Deadline: March 11, 2019

A thematic stream for the journal Media+Environment, seeking to explore media, space, and the geopolitical quandaries of visualizing and mobilizing disaster relief. 

Edited by Janet Walker and Lisa Parks this “Disaster Media” stream is slated for publication in the first volume of Media+Environment.

During the past twenty years, scientific and media organizations have photographed, sensed, mapped, and monitored a multitude of natural disasters in efforts to offer relief to those impacted by them. Often triggered by abrupt geological, meteorological, or oceanic events, but deeply affected by social and political aspects of human-built environments, these disasters include earthquakes, tsunamis, drought, and wildfires around the globe. Such events have generated conflict, famine, thirst, and nuclear meltdown.

People typically encounter media coverage of, and digitally mediated responses to, these events during the urgencies of disaster or post-disaster when they may not be in position to carefully consider the materialities, meanings, and impacts of such media. In fact, issues of media ownership, policy, history, infrastructure, and aesthetics are crucial to the ways media characterize and define disasters and disaster relief and the human and nonhuman or more-than-human ecosystems at risk. Media are also crucial to the variable rates at which states, NGOs, communities, citizen scientists, and individuals respond to catastrophic occurences. Technologies of various kinds—from satellite trucks to social media platforms, from maps to mobile apps—are shaped by and play a role in shaping public understandings of disasters and their relationship to the broader material conditions of the anthropocene.

As we wrote this call, volunteer rescuers in the Carolinas were using crowdsourcing apps to connect with thousands of people stranded by Hurricane Florence after it slammed into the east coast of the United States. Crowdsourcing rescue is an emergent disaster relief media practice that enables volunteer rescuers to locate people who are stranded and assist those who need assistance. The app was crucial in April 2018 when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas and July 2018 when severe flooding struck Kerala, India. Without a doubt, this app has been vitally helpful, saving lives. But its emergence also raises key questions about the waning of state resources and outsourcing of emergency services during an era of intensified neoliberalism. Who or what is responsible for supporting the vulnerable in the context of such disasters? This question is especially important for publics given scientific projections related to global climate change.

In this stream of articles, we approach “disaster media” as environmental media that inhere in and coconstitute local and geopolitical situations. Building on humanistic spatial media and ecomedia scholarship, we seek to explore how disaster media are used to manage and respond to catastrophic events; how people’s impressions of media are formed in the crucible of disaster; and how such media generate broader understandings and formations of the environs, whether geophysical or atmospheric, human or more-than-human.

“Disaster Media” seeks articles on topics and questions including but not limited to the following:

  • How do various media forms—films, television, social media, digital maps, sound files, web interfaces, software, and apps—affect the very existence of disasters and the provision of relief?
  • What is meant by disaster “relief”? What are the different historical and geographical spatialities, and temporalities of these processes? How are media able to uniquely convey and communicate them?
  • What is the relationship between intersectionality (race/ethnicity, class, nation, age, gender/sexuality) and disaster relief media?
  • How deliverable are the promises of big media initiatives such as Google Earth to coordinate disaster relief in various areas of the world?
  • What is the role of activist media makers working as or with citizen scientists?
  • How do apparent disaster relief media “solutions” inhibit, extend, or inhibit and extend the necessary work of phasing out fossil fuel use and other means of environmental mitigation?
  • When, where, how, or can media images, sounds, apps, and initiatives contribute to environmentally just solutions?

We look forward to receiving submissions of up to 7,000 words accompanied by abstracts of 300 words
and short biographies of 100 words by March 11, 2019 through the Media+Environment online submission portal.
Submissions will be peer-reviewed through a double-blind process. Please see visit this page for author guidelines.


We invite your institution to join the University of California Press and founding sponsors the University of Vermont and the Carsey-Wolf Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, by committing a one-time, renewable, or sustaining contribution. All sponsors will be clearly acknowledged on the journal’s website and marketing materials.

Visit this page for full journal sponsorship information.

Founding Editors

Alenda Chang, University of California, Santa Barbara

Janet Walker, University of California, Santa Barbara

Adrian Ivakhiv, University of Vermont