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Obstacles to Voice, Listening and Healing in Post-Disaster Philippines
posted by Department of Sociology for HKU and Public
Event Type: Public Lecture/Forum/Seminar/Workshop/Conference/Symposium
Event Nature: Others

Event Details

HKU Department of Sociology Public Seminar - 8 April 2016
Jonathan Corpus Ong
University of Leicester, United Kingdom

Abstract: Digital technologies have been invested with great optimism by the humanitarian and tech communities for creating new ways for disaster-affected communities “to organize and re-spond to their own problems” (World Disasters Report 2013). This technological vision was put to the test in the Typhoon Haiyan response, where humanitarian agencies set up a suite of tech-nological feedback mechanisms for people to communicate their appeals. This talk draws from two ethnographic research projects funded by UK’s DFID (Obliged to Be Grateful) and the ESRC (Humanitarian Technologies Project) to offer a critical account of how digital technologies have corroded the “compassion protocols” in humanitarian practice (Fassin 2012). I argue that technological feedback mechanisms ended up eliciting responses that were decontextualized and de-emotionalized, creating new “voice-denying rationalities” (Couldry 2010) that inhibited affected people’s emotional and cunning strategies to appeal for aid. While this digital humani-tarianism resulted in new efficiencies, they often led to individualistic solutions. Nevertheless, the talk argues that communication technologies were significant in how people coped with dis-aster. Using examples of disaster protest memes on Facebook and disaster dating on Grindr, I demonstrate how technologies reaffirmed community relationships in modest yet meaningful ways after rupture.

Bio: Dr Jonathan Corpus Ong has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Cambridge (2012). He was Assistant Professor in Hong Kong Baptist University from 2011-2013. He is currently Lecturer in Media and Communication at the University of Leicester. As a media sociologist, he uses ethnography to engage with contemporary debates in the ethics of media and humanitarian-ism, disasters and development, and production studies. He was lead investigator in the DFID-funded Obliged to Be Grateful ( and Co-Investigator in the ESRC-funded Humanitarian Technologies Project ( He is the author of The Poverty of Television: The Mediation of Suffering in Class-Divided Philippines (2015; Anthem) and co-editor of Taking the Square: Mediated Dissent and Occupations of Public Space (2016; Rowman & Littlefield). For more info on “Obliged to Be Grateful”, see this link:

Date/Time08/04/2016 16:00-17:30
VenueCPD-2.42, Centennial Campus, HKU

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