Collateral Emotions: Political Web Videos and Divergent Audience Responses

  • Jens Eder


On the Internet, various new documentary forms emerge, and even traditional forms function differently. Particularly interesting is the case of political web videos and the diverging emotions they elicit. Many online videos address the concerns of conflicting social groups and trigger clashes between their collective emotions. On platforms like Facebook or YouTube, such responses become highly visible and politically influential. Turning to the example of WikiLeaks’ video Collateral Murder, this chapter explores the question of how divergent affective responses to documentary web videos can be explained. By considering the characteristics of the web video as a medium and documentary as a genre, and the interplay between film’s affective structures and viewers’ social dispositions, it suggests a new explanation of divergent affects and emotions in today’s media environments.



I would like to thank Katja Crone and the editors of this volume for their helpful comments.


  1. Askanius, T. (2014) “Video for Change,” in Wilkins, K. G., Obregon, R. and Tufte, T. (eds.) The Handbook of Development Communication and Social Change. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  2. Barker, M. (2012) “Crossing Out the Audience,” in Christie, I. (ed.) Audiences: Defining and Researching Screen Entertainment Reception. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Boltanski, L. (1999) Distant Suffering: Morality, Media, and Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bondebjerg, I. (2014) “Documentary and Cognitive Theory: Narrative, Emotion, and Memory,” Media and Communication, 1(1), pp. 12–21.Google Scholar
  5. Bordwell, D. (1989) Making Meaning: Inference and Rhetoric in the Interpretation of Cinema. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bordwell, D. (2008) Poetics of Cinema. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Bremond, C., Landy, J. and Pavel, T. (eds.) (1995) Thematics: New Approaches. New York: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  8. Brinckmann, C. N. (2014) Color and Empathy. Essays on Two Aspects of Films. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Brügger, N. (2010) Website Analysis: Elements of a Conceptual Architecture. Aarhus: The Centre for Internet Research.Google Scholar
  10. Celikates, R. and Gosepath, S. (2013) Politische Philosophie. Stuttgart: Reclam.Google Scholar
  11. Christensen, C. (2014) “Collateral Murder and the After-Life of Activist Imagery,” Medium, April [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: March 21, 2016).
  12. Clarke, S., Hoggett, P. and Thompson, S. (eds.) (2006) Emotion, Politics and Society. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  13. Dillard, J. P. and Nabi, R. (2006) “The Persuasive Influence of Emotion in Cancer Prevention and Detection Messages,” Journal of Communication, 56, pp. 123–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Eder, J. (2008) Die Figur im Film. Grundlagen der Figurenanalyse. Marburg: Schüren Verlag.Google Scholar
  15. Eder, J. (2017) “Affective Image Operations,” in Eder, J. and Klonk, C. (eds.) Image Operations: Visual Media and Political Conflict. Manchester: Manchester University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Eder, J., Tedjasukmana, C. and Hartmann, B. (eds.) (2016) Video Activism 2.0 between Social Media and Social Movements [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: March 20, 2016).
  17. Eitzen, D. (2005) “Documentary’s Peculiar Appeals,” in Anderson, J. D. and Anderson, B. F. (eds.) Moving Image Theory. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Feagin, S. (1996) Reading with Feeling: The Aesthetics of Appreciation. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Gitelman, L. (2008) Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  20. Grodal, T. (2009) Embodied Visions: Evolution, Emotion, Culture, and Film. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Haidt, J. (2012) The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  22. Hake, S. (2012) Screen Nazis: Cinema, History, and Democracy. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  23. Hall, S. (1980) “Encoding/Decoding,” in Hall, S., Hobson, D., Lowe, A. and Willis, P. (eds.) Culture, Media, Language. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  24. Jäger, C. and Bartsch, A. (2006) “Meta-Emotions,” Grazer Philosophische Studien, 73, pp. 179–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Keil, A. and Eder, J. (2005) “Audiovisuelle Medien und emotionale Netzwerke,” in Grau, O. and Keil, A. (eds.) Mediale Emotionen. Zur Lenkung von Gefühlen durch Bild und Sound. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer.Google Scholar
  26. Kemper, T. D. (1978) A Social Interactional Theory of Emotions. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  27. Mateos, C. and Gaona, C. (2015) “Video Activism: A Descriptive Typology,” Global Media Journal, Special Issue, 1–25 [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: March 13, 2016).
  28. Meeker, M. (2016) “Internet Trends 2016. Code Conference,” Presentation Slides, 1 June [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: March 13, 2016).
  29. Moors, A. (2009) “Theories of Emotion Causation: A Review,” Cognition and Emotion, 23(4), pp. 625–662.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nash, K. and Corner, J. (2016) “Strategic Impact Documentary: Contexts of Production and Social Intervention,” European Journal of Communication, 31(3), pp. 227–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nash, K., Hight, C. and Summerhayes, C. (eds.) (2014) New Documentary Ecologies: Emerging Platforms, Practices and Discourses. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  32. Nichols, B. (2010) Introduction to Documentary. 2nd edn. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Nussbaum, M. C. (2013) Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice. Cambridge: The Belknap Press.Google Scholar
  34. Oliver, M. B. and Bartsch, A. (2010) “Appreciation as Audience Response: Exploring Entertainment Gratifications beyond Hedonism,” Human Communication Research, 36(1), pp. 53–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Persson, P. (2003) Understanding Cinema: A Psychological Theory of Moving Imagery. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Plantinga, C. R. (2005) “What a Documentary Is, After All,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 63(2), pp. 105–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Plantinga, C. R. (2009) Moving Viewers: American Film and the Spectator’s Experience. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  38. Presence, S. (2016) “Reel News in the Digital Age: Radical Video-Activism in Britain,” In Molloy, C. and Tzioumakis, Y. (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Film and Politics. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  39. Reinhard, C. and Olson, C. (2016) Making Sense of Cinema: Empirical Studies into Film Spectators and Spectatorship. London: Bloomsbury.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rieger, D., Frischlich, L. and Bente, G. (2013) Propaganda 2.0: Psychological Effects of Right-Wing and Islamic Extremist Internet Videos. Köln: Luchterhand, BKA.Google Scholar
  41. Scheve, C. V. and Ismer, S. (2013) “Towards a Theory of Collective Emotions,” Emotion Review, 5(4), pp. 406–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Scott, M. (2014) “The Mediation of Distant Suffering: An Empirical Contribution Beyond Television News Texts,” Media, Culture & Society, 36(1), pp. 3–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Smaill, B. (2010) The Documentary: Politics, Emotion, Culture. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Smith, E. R. and Mackie, D. M. (2008) “Intergroup Emotions,” in Lewis, M., Haviland-Jones, J. and Barrett, L. F. (eds.) Handbook of Emotions. 3rd edn. New York: Guilford Publications.Google Scholar
  45. Smith, G. M. (2003) Film Structure and the Emotion System. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sundar, S., Jia, H., Waddell, T. F. and Huang, Y. (2015) “Toward a Theory of Interactive Media Effects (TIME),” in Sundar, S. (ed.) The Handbook of the Psychology of Communication Technology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Tan, E. S. (1996) Emotion and the Structure of Narrative Film: Film as an Emotion Machine. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  48. Trepte, S. and Loy, L. S. (2017) “Social Identity Theory and Self-Categorization Theory,” in Hoffner, C. and Roessler, P. (eds.) The International Encyclopedia of Media Effects. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  49. Van Dijk, T. A. (2008) Discourse and Context: A Sociocognitive Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Waugh, T. (2011) “Show Us Life”: Toward a History and Aesthetics of the Committed Documentary. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.Google Scholar
  51. Weik von Mossner, A. (ed.) (2014) Moving Environments: Affect, Emotion, Ecology, and Film. Ontario: Wilfried Laurier University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jens Eder
    • 1
  1. 1.Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLFPotsdamGermany

Personalised recommendations