Home Institution

University of Oregon

Publication Date

Spring 2017

Program Name

Switzerland: Global Health and Development Policy


It is often assumed that powerful photographs and film footage have the ability to move viewers in the developed population to action. Frank Fournier, the photographer who captured the face of 13-year-old Omayra Sanchez in her last hours of life, as she stood trapped in a pool of muddy water and debris, said, “I believe the photo helped raise money from around the world in aid and helped highlight the irresponsibility and lack of courage of the country's leaders (BBC, 2005).” His statement encompasses the common perspective that imagery can motivate donations, but there is a lack in data regarding the transition from reaction to action. This study is concerned with the effectiveness of various digital storytelling appeals (shock effect, positive images, and post-humanitarian communication) in attaining donations for refugee relief efforts. Refugees are perhaps more distant from the donor population than any other victimized group, and have struggled through periods of severe anti-refugee sentiments that has made the collection of aid and process of reintegration challenging. The extreme discourse between populations and the ever-growing number of displaced persons makes refugees the ideal population to study. This research asks what in a digital story, particularly the imagery, motivates developed populations to not only react emotionally with refugee issues but transition to donate to refugee relief efforts? Through literature and interviews regarding image-evoked empathy, identity, and group influenced responding, and the analysis of photographs and digital storytelling platforms that unpack various imagery appeals, we discover that image use for humanitarian campaigns has evolved to it’s most effective form yet. Advancing from the traditional technique of applying imagery and sharing narratives, digital storytelling aims to alleviate intergroup empathy bias and increase awareness, funding for crises, or both. This study explores how advancements in technology have brought forth digital storytelling, which combined with the implementation of the post-humanitarian communication appeal generates evocative campaigns that fit the framework necessary to motivate donation for refugees more productively and ethically than has been done in the past.


Demography, Population, and Ecology | Digital Humanities | Family, Life Course, and Society | Graphic Communications | International and Area Studies | International and Intercultural Communication | Mass Communication | Organization Development | Place and Environment