How do citizens on the “receiving” and giving” ends of international development communication encounter and experience media? What roles do the media play in interventions aimed at doing good? What roles do they play in communicating do-gooding? Is there a relationship between the forms of media engagement proposed at each end? Which media technologies are foregrounded in institutionally-driven international development communication, and which media practices are favored? Which models of engagement influence the choices of funders and implementers, and which kinds of recipients are implied in those choices?
Through a qualitative study of the Videoletters project, this paper examines what ‘media engagement’ means for the specific case of international development communication (and by extension, for foreign affairs) and analyzes the theoretical and methodological challenges posed by its research. Videoletters was a media-driven intervention aimed at reconnecting ordinary people affected by ethno-political divisions across the former Yugoslavia, implemented between 2000 and 2005. Adopted by European bilateral funders for large-scale implementation, the project was categorized as a “tool for reconciliation”. The paper describes and analyzes a number of intricate ways in which‘media engagement’ was understood, put into practice, received and evaluated in practice throughout the intervention.