Jihadism on the Internet: Images and Videos, their Appropriation, and Dissemination

Contemporary political communication is widely conveyed through visual media. Images such as photography, digitally generated collages, and films play a crucial role in the mediation of political messages. Like other social, religious, and political actors, Jihadi groups and movements also make use of images and videos. In doing so, they seek to reach out to diverse audiences and disseminate their ideology-based interpretations of the world as well as their understanding of religion, authority, and society.

The interdisciplinary junior research group Jihadism on the Internet focusses on the communicative propositions of Jihadi movements and explores the extent to which media users interact with those proposals. Researchers from the fields of social and cultural anthropology, media and film studies, and Islamic studies work together to examine what and how Jihadists communicate and to what extent their audiences respond to these media. Ethnographic and new digital methods from the humanities and cultural studies will be combined through a tripartite working process. Initially, the participating researchers analyse Jihadi images and videos according to their political-religious messages, their dramaturgy, and composition. The qualitative research methodology allows them to explore the potential resonance of these media and the intentions of the producers. At the same time, the researchers focus on the incorporation, appropriation, processing, and circulation of the media texts in the form of affirmative or critical comments, images, and videos in social networks. Such user-generated content sheds light on the attractiveness and acceptance of Jihadist media as well as on their rejection within (net-)subcultural communities. The media ethnographies look into uses and interpretations of Jihadist visual media ‘online’ but also ‘offline’. They ask how these visual media are situated in the everyday lives of various recipients, relating media uses in online and offline contexts.

Findings of the research project will complement research on media and radicalisation. First of all, they will allow insights into the meanings that Jihadist messages unfold in the life worlds of users. Based on this, outcomes of the project will serve to develop communication strategies for countermeasures. In the medium term the observations will feed into a demand oriented online-platform that caters information for political education, awareness-, and prevention work or press offices and political decision makers.