrated in several recent cases including the Israeli–Hamas confrontation in 2012 and graphic internet videos by the self-proclaimed Islamic State in 2014. This study examines the role of visual propaganda in the social media age by analyzing themes, frames, and structural features of images posted on the official Facebook pages of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces in 2013 and 2014. Our content analysis shows interesting differences and similarities between the two sides in using images to promote their political agendas during the recent Syrian conflicts following the 2011 uprisings. The Syrian government used visual frames to support its narrative that President Assad is a fearless leader protecting its people and that life has continued normally throughout Syria. The Syrian opposition used various images to solidify its narrative of the Assad regime’s brutality and sufferings of Syrian civilians. There were significant differences in terms of audience reactions to images with different themes and frames. These and other issues are discussed in the context of visual propaganda and framing in social media-based information warfare.
Cool Shades provides the first in-depth exploration of the enduring appeal of sunglasses in visual culture, both historically and today. Ubiquitous in fashion, advertising, film and graphic design, sunglasses are the ultimate signifier of 'cool' in mass culture; a powerful attribute pervading much fashion and pop cultural imagery which has received little scholarly attention until now. Accessible and highly engaging, this book offers an original history of how sunglasses became a fashion accessory in the early twentieth century, and addresses the complex variety of meanings they have the power to articulate, through associations with vision, light, glamour, darkness, fashion, speed and technology in the context of modernity. Cool Shades will be of great interest to students of fashion, design, visual and material culture, cultural studies and sociology, as well as general readers fascinated by this iconic fashion staple.
On social media, users can express their favorable attitudes toward messages that others post by clicking the “like” button. In return, they may also receive “likes” from others for their own posts. This study aims to examine the “liking” behavior on social media by using the theoretical framework of gift giving and impression management. Specifically, the study investigates if and how different personality traits (i.e., self-esteem, empathy, interpersonal generosity, and public self-consciousness) and demographic characteristics (i.e., gender, age, and education) are associated with one's frequencies of giving and receiving “likes” on Facebook. A survey was conducted with 421 Facebook users in the United States. The study results revealed that frequency of giving “likes” was positively associated with both interpersonal generosity and public self-consciousness, but frequency of receiving “likes” was not significantly related to the examined personality traits. Age and gender were significantly associated with frequencies of both giving and receiving “likes.” Educational background was negatively associated with giving “likes.”