Persuasion and Propaganda in Networked Communication: Anti-globalization Activists and the Tactics for New Media

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Of Georgetown University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Communication, Culture and Technology


Nathan L. Kommers, B.S.

Washington, DC May 1, 2001

Copyright 2001 by Nathan L. Kommers All Rights Reserved


Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables………..………………………………………..iv Chapter 1: Introduction……………………………………………………..1 Chapter 2: Anti-Globalization Activists……………………………………8 2.1 Demographics…………………………………………………..8 2.2 Examples of Activist Propaganda……………………………..14 Chapter 3: Persuasion and Propaganda Research………………………….21 3.1 The Institute for Propaganda Analysis, and the Beginnings of Persuasion Research…………………………………….21 3.2 The First Models of Mass Communication…………………....25 3.3 Modern Models of Persuasion…………………………………30 3.4 Models of Media Usage………………………………………..39 3.5 A Composite Model of Messages……………………………...44 Chapter 4: Interactivity, Media, and Networks……………………………52 4.1 Defining Interactivity and Media………………………………52 4.2 Networks……………………………………………………….65 4.3 Applying Persuasion Theory to Networks……………………..70 Chapter 5: Case Study of Anti-Globalization Activists and Persuasion…..75 5.1 Activists as Receivers and Senders…………………………….75 5.2 Examining Activists' Patterns of Interactivity………………….81 5.3 Case Study Findings…………………………………………....93 Chapter 6: Conclusions Regarding Propaganda and Hierarchies…………..96 6.1 Interactivity Patterns……………………………………………99 6.2 Networks and Persuasive Message Dissemination……………..99 Bibliography……………………………………………………………….106


List of Figures and Tables

Figure 1.1 Rosie the Activist……………………………………………...…15 Figure 1.2 Rosie the Riveter………………………………………………….16 Figure 2.3…………………………………………….18 Figure 4.1. E. M. Rogers’ 1-dimensional scale……………………………….54 Figure 4.2 Rafaili’s interactivity……………………………………………...56 Figure 4.3. Jensen’s graph of Laurel's "interactivity"………………...……....59 Table 4.1. Jensen’s Descriptions of Interactivity…………………………….63


Chapter 1: Introduction

Telecommunication technologies have received a level of attention that is unique to developments in mass media communications. Although it is possible to consider developments as far back as the printing press, modern telecommunications can be traced back to the telegraph and radio at the early part of the 20th century. Today, the Internet and the technologies that enable it are receiving this same attention. In fact, we could argue that today's media technology is receiving more attention than any previously, since applying the lessons of past examinations has undoubtedly aided in the understanding of today's technology. One of the central elements of this attention regards the ability of the Internet and other telecommunication technologies to bring people closer together by enabling more frequent communication that is inexpensive and long distance. Many of the approaches here focused on the implications of connecting more and more people in a globally networked communication system. A precedence is no longer placed so much on the ability of mass media to allow a single person to broadcast messages to many people. Rather, the focus is taking on the appearance of a less hierarchical approach to viewing communication systems. Yet communication theories may have a hard time adapting to this approach. Many of them assume the mass media is defined by the ability of one entity to send messages to many others. Additionally, communication studies have spent 1

considerable energies finding what effects a message can have on a person. Persuasion studies, for example, have attempted to determine what elements of a message can best affect someone's attitude. Although this approach is important, it does not allow for an understanding of the environment in which communication occurs, something one would figure extremely important for persuasion, or any communication. This revelation may come at an important time. Today we can see a different communication environment developing, and should not let an opportunity to develop new approaches pass by. This study is an attempt to use elements of existing theory of persuasion to explain messages in a networked environment. As networks disseminate, many have claimed that they are flattening hierarchies along the way, and that traditional controls are disintegrating. However, few have explained what a flattened hierarchy is, and fewer have attempted to offer a detailed description of a flattened hierarchy. Essentially, we can view a network as a transparent, vertically organized heirarchy. As a person obtains access to others that would have otherwise not been reachable because of hierarchical organization, we can say that hierarchy has become more flat. For example, when a low level individual in an organization obtains the personal telephone number of the individual at the highest level, a communication channel that did not exist previously opens. It is one that circumvents the hierarchical organization that was previously in place. It can be said that from the perspective of this low level individual, the hierarchy has become more transparent. From the


perspective of looking at the entire organization, the hierarchy has become vertical, or more flat. The implications of this organization are wide ranging, but in the field of persuasion studies it would be fascinating to discover how the lack of hierarchical organization can affect the efforts of people to persuade. On one hand, the networked organization can benefit from immense feedback from various sources. On the other, the lack of control means that broadcasting a consistent message may become impossible. This study will examine the nature of persuasive messages and propaganda that develop in a networked environment. As a case study, this model observes some of the persuasive message organization found within a network of political activists: anti-globalization protesters. This is a movement that has organized rather recently as a coalition of various groups with widely ranging interests. It has been chosen for this recent development, and for the fact that much of the organization making this movement relevant takes place with modern telecommunication technology. The methodology of the case study is primarily qualitative, and focuses primarily on the on-line (i.e. Internet) communication structure of anti-globalization activists. Content analysis is used, and some statistical conclusions can be made. These must be tempered by the understanding that finding statistically significant samples in Internet research is extremely difficult. Despite this, the qualitative


approach, coupled with the statistical findings that can be used, it is still possible to form conclusions about the networked circulation of propaganda. Most communication and persuasion models have relied on an understanding of mass media as a one-to-many process. Little attention has been paid as to how people offer feedback and as to why they may become producers of messages that circulate within mass media. After examining the development of traditional models, several persuasion models form communication and social psychology research are discussed that can be applied to a network environment. These models include the Elaboration Likelihood Model, one that describes the cognitive processes by which people form attitudes. Also, the Theory of Reasoned Action is used for is explanatory powers of people’s behavior. By applying this theory to the behavior of message production, of media production, a model of how messages circulate within networks begins to develop. This approach overcomes the problems of traditional media models that were not developed at the time of disseminating networked telecommunications. The paper also uses a definition of media as communication patterns that can be described along dimensions of interactivity. This allows us to observe how people communicate without depending on technological definitions of media forms. Definitions of "persuasion" and "propaganda" vary widely, but most follow a basic pattern whereby the principal distinction between them lies in the motivations of the actors sending and receiving messages. Persuasion is usually defined as a communicative process to influence others. (Jowett and O’Donnell, 1999) 4

Propaganda, on the other hand, has been defined as many things, and scholars have grappled with a definition. (Ellul, 1965) Some of the most succinct definitions use the motivation of a propagandist as a central characteristic. Generally, propaganda can be thought of as an attempt by a propagandist to influence the attitudes and actions of others for the benefit of the propagandist. (Jowett and O’Donnel, 1999) This puts the manipulative nature of the term at the forefront, and offers us a reason to feel uncomfortable with communications that might be making us think and do things we would rather not. The approach of this paper, and the use of the term propaganda, is meant to be divorced from the politicized nature of the term. While acknowledging that influencing others for personal benefit is often at odds with morality and ethics, it is also something we all do. Using propaganda for maladjusted purposes should not benefit from this study. Networked communication systems do significantly affect the persuasion environment, and understanding that environment is not solely to the benefit of the propagandist. Knowing such systems is valuable to the persuaders and to those persuaded. The model that begins to emerge here offers conclusions about persuasion and propaganda that serve to fill in and even contradict some tenets of propaganda as it has been studied for the past 60 years. Specifically, the notion that propaganda must accompany a traditional hierarchy to be successful is not necessarily refuted by an examination of networks, but it is met with certain qualifications. As network 5

technologies disseminate, hierarchies are flattened, but this does not necessarily mean they are eliminated. They are subject to competition form other information sources. This makes for a lot of confused message dissemination, and yet the network also facilitates the organization of groups that might otherwise not be able to come together. The diversity of interests represented at anti-globalization demonstrations is cited as evidence of this. Also, using this model sheds light on what kind of persuasive appeals are best suited for certain communication patterns. Interpersonal appeals are often inapplicable when used in mass media persuasion campaigns, but the network conceptualization allows us to look between micro and macro approaches to describing persuasive communication. Such an understanding is not only important to those attempting persuasive campaigns; it is also of value to those who might be subject to persuasion-in that being aware of the tools of the propagandist allows one to make more measured judgements about their world. All of this requires that we make a detailed investigation into how people communicate within networks. This will bring up definitions of networks, and the various perspectives one can use to examine a network. For example, is a network composed of groups or individual? Answering this question will depend upon your needs. It will also depend on what kind of communication connections exist within the network. Whether or not you can talk to everybody in the network, or whether you can transmit information to everybody at once, or if they can do the same to you are serious 6

considerations when it comes to persuasion and propaganda dissemination in a network. Before we examine these questions, we have to look more closely at a network, and find some way of describing the members that create the network. This is the subject of the next chapter: an examination of various communication and persuasion theories.


Chapter 2: Anti-Globalization Activists

2.1 Demographics On November 30, 1999, the streets of Seattle were flooded with 50,000 people protesting the conference there held by the World Bank. The event caught the mainstream media, and the World Bank, by surprise. On April 16, 2000 the protesters were back, this time in Washington, DC. They were fewer in number and not as violent as those in Seattle, but the second appearance seemed to indicate their first was not a fluke. This was a political movement with a significant amount of staying power. Globalization had a foe, and most of them were young, progressive students with computers and cell phones. What we know about political participation leads us to believe that this is a very special interest with very few members when compared to the entire U.S. population. Political scientists have documented American's political participation for years, and generally the numbers come up low. (Davis, 1999) When one looks at how many people actually use the Internet for political purposes, like most activists, the numbers are even lower. When we acknowledge that anti-globalization activists are not necessarily part of the political mainstream, it becomes evident that as compared to the U.S. population, the numbers of activists may be quite low.


Most seem to be young, white, middle class students. In fact, much of the movement can be traced to college campuses. (Oneworld, 2001) College activists tend toward an interesting demographic. In a report compiled and published on the web site, a dispassionate assessment of activism is attempted with the knowledge that gathering such information is difficult, yet by conducting some standard investigation strategies, an interesting and useful picture can emerge. An examination of one groundbreaking anti-globalization organization, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) revealed that the vast majority of members already had some history of "social engagement." They had more open attitudes about sex, were more tolerant of free speech than their peers, and were more likely to disobey laws they felt violated their convictions. Activists tend toward an intense curiosity about how the world works, they have supportive parents, and a high evaluation of the efficacy of the individual in accomplishing social change. (Oneworld, 2001) The Oneworld report also notes that while the white, middle class demographic may be a point of origination for the anti-globalization movement, there are representatives from the immigrant communities in the United States that organize media campaigns and protests. The report cites several examples of Mexican, Ethiopian, and Asian Americans that have begun to organize in schools and neighborhoods against the perceived effects of globalization on the world's poor. The teenage children of Mexican immigrants living in Chicago, for example, are cited for


their equipping villagers in Chiapas with video cameras that can document stories for use in the United States. The evidence of most activists being white, middle class students may thus not be a completely accurate indicator of the nature of today's activist movements. The evidence of immigrants and their children becoming very involved under the antiglobalization umbrella may mean the umbrella itself is undergoing its own brand of globalization. Instead of economic globalization, this interconnected network of activists can be seen as representing a globalization of a political culture, a culture that encourages vocal protest as a means of political expression. A recent analysis in The Economist noted that as indigenous rebels in Chiapas, Mexico become more media savvy, as they were videotaped and their plight revealed to the world, the seven decade rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party ended and a new president, somewhat more sensitive to indigenous needs, was eventually elected. (Economist, 2001) The vast majority of activists use advanced technology. Their access to computers perhaps gave anti-globalization forces a crucial edge when it came to organizing. In the classic sense of the Internet, computers and web-sites enabled youth to overcome the barriers of space. Organizing was cheap too, no mailing lists were necessary, no postage. Participants simply had to log onto one of the web sites opposing the World Bank, as many of the anti-globalization sites do, and find the information they needed. They would have found information on protest schedules, 10

directions to the relevant intersections, and networking information of groups working to provide housing in cities where protests were occurring. This has radically changed the nature of protest activity. A report by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (2000) documents the use of technology by activists. Technology application has directly influenced the tactics of protest. Cellphones allow for communication and control. They increase the mobility of protesters, and allow for the instant dissemination of messages to a group that may be spread over a wide area, oftentimes within a larger group of protesters. (CSIS, 2000) The report also notes the use of PGP, or Pretty Good Privacy, a free encryption application that activists use to communicate sensitive information. Sophisticated media tactics are also used, as when groups post pictures and press releases on web sites the spring up to cover protest events. Organization of anti-globalization tends toward grassroots strategies. This is the nature of college activism, and it is also a tactic perfected by environmental groups that have shared their expertise. (CSIS, 2000) Groups often organize tours via email, visiting cities and campuses to conduct teach-ins, meetings, and rallies. Housing and food needs are also coordinated via email and interpersonal contacts with interested parties in the respective cities. Perhaps the most convincing evidence this activism is a manifestation of new organizational and communication methods can be found in the diversity of opinions represented under the umbrella of anti-globalization. The fear of multinational power 11

has inspired a wide range of groups, lobbyists, and some violent extremists to coalesce into overlapping networks of opposition. (CSIS, 2000) Some groups oppose elements of globalization of behalf of regional populations around the globe, others focus on specific issues that have more universal effects. Groups may oppose free trade or the power of corporations in international treaty negotiation. They may espouse particular tactics ranging from lobbying, to non-violent civil disobedience, to the more violent and revolutionary beliefs of anarchist groups that have unilaterally joined the movement. Groups tend not to specifically disavow the incompatible beliefs and tactics of others, mostly because they learn that the power of the network, the power of numbers, is far more valuable. The resulting movement is one where no single entity is in charge; this beast has many heads. The use of technology to disseminate their messages across groups creates a more transparent media environment where it becomes possible to learn much about many different groups. As such, they are more inclined to learn about the positions they do share, and affinity groups can come together under broad, shared interests. The CSIS report documents that as these affinity groups come together during events where they express their beliefs, organizational responsibilities begin to separate. Some groups organize housing needs for protests, others offer training, and still others provide for various forms of media coverage. The result of this organizational collage is that all of the groups share in the end result. More interests 12

can take advantage of the spontaneous protest to express their beliefs. Yet few mechanisms within this type of organization allow for the exclusion of groups, since most of the organization is public and accessible by nearly anyone with the right media technology, and the anarchists participate along with the non-violent Mobilization for Global Justice or the AFL-CIO. These groups' overlapping nature is evident from any visit to an antiglobalization site. Links abound to the sites of other causes, from environmentalist to anarchist, animal rights to human rights. Networks of like-minded and similar minded groups are large, and all easily contacted from other sites. Of course, there are consistent themes. All the groups tend to be left wing or even libertarian. Yet some also seem not to hesitate to support right wing or conservative objections to the IMF or World Bank. Few are associated with what could be called mainstream political parties or issues. Also, most tend to advocate positions that are not necessarily political juggernauts. They like the underdog, and use the language and association of other underdogs to advance their own cause. They list the plight of overseas sweatshop workers next to the sufferings of Palestinians at the hands of heavily armed Israeli troops. They emphasize the downtrodden as being victims of conspiracy, a common element in Internet discourse. (Dean, 2000) A partial listing of some of the more involved groups include: Mobilization for Global Justice; Black Bloc and other anarchists like The Resistance at; United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS); Movement for Democracy and Education (MDE/180); Student Alliance to 13

Reform Corporations (STARC); Center for Campus Organizing; United States Student Organization, Direct Action Network (DAN), the Ruckus Society, Sierra Student Coalition, Student Environmental Action Coalitions (SEAC), and JustAct. 2.2 Examples of Activist Propaganda Protests could not have occurred without Internet organization, and at many of these sites, like the one by Mobilization for Global Justice at, is a vast list of resources that make available contacts and information for organizing. Not only are pamphlets, posters, images, audio clips, video files and teach-in materials supplied, but there are also areas to organize housing arrangements. This combination of content and organizing activities is fairly unique to the Internet, and facilitates the activists' use of propaganda of the deed; the persuasive cue associated with demonstration events versus messages alone. (Jowett and O'Donnel, 1999) Yet the Internet offers some valuable opportunities to manufacture and disseminate messages to a mass audience. The following image was taken from the A16 web site under a “resources” page. The A16 page developers have included a massive amount of images and leaflets freely available to others. This image is a modified version of a very popular WWII propaganda poster of Rosie the Riveter. The original follows on the next page.


Figure 1.1 Rosie the Activist., 2000

Note how little modification has been made. The modern protest artist has taken full advantage of Rosie the Riveter’s place in the collective consciousness. For most viewers, the image’s portrayal of a strong and competent woman is probably awakened in both versions. The interesting implications from a propagandistic point of view is that while the early version was a product of the U.S. government intended to mobilize the populace, the IMF version is a populist hijacking that makes use of the same mythic qualities as the first.


Figure 1.2 Rosie the Riveter., 2000

Such images are rampant in anti-globalization web-sites. The use of parody and image associated propaganda is easy to create with computers, and even easier to disseminate. Part of the network advantages the creators of such images can use are inherent in computer mediated communication (CMC): the Internet makes it free to distribute. By making a massive amount of such images and other information available, the activists ensure that a large, politically active audience can potentially encounter their message. The original Rosie the Riveter, actually titled “We Can Do It!” was created by J. Howard Miller under the auspices of the Office of War Information and was unabashedly meant to be propagandistic. The portrayal of strong women doing factory work for the war effort was a carefully constructed message meant to mobilize the war16

time economy. The IMF version was created by an unaccredited artist and posted onto various anti-IMF web sites. This version is from the A16 site. This is just one example of thousands of images that have been created to satirize the IMF or World Bank while at the same time invoking classic, well known images. The irony of this piece is its propagandistic history. The Rosie of the past has been re-enlisted, this time for another cause, and maybe without permission. Countless other images have been commandeered by the activists, partly because they are images salient in the collective consciousness, and partly because modifying the images is fairly simple when using computer technology. Computers make it very easy to manipulate pre-existing images. Yet images do not serve to provide propagandistic arguments. They serve to activate existing attitudes through heuristic processes. (Jowett and O'Donnell, 1999) There are more sophisticated methods of communicating antiglobalization sentiments. Anti-globalization activists come from all walks of life, but the most active tend to be young and full of energy. As such, they have developed a huge collection of political parody that can be found on-line, accessible with any computer. One site devoted to ridiculing the World Bank,, makes no (initial) pretense about being nothing but a humorous attack on the bank.


Figure 2.3, 2000

Aside from espousing the motto: “Our Dream is a World Full of Poverty,” the site also offers an “Insecure Internet Bank” option whereby a poor nation can allegedly pay off its debt on-line. The parody is effective, and any observer would note that it is in a tradition highly honored in the world of political editorials. Digging deeper reveals something different, when one clicks on a link to Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs), which are mandatory policy changes the IMF imposes on a client nation, the following quote appears:

“SAPs often result in deep cuts in programmes like education, health, and social care and the removal of subsidies designed to control the price of basics such as food and milk. So SAPs hurt the poor the most…”(, 2000)

Following this statement, there is an extensive analysis of SAPs describing them as contradictory and economically ineffective. The humorous tone is gone, and the viewer is left to ponder the emotional swing from a wry smile to an uncomfortable 18

despair. This technique is not uncommon to anti-globalization protesters, even offline. Giant puppets are used in protests, and the Internet is rife with images that parody corporations and globalization institutions. Here we have a site that uses the seemingly emotional and superficial appeals of parody in order to draw attention to some very biting and sophisticated analysis. The site claims all information is factual and its sources are the World Bank, IMF, and the Central Intelligence Agency. It is a complete and sophisticated persuasive message, it makes extensive use of structured arguments, fear appeals and forewarning, or the practice of informing readers the arguments the World Bank might offer in response. (Stiff, 1996) In terms of propaganda, it makes use of all the tools it can. Ridicule is not the only method of developing anti-globalization messages. Several research institutes exist to examine the effects of economic globalization on the world’s poor. This research is generally all available on-line. Potentially, any group has access to the information and can use it as they wish, a manifestation of a flattened information hierarchy. All of this is open to anybody visiting the site, none of it requires special access. The organization of off-line activities in an on-line environment is not new, it has been taken advantage of since the early days of computer networking. (Watson, 1996) Activist groups too have developed all the technical tools necessary to provide for a community of travelling protesters, implying an altruistic presumption of all supporters. 19

Discussion lists are available on most sites. Subscribing to them is simple, and they offer even more opportunities to network with other anti-globalization supporters. Such variety of messages distributed in such a variety of ways draws attention to how such variety affects persuasive appeals. Discussion lists are just one way of broadcasting opinions, and it would be useful to know how persuasive appeals might circulate in this form, and in others. Later in this paper will be a content analysis of the messages distributed on these email lists and other media forms, and some interesting findings in the context of modern persuasion cues are included.


Chapter 3: Persuasion and Propaganda Research

This chapter will cover the beginnings of propaganda research, which later became persuasion research in communication. It will look at some modern persuasion models from a psychological perspective, and the components necessary for observing communication in a network will emerge for discussion in chapter four. First, it is necessary to examine why certain elements from communication research must be viewed with care. Historically, social scientists have not always been on the right track, and we must separate ourselves from approaches that are inadequate while keeping elements of workable theory. To do this, the present chapter follow the early development of persuasion, and communication, research. Early attempts at explaining media effects may have been pre-mature, and only recent research has moved away from this. (Rogers, 1994) A linear understanding of communication was overemphasized. Instead of seeing how messages circulate, social scientists used models that assumed "mass media" meant that one person was beaming information toward many others, with little consideration of intervening variables. 3.1 The Institute for Propaganda Analysis, and the Beginnings of Persuasion Research The Institute for Propaganda Analysis was a response by the U.S. Government and academia to the rise in mass media technologies and their apparent use for mobilizing large numbers of people for political causes. It is also a direct example of how linear models influenced the field of persuasion research. Of chief concern for 21

Americans was the almost magical control fascist political parties around the world had over their constituents. This led early models of propaganda to hold that the masses were almost powerless to stop the influence of propaganda, and that merely broadcasting any message across mass media ensured the desired response of the audience. McGuire's (1968) model of persuasion, very similar to early communication models, posited that attitudes formed as a result of attention, comprehension, yielding, retention, and action. This model focused considerably on audience characteristics like self-esteem and intelligence. Note also that it is a linear model of media effects. Messages are modeled as being sent from a source into an audience. McGuire also developed the "inoculation" idea of persuasion--the theory that ideas could be injected into society with certain effects. This too, however, is a linear model that assumes a sender has control over what, exactly, the message (or injection) will be. Most early propaganda models eventually outgrew the notion that all propaganda was blindly accepted by a naive and malleable populace. This development was perhaps some of the early evidence that linear models of communication and media effects were lacking. Yet from these models some interesting techniques for analysis were developed. The IPA, for example, developed the following list of tools available to the propagandist, and applied them in order to dissect the propaganda of various political actors of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Name Calling-giving an idea a bad label-is used to make us reject and condemn the idea without examining the evidence. 22

Glittering Generality-associating something with a "virtue word"-is used to make us accept and approve the thing without examining the evidence. Transfer carries the authority, sanction, and prestige of something respected and revered over to something else in order to make the latter acceptable; or it carries authority, sanction, and disapproval to cause us to reject and disapprove something the propagandist would have us reject and disapprove. Testimonial consists in having some respected or hated person say that a given idea or program or product or person is good or bad. Plain Folks is the method by which a speaker attempts to convince his audience that he and his ideas are good because they are "of the people," the "plain folks." Card Stacking involves the selection and use of facts or falsehoods, illustrations or distractions, and logical or illogical statements in order to give the best or the worst possible case for an idea, program, person, or product. Band Wagon has as its theme, "Everybody-at least all of us-is doing it"; with it, the propagandist attempts to convince us that all members of a group to which we belong are accepting his program and that we must therefore follow our crowd and "jump on the band wagon." (IPA, 1939) All of these tools are used to describe various components of propaganda, yet they are also lacking some important considerations. Most are heuristics; that is, they are all cues used to assess an argument without regard to its logical validity. They also do not consider how cognitive elaboration might develop attitude in an audience, and there is no research to indicate their effectiveness, or why and when they might be employed. One other early attempt at modeling propaganda was made by McGuire (1964) and was developed as a biological metaphor for understanding persuasive messages moving through a society. McGuire reasoned that people may respond to persuasive 23

attempts much like a living organism responds to a pathogen: with an immune system. Following this, it should be possible to "immunize" an audience against persuasive appeals. This model was especially useful in the days when many in the U.S. were seeking ways to undermine what they felt were attempts by foreign governments to wage campaigns against basic belief systems in the U.S. (Jowett and O'Donnel, 1999) McGuire explained how one might counteract these efforts with his "inoculation theory." This theory posits that by exposing an audience to weakened persuasive messages that one could build some kind of immunity to later, more comprehensive persuasive messages. By stimulating responses against the weakened arguments, the persuader is able to associate in the audience's mind some positive association with their own attitudes. When a stronger appeal came along, the audience was thus more prepared to resist its persuasive effects. Experimental evidence has supported inoculation theory, and it has become a central part of political campaign strategy. (Stiff, 1994) However, most of the evidence indicates that this practice only works when immunizing against attacks that may target "cultural truisms," or commonly accepted beliefs. McGuire did base much of the theory on the idea of cultural truisms. At the time, most of the fears of outside persuasive attacks were perceived to be offenses against widely held, yet often taken for granted, beliefs. The model was developed with these truisms in mind, and most of the experimental evidence indicates that it works best when inoculating against them, inoculation theory does not adequately 24

describe why it is only with cultural truisms that it works. Thus, inoculation theory is more of a description of propaganda effects, rather that propaganda processes. 3.2 The First Models of Mass Communication: Before beginning a discussion of the relevant persuasion theories that will be used in this study it is important to make some more detailed notes about the history of communication research. Modern communication research has its roots in the early 20th century, just when mass media technologies were proliferating amongst large audiences. The cannon can be perceived as oftentimes disjoint and overly theoretical. Many texts exist that simplify the findings, but this is confused by the difficulty in using scientific methods to study human behavior. Media effects have to be studied experimentally, and this leads to significant trouble when trying to apply the results in the 'real world.' A neat finding that might be easily demonstrable in the lab with a small group of people isolated from other influences might be very difficult to replicate or even observe in the total media environment we face every day. And as we shall see, much of the research may have been misguided or at least confused, for decades. Yet, with the understanding of this history, along with recent findings in the field of communication, as well as a healthy dose from other disciplines, and there is still a significant and useful framework with which to examine persuasion processes at work in today's media. In 1949, a mathematician by the name of Claude Shannon developed a model of information flow while studying emerging telecommunications and computer 25

applications. He published his work with a colleague in a book titled: The Mathematical Model of Communication. (Shannon and Weaver, 1949) Essentially, the model was an equation accompanied by a group of theorems that described how binary information elements affect the number of options available to an individual. Shannon's model describes information flow in very elegant and specifically defined terms. He defined information as simply : "patterned matter-energy that affects the probabilities of alternatives available to an individual making a decision." (Shannon, 1949) He then applied this definition to an equation relating information and options. This is Shannon's equation and his measure for the concept of information: H = −∑ p i log 2 p i = p log 2 (1 / p ) Despite whatever pretenses the academic may have, this equation is very complicated. However, with a little examination even the non-mathematician can understand what it teaches. This turns out to be very important, as the interpretation of this equation and its proper comprehension are crucial to an understanding of communication and, as we shall see, the history of communication research. At its most simple level, Shannon's equation states that an amount of information can be measured by the log of the number of available choices. Since he defined information in binary terms, that is, in terms of yes and no, or 1 and 0, the equation uses the logarithm of 2. (Shannon, 1949) A startling characteristic of this equation that has not been adequately noted by communication researchers is that this is also a description of the entropy principle of physics. 26

In fact it is a simple model and it leaves little room for subjective interpretation, like most mathematical equations. Yet such simplicity was not a barrier to using the model when examining human communication. One might believe that such a precise operational definition of information may make the model difficult to use in communication studies. After all, human behavior is difficult to model, and applying a mathematical design may seem too simple. Yet in the second chapter of The Mathematical Model of Information Shannon's partner Weaver extended the potential of the model to human communication. While he did not offer any groundbreaking conclusions, the actual equation is what was groundbreaking, he did explain the usefulness of it to the social sciences. Weaver recognized that the model was applicable across disciplines. This was not a fact overlooked by early communication researchers. (Rogers, 1994) Early models of communication from the social sciences essentially began with two subjects: message sender and message receiver. Communication trailblazers such as Berlo, Lasswell and McGuire worked with models based on this simple premise. All of these models were graphical representations of communication, often symbolizing actors or individual as letters, and indicating message flows with arrows. A→B As they developed, various details were added, such as the importance of encoding a message as it leaves the sender and decoding it as it encounters the receiver. Between


the sender and receiver it was quickly recognized that the message could be polluted in transit, and so a 'noise' dimension was added to many of the models. The key distinction is that all of these models were linear. They were also constructed with full knowledge of Shannon's mathematical model; almost all were specifically based on some of its principals. This historical fact has not escaped communication researchers, Everett Rogers, perhaps best known for his research in the diffusion of innovations, has written extensively on the history of communication research, and has noted just this fact. (Rogers, 1994) Rogers writes that the linear model of communication was developed in part by researchers' attention to Shannon, as well as the linear communication relationship of media technologies of the day. (Rogers, 1994) These included such non-interactive channels such as radio and television. When social scientists looked at the new media technologies of the early 20th century, they saw a privileged few producers broadcasting media to a "mass audience" that could only receive media from their radios or T.V's. Rogers maintains, quite conclusively, that it was this picture of "mass media" that strongly influenced the direction of research. (1986) He also posits that these linear models were an over-simplification of Shannon, that they failed to distinguish between fundamental aspects mandated by the mathematical equation such as 'message' and 'signal'. (Rogers, 1994) It seems early communication researchers failed to understand Shannon's equation. In Roger's opinion, this also had a devastating impact on communication 28

research for decades to come. Misunderstanding of the equation led researchers to develop very linear models of communication, and consequently media effects became cornerstones of study. Eventually, feedback channels were introduced into communication models, as it became necessary to describe how receivers could influence senders. However, the models still had difficulty taking into account that merely sending a message could also affect the sender. This confusion is especially disheartening when we go back to Shannon's model. It was, after all, a mathematical equation, and equations speak in specific terms in two directions. Elements on one side can be moved the other, and each variable can be isolated to determine the effects of the others. It seems that the early inadequacies of linear models of communication may partly be the result of an error in algebra. Rogers writes: "So, unfortunately, what communication scholars interpreted of the Shannon paradigm was structured by their needs and interests of the day. What they wanted was a linear, one-to-many model of human communication. And that's what they got." (Rogers, 1986, p.90) This error may have thrown researchers off, as Rogers believes, but even if they never caught this error the field has nevertheless begun to overcome. In the last twenty years more attention has been given to communication process models that describe relationships between two or more actors. Media effects have not been abandoned, but their notorious difficulty in measurement and experimental design has been tempered by a larger understanding of media systems. This concept is extremely important when we discuss persuasion and propaganda. Once we understand the problems of the past 29

and the appropriateness of new approaches, we can decipher one that can be applied in an era of new media technologies. For example, although media effects studies are extremely useful, we can take from the above discussion that linear models guiding effects research are somewhat misguided, and certainly dated in the modern media environment. Many of the models were developed when media effects and linear models were the norm, and as a result we must re-evaluate them in this light. 3.3 Modern Models of Persuasion This tendency to focus on linear communication processes has led to problems in the field of persuasion research, but this lacking should not steer us away from considering propaganda effects on an audience. Effects are a very real and very significant aspect of persuasion, and they are also the most interesting. For this reason, we must acknowledge and somehow gauge message effects while at the same time placing these effects into a communication process framework. How this might be done requires us to understand how effects fit into the puzzle. Exposing an audience to a message is not the end of the communication exchange; it should not be considered in such a linear fashion. Once a message is transmitted to an audience it can be further disseminated along different channels, and the persuasion process can continue. Messages or information will travel from some actors to others, and isolating a beginning and an end will be counterproductive for efforts that seek to move away from linear communication models. However, the effects the messages have on audience members must still be considered. 30

Understanding the cognitive processes such actors use when exposed to messages is the best approach for understanding media effects. Social psychology and communication researcher have offered models the fit the criteria of describing such mental elaboration while excluding the problems of considering media effects on the audience. Most importantly, these models can be used to understand effects without contaminating our exploration of how propaganda might disseminate through media. Elaboration Likelihood Model Two of the most relevant persuasion models are the Elaboration Likelihood Model, ELM, and the very similar Heuristic Model of Persuasion, or HMP. ELM was developed in an effort to formulate a model that could better explain the cognitive activities behind attitude formation. It derives its components from two postulates. The first is the assumption that people are motivated to hold “correct” attitudes. (Stiff, 1994) They want to hold correct attitudes that give them some compatibility with their environment; “wrong” attitudes result in negative social, physical, or environmental consequences. ELM’s second theoretical postulate is the assumption that people devote various levels of cognitive effort to establish an attitude regarding a certain object or situation. (Petty and Cacioppo, 1986) The more relevant or salient such a situation is to a person dictates a more involved cognitive effort to formulate an attitude. In other words, people are more apt to think about, and have an opinion on, something that is right in front of them. Far away and removed issues get much less thought. As an aside, this postulate has some interesting lessons for the propagandist. 31

Disassociating an audience from an issue may force them to think about it less, allowing the propagandist to take advantage of, essentially, a lulled population. In Petty and Cacioppo’s model these two assumptions, the motivation to hold correct attitudes and to think more about salient issues, drove the development of two separate routes of thought by which people form attitudes, central route processing and peripheral route processing. Central route processing is marked by a careful scrutiny of message content, and attitude thus results from mental elaboration of the message content. On the other hand, when close scrutiny is uncalled for or too difficult people use what ELM terms the peripheral route. Here, attitude change occurs through a process marked by the association of message “recommendations” with positive or negative cues in the message environment. (Petty and Cacioppo, 1981) Central processing would be characterized by reliance upon argument quality, supporting information and logical consistency. Conversely, peripheral routes of processing would include attitude formation more closely dependent upon environmental cues independent of the message content: reliance of source expertise, source trustworthiness, attractiveness, or association with other respected individuals. Petty and Cacioppo describe what they call an “elaboration likelihood continuum.” One end consists of cognitive processing, another of low cognitive processing--on each end persuasion is more dependent on the persuasion cues relevant to that part of the continuum. (Stiff, 1994) ELM maintains that three major factors affect message elaboration. They are: 32

motivation, ability, and need for cognition. In order for message elaboration to be more effortful a person must be motivated to do so. Motivation to hold socially appropriate attitudes on a particular issue and the personal relevance of that issue must be vary salient before a person will engage in effortful elaboration. (Stiff, 1994) Receivers must also be willing and able to cognitively elaborate message content. (Stiff, 1994) Components such as distraction stimuli, message distortion, and message difficulty have been found to decrease learning and comprehension. (Stiff, 1994) Finally, the third major factor affecting message elaboration is a person’s need for cognition. Petty and Cacioppo readily recognize that a need to engage in and enjoy effortful cognitive endeavors would reflect more elaboration of messages. (Stiff, 1994) Petty and Cacioppo succinctly describe the continuum of message elaboration that dictates attitude formation put forth by ELM: “As motivation and/or ability to process arguments is decreased, peripheral cues become relatively more important determinants of persuasion. Conversely, as argument scrutiny is increased, peripheral cues become relatively less important determinants of persuasion.” (Petty and Cacioppo, 1986) The Heuristic Model of Persuasion Another model of cognitive processing during attitude formation is very similar to the elaboration likelihood model. Chaiken’s Heuristic Model of Persuasion, or HMP, has received less attention than ELM probably because of these similarities. (Stiff, 1994) 33

One of these similarities is that HMP assumes persuasion results from two mental strategies. On the one hand, persuasion can result from cognitive elaborations of the arguments in the message (systematic processing) or, on the other, persuasion can result from less effortful strategies involving extraneous cues (heuristic processing) to message validity. (Hafer et. al., 1996) Thus, HMP establishes two distinct components similar to ELM. Systematic processing involves careful scrutiny of a message, much like Petty and Cacioppo’s central processing. Similar to Petty and Cacioppo’s peripheral processing, Chaiken establishes what is called heuristic processing, a method that involves little cognitive effort and a reliance on personal opinion and heuristic evaluations of the message environment to facilitate attitude formation. Here, attitudes are formed by an individual when confronted with a message that cannot be closely scrutinized by falling back on preconceived methods of assigning validity to the message. (Stiff, 1994) These are referred to as heuristics, or simple decision rules that allow people to evaluate message recommendations without effortful scrutiny of the message content. (Stiff, 1994) Some examples of these heuristics that many of us live by might include: ‘taxes are bad,’ ‘majority rules,’ democracy is good,’ ‘experts are probably correct,’ or ‘attractive people are credible.’ Central to the theory is that people are minimalist information processors. Thus, such cognitive heuristics allow many persuasive cues to be processed automatically, requiring minimal cognitive effort from message receivers. (Stiff, 1994) There is one major difference with Chaiken’s theory to that of Petty and 34

Cacioppo’s. While ELM’s central and peripheral processing occur on a continuum, Chaiken proposes with HMP that systematic and heuristic processing occur in parallel fashion with one another, and oftentimes both processes are in use simultaneously. Despite this difference, the absence of a HMP continuum, the factors affecting persuasion in these two theories remains message comprehension and motivation to expend mental effort on the message. (Stiff, 1994) These two models only propose an explanation for the mental processes by which people form opinions. However, they can be helpful in constructing a persuasive message and gaining a general idea about how an audience might react. Such broad conclusions are helpful because they shed light on the persuasion process without requiring an intricate understanding of the audience. Oftentimes such understanding requires complex contextual cues that are subject to change and are most often impossible to adequately measure. ELM and HMP are very valuable when the propagandist knows how much attention will be paid by the audience; this allows him to use certain cues in message construction based on either central (systematic) or peripheral (heuristic) processing by the audience. Additionally, it should be noted that ELM and HSM describe the cognitive processes of individuals. They not necessarily have to be applied exclusively, for example, to a sample of an audience. The fact that traditionally they have been used to consider message effects on an audience should not be misinterpreted as their only use. ELM and HSM can be applied in a way that ignores the linear approach to understanding communication--they can be used to 35

understand the thought processes of message receivers as well as message senders. The Theory of Reasoned Action One of the more complex cognition oriented theories, and perhaps the most comprehensive, is Fishbein and Azjen's Theory of Reasoned Action or TRM. (Fishbein and Azjen, 1979) This theory was developed to address two major problems in persuasion research that developed in the 1960’s. One of these was a poor definition of attitude, a problem solved by developing a quantitative attitude measure. Another issue addressed by this theory is that many earlier researchers in persuasion ignored the content of messages directed by the persuader and maintained that people are passive recipients of information. (Bright, 1993) In contrast, Fishbein and Azjen assume that people process information systematically and that by changing the content and structure of a message one can change attitudes. Ultimately, TRA gains its advantage by directly defining terminology of persuasion and, most importantly, framing persuasion as a process that ends with a specific behavior in a specific time and context; quite different from ELM and HSM. Two theoretical components make up the Theory or Reasoned Action method for predicting attitudes toward behaviors: an individuals’ attitude toward a target behavior and a persons subjective norms. Azjen and Fishbein define attitude as a function of quantitatively measured beliefs and the evaluations of those beliefs. It is important to distinguish the difference between these two components. A belief simply concerns an individuals’ perceived likelihood that a certain outcome will occur in a 36

given situation. (Azjen and Fishbein, 1980) The evaluation is the normative assessment a person holds toward that outcome; the degree to which that outcome is desirable or undesirable. (Azjen and Fishbein, 1980) The second theoretical component of TRM considers the environmental influences that guide a person’s attitudes, these are called subjective norms. The term refers to an individual’s belief that those people important to him/her would like him/her to hold certain beliefs. (Bright, et at. 1993) Subjective norms can be quantitatively measured as a summation of normative beliefs, or what it is felt others believe, and the motivation to comply with the target behavior or attitude, or the likelihood a person will accept the influence of others. (Stiff, 1994) Attitude toward the target behavior and the subjective norms a person holds combine to formulate what is known as a person’s intention to behave. According to Azjen and Fishbein it is intention to behave that is the most direct determinant of a behavior. (Azjen and Fishbein, 1981) Of course the relative importance of these components vary from person to person and from intention to intention. (Azjen and Fishbein, 1981) The Theory of Reasoned Action, despite this variation, has been the most widely investigated model of attitude and behaviors and it has been widely supported by a variety of investigations. (Madden, 1992; Stiff, 1994) According to the Theory of Reasoned Action behavior change may occur through the two avenues of the theory’s framework. The first way a change can occur is by changing beliefs or the evaluations of those beliefs that would therefore cause a change in attitude. Another is 37

a change in normative beliefs or motivations to comply which would result in a change of subjective norms and thus directly alter a person’s intention to execute a particular behavior. (Bright, 1993) TRA is a linear model, or at least one that has focused on a linear persuasion process. While it does posses mechanisms to account for a communication as process, this aspect of it has received little attention. TRA can describe how the audience reacts to persuasive messages, and attempts to make a prediction about attitude and behavior change. Taking into account how feedback my affect the message development, however, does not qualify it as a process model. Ultimately, it starts with a perusasive message and ends with a change in audience attitude. TRA's requirement that the researcher know the reactions of the audience makes its use prohibitive. Sampling a population is hard when you cannot be sure exactly where that population resides. Especially in an on-line environment, measuring beliefs, evaluation, and subjective norms on a quantitative scale can be extremely difficult. Yet, TRA does offer sound theoretical components describing how attitudes change and how they affect behavior. Despite the difficulty in actually measuring attitudes, the belief, evaluation, and subjective norm components do offer a comprehensive description of what factors lead to attitudes, and ultimately behavior. Again, just like ELM and HSM, this model has traditionally been used to examine an "audience" of a persuasion campaign. Targeted behaviors include those 38

espoused in public health campaigns, etc. Tradition may be denying this model its potential, however. There is no behavior that TRA specifically excludes from examining, the only difficulties one might have are in the actual measurement of attitudes, intentions, etc. Despite this, we could theoretically use TRA to aid our understanding of one of the most overlooked behaviors found in media studies--the behavior of mass media participation, of media production. (Shoemaker and Reese, 1996) 3.4 Models of Media Usage Uses and gratifications is a theory that explains media usage as a function of an individual's motivation to seek out certain satisfaction that can be found by consuming specific media content. This means that we all have reasons to watch television or read the newspaper, and that we pick such activities according to our mood and wishes. This theory is an excellent example of what developed as researches found that media effects were not as forceful as initially believed. These findings were evident in even the most early experiments of media effects, and forms of uses and gratifications theory first appeared in the 1940's. Once they found that an audience was not powerless to resist the effects of messages, they turned some attention to models that explained media effects that occurred as a result of an individual's conscious effort to use media to satisfy certain motivations. It is also a model that has traditionally been used to describe the usage behavior of an audience presented with an environment of one-way mass media. 39

Uses and gratifications is a description of why people use mass media. It has been modified by several researchers through the years, mainly through the identification of which motivations media use tends to satisfy. (McQuail, 1987, Katz, et al. 1974, Blumler and Katz, 1974) Some of these researchers have identified a few motivations to apply with the model, while some have chosen up to 35 separate motivations. Two groupings of motivations are listed below as examples. The first was developed by Blumler and Brown in 1974 and has been cited by some as the most useful: Diversion: Under this motivation, people use media to escape from the routine problems of everyday life. Personal Relationships: Here, media usage is motivated by a need to substitute media for companionship or for the social utility of information in conversation. Personal Identity or Individual Psychology: This is when media serves as value reinforcement or reassurance. Surveillance: This is the simple motivation to discover new information about one's envirornment. This second set was developed in 1973 and is a group of categories condensed from 35 different needs. The important thing here is to notice the similarities. Cognitive needs: These include acquiring information, knowledge and understanding. Affective needs: Such as emotions, pleasure, and feelings. Personal integrative needs: Motivations that concern issues such as credibility, stability, and status. Social integrative needs: Such as those associated with family, friends, and important others. Tension release needs: These needs are those that are satisfied by escape and diversion. 40

Note how similar the lists are. Indeed it has been this similarity that has given Uses and Gratifications some of its difficulty. Since there is no real standard set of motivations to use, researchers have been left to pick and choose their own, making it very difficult to assemble a consistent cannon of research about the theory. Uses and Gratifications has received a lot of attention, and its simple postulate that individuals seek out certain media is invaluable in a body of research that assumes media effects are inevitable. It was one of the first models that assumed a communication process, and that the individual receiving a message was at least partly in control. This has been a target of criticism for those who believe the theory is too simple The idea that freedom of choice is present in the media environment offend the sensibilities of those that believe in media hegemony. (Severin and Tankard, 1997) This is the idea that certain institutions and trajectories control how the media operates and that no one individual can possibly control what messages they find in the media. This may be true, no doubt economic pressures, the socialization of media and reporters, as well as the technological infrastructure of media influence how messages are transmitted. (Shoemaker and Reese, 1996) It probably also affects the frame in which certain stories are reported. However much this criticism is valid, we still must not forget that in this structured, hegemonic environment, we all have many, many choices. And as time goes on, we have had more choices than ever before in the form


of more newspapers, more radio stations, and more television channels. Today we even have more choices to participate and create or influence our own mass media. Other attacks have been made about the model, mostly hinting on dissatisfaction with its simplicity. Few efforts have been made to standardize the terminology of the theory. Many efforts that seek to apply Uses and Gratifications have incompatible lists of motivations, and often the motivations that are gleaned from questionable literature. (Hamilton, 1998) Other attacks include charges that it is not a theory at all, it is too vague, and nothing more than a data-collecting strategy. (Severin and Tankard, 1997) Uses and Gratifications was also developed in a time when most media was very noninteractive, and when participation in mass media was difficult and expensive. It may be a process model that describes why people are exposed to certain media, but it is not a model that describes how people offer feedback to the media. In the age of television, the audience member had little opportunity to affect the programming for the simple reason that it was difficult to contact producers and have an affect on what they broadcast. A different situation exists with the Internet, not only is it easy and inexpensive to contact media producers, it is fairly simple to become a media producer. When we examine the nature of the new technologies and the new media channel known as the Internet, we see that the interconnected audience members form a network. With this development it is becoming evident that the models of mass


communication that were created when mass communication was one way are no longer valid, and that some change in the field must occur. Social Learning Theory also attempts to explain elements of media usage. Here, a model of human learning behavior has been used to explain why people may use media because of their unique propensity to learn by observation. (Bandura, 1977) Social Learning Theory was a response to some learning theories that maintained people learn by conducting experiments on their environment and then weighing the benefits and the costs discovered about a certain action. This assumes that we all try every activity we want to learn more about and then, when all this experimental activity has taken place, we learn. Bandura recognized this was absurd, because there are too many activities that you could only do once, and the cost might be so high we would all be dropping like flies if each of us had to learn for ourselves that jumping off a cliff was a bad idea. Obviously, we can learn by observing activities and then associating the perceived rewards or outcomes. Applied to mass media consumption, Social Learning Theory would predict that people use media to learn about their environment, associate with the objects or concepts they see in media the consequences and rewards of those objects, and then learn to either reject or accept those things. The theory even posits that people learn behaviors by watching others on television, and then may mimic those behaviors in the real world at some relevant time in their own lives.


Such learning methods are often criticized today, with revelations that many school violence perpetrators spend inordinate amounts of time with violent video games, or that small children can set fires after watching a cartoon. It is a two-sided coin, though, and Social Learning Theory is often applied in campaigns that seek to provide education as will has behavioral examples. Many AIDS and anti-drug campaigns provide children with examples of what to do when confronted with a situation where they must choose whether or not to have sex or use drugs. These campaigns have had success, and this may be due to the validity of Social Learning Theory. How many of us have never looked at something on TV and thought that it looked like a pretty good idea? For that matter, how many of us have seen thing in media and thought it looked and sounded like a pretty bad idea? 3.5 A Composite Model of Messages Researchers of media effects have considered many variable in their studies. Mostly, though, they tend to study the major components of mass communication: people, the messages they send and receive, and the means by which they send them. As such, it becomes possible to organize the available body of theory by these components. Audiences have not always been the dependent variable in these cases, sometimes it is the messages or other components of the communication process. Explaining audience reactions, for example, making the audience the dependent variable, requires carefully manipulating messages and their delivery to determine what changes with which they are associated in the audience. As we have seen, using 44

the message as the dependent variable leads to approaches that attempt to describe nearly everything about mass media structure, from individual differences, to the influence of institutional and organizational structure. An approach that could simplify this into the dynamics of just a few components would be helpful. Using the basic components of mass communication, the actors and the messages, for example, might be useful. After all, the basic process of communication that has gone unchallenged is its premise that it requires information, and people to process and exchange that information. We should not eliminate the medium, but often the medium is difficult to describe, and can be easily substituted. Experimentally, we can isolate the use of media by subjects, but in the real world, the audience member has a wealth of communication channels available, and not taking this into account would be a major drawback to any theory. In an attempt to divide existing theories into a framework that considers the actors and the messages in mass communication, the below discussion takes into account that researchers have spent considerable amounts of time considering media actors only as an audience. This one-to-many approach of mass media was appropriate for the times, but it ignores a fundamental aspect of the communication process in general: it is not a one-way deal. We can categorize these approaches according to whether they explain: how and why people receive messages, how and why they process the information they do receive, and how and why they send messages. This scheme is not necessarily a figment of the historical development 45

of research cannons because it acknowledges something previous research has failed to do: It explain mass communication in terms of both production and consumption, with intervening processing occurring within the minds of actors. Two of the discussed theories explain how and why people look at media. Uses and gratifications is one of these, it uses lists of motivations or other needs to describe why people look to mass media. It argues that people use the media more or less as a tool to understand or make sense of their world. Social Learning also functions to explain what sort of broad conclusions we can make about people and their consumption of media. As an instrument for observing, media use under this theory is a learning process, whereby the consequences of information received through mass media might be incorporated into the belief, and even behavior, structure of audience members. Three of our theories explain how and why people form attitudes based on messages from media. ELM and HSM both give us intricate, cognitive understandings of how the media message may be processed by the individual. By knowing characteristics of the individual and the message, ELM and HSM allow us to make certain conclusions about attitude formation. TRA also allows us to explain attitudes. TRA includes very specific measures of beliefs, evaluations and subjective norms that may affect attitude. These are very specific measures, and are carefully measured by those studying or applying the theory. This systematic approach to measurement is significantly different from the attempts to explain mental elaboration of ELM and 46

HSM. TRA is also a theory that allows us to make predictions about behavior based on attitudes. Although these predictions are not perfect, the theory does get its strength from its behavioral approach. Few theories explain how and why people make media messages. These theories are more difficult to find for a variety of historical reasons. Not much attention has been paid explaining why people actively participate in mass media. The encompassing approach taken by Shoemaker and Reese (1999) is complicated, and it requires us to delve quite deeply into the abstract motivations the are developed by the structure of the media industry. This is not only problematic because of its complexity, but it also assumes a static media structure, one that existed at the time the book was written. Although certain components of mass media structure are fairly entrenched, predicting which ones can last is difficult. Even more difficult is predicting how such a theoretical approach would have to change in response to even slight organizational modifications in the modern media industry. In other words, it does not give us particularly great predictive powers: What happens when more people have access to mass media? TRA might be getting close with its use of behavior prediction. It is a theory that describes all behaviors, from brushing one's teeth to voting. There is no reason the behavior of creating messages for mass media could not be included. Although, it is difficult to say if the specifics of the theory could shed light on why people create and send mass media. Overcoming this hurdle may lead to understanding a complete picture of mass media environments. We could then understand why 47

people consume media, how it affects them, and how those effects are translated into media participation. Common elements in all these theories are the actors and the messages. Essentially, these theories, when assembled according to what aspects of media participation they describe, all focus on the people involved in the process. It becomes important to know what motivates them to expose themselves to messages, and how they develop attitudes based on those messages. Ideally, we would also have an idea of how and why they express these attitudes and motivations. The limited theory in this area is not entirely useless, however. We can borrow from TRA some of the tenets of behavior, and use some of the research on media content to guide us into developing an understanding of active media participation. We should also note that some of the assumptions of media consumption theories could also be helpful. Uses and gratifications can offer some help. Since researchers applied the idea that consuming media satisfies certain motivations, and since motivations are such a common theme in all of these theories, it would make sense to include such concepts in an understanding of media production. We would run into some of the problems encountered by uses and gratifications research. Most significant would be the problem of developing a list of possible motivations, something of a difficulty when we consider the variety of attempts the have already been made. However, just like it is in uses and gratifications for understanding media


consumption, acknowledging that motivation is a central component to any activity, it is a useful starting point when considering media participation. It would also be necessary to account for the other basic element of mass communication, the media. Media can be thought of as channel, technology, language, and a host of other techniques that enable information exchange. Mass media has usually been considered by the technological bounds that define how one-to-many message exchange takes place. The lack of attention to feedback and participation by much of the research, however, also led to a definition of media that leans away from attention to patterns of exchange. Since one-to-many communication was really the only kind of mass communication for almost a century, it makes sense that little attention was paid to other patterns of communication flows. These patterns are essentially defined by who is exchanging information with whom. The number of actors and how and they are communicating are the characteristics of a communication pattern. A more useful approach to mass media would thus be one that incorporates these common elements, one that is based on communication patterns and interactivity. In other words, one that is based on message flows and how people can affect them. Jensen's (1999) communication patterns reflect nicely on what kind of message flows can move through media and how they might be constrained. His use of the communication patterns to define interactivity helps us discover how actors can affects message flows. Such an opportunity to consider media in the terms of the options it gives the actors should not be ignored, especially when it can circumvent the problems 49

of understanding mass media flows in the terms of existing technologies or other specific enabling methods. This gives us a framework form which to use the message, or content of media, as a dependent variable. Using the message as a dependent variable overcomes some challenges associated with traditional media effects studies. For example we cannot measure effects well partly because we cannot be sure people pay attention to messages. This is a problem when using the message, or content, as a dependent variable. But it is also a methodological problem when studying how people respond to messages; when people are the dependent variable. We can counter this by looking at people we know will be likely to pay attention. ELM calls them people with high levels of involvement. Thus, those most involved are also using high levels of message elaboration in attitude formation. We might expect also to find the most involved people those who are also involved with elaborate message development. In other words, the most involved should be the propagandist. We can also overcome the problem by not only acknowledging that people produce messages, but also that by observing the production and manipulation of content we can learn something about their effects. If not, we are at least approaching the system with a defined unit of analysis to be used as our dependent variable. Each approach steers us toward people with their "levels of involvement" as elements of study. In the next chapter, we will examine some of the elements unique to media on 50

the Interne. Interactivity and networks are these elements, and we will see how they can be applied to an understanding of communication that is much more comprehensive that earlier one-to-many models.


Chapter 4: Interactivity, Media, and Networks

4.1 Defining Interactivity and Media Interactivity turns out to be one of the most important terms we can define in a network, especially in our examination of the Internet. This is because the interactive nature of using the Internet is perhaps its most fundamental characteristic. Above all other media types, the Internet has presented an unprecedented control over media content to the audience. Traditionally, high levels of interactivity were found in media technologies like the telephone. However, the telephone is basically a tool for interpersonal communication. The information content on the Internet can reach millions, and it can thus fall into the category of “mass media.” The combination of characteristics of interpersonal communication, namely interactivity, and the many-tomany communication characteristics of mass media have led some to call computer mediated communication an “interpersonal mass media.” (Jensen, 1999) It is this combination of traditionally separate concepts in communication that leads to the conclusion that defining “interactivity” is paramount. Many attempts have been made of varying levels of complexity. Jen F. Jensen, of Aalborg University, Denmark, provides a fascinating discussion of various definitions of interactivity, and presents one of his own that attempts to overcome some of the shortcomings he finds in others. Jensen’s article, ”’Interactivity’—Tracking a New Concept in Media and Communication Studies,” covers the concept as it is defined in sociology, 52

communication, and infomatics circles of research. Perhaps most significant to the research here is that Jensen notes the absence of adequate definitions in communication and media studies. Researchers have either not defined the concept at all, or have only offered limited descriptions of the concept that do not satisfy the requirements for an operationalized term. Jensen notes that one can define “interactivity” as prototype, criteria, or continuum, and concludes that that the continuum approach to “interactivity” would be best for researchers. Yet it is also a concept that can be defined along several dimensions. One-dimensional, twodimensional, three-dimensional, and four-dimensional definitions of the term have been put forward, and examining what these different approaches offer gives insight into how messages might be circulated in different media. One dimensional definitions The basic idea of interactivity is based around the ability of the media user to modify and take advantage of the choices he or she has concerning media consumption. Low interactivity would be characterized by the audience’s inability to control how media is consumed, and what content is in the media. For example, when one attends a movie there is very little choice the audience has in when the content will be viewed, what the content will be, and under what circumstances. High interactivity would be characterized by the audience having many choices of what to view, when, where and how. This is a basic concept of interactivity, and can be thought of along one-dimension. At one level we have high interactivity, and at the other we have low 53

interactivity. We might apply this definition to specific technologies, and claim that television and radio are relatively low in interactivity, while telephones and the Internet are relatively high. Such definitions have been put forth by resaerchers, and it is no surprise here that we again encounter Everett Rogers. (1986) Rogers has created a scale on which degrees of interactivity can function to describe certain media forms, usually technologies.

Degree of Interactivity

Low: radio, TV, film, etc.

High: teleconferencing email, WWW, etc.

Figure 4.1. E. M. Rogers’ 1-dimensional scale (Rogers, 1987, p. 34)

Several other definitions have been offered that also define the term unidimensionally. These often include ‘levels’ of interactivity, with each level describing some of the choices available to the audience. Problems arise with these definitions, however, namely in that most of them have been created with specific technologies in mind. (Jensen, 1999) This means the definitions become quickly out-dated; as 54

technology advances and the choices of interaction available multiply beyond, for example, the record and playback options of a VCR, it becomes more difficult to distinguish between previously defined levels. When definitions are simply ordered lists of existing technologies, the development of some new technology can confound the entire concept, since the new technology might be difficult to place within the predefined list. One very useful one-dimensional model takes a different approach. Developed by Sheizaf Rafaili in 1988, it defined interactivity according to how much one message in an exchange is based on previous messages. This continuum type model established three levels of interactivity. Two-way communication is characterized by messages being exchanged between communicators. Reactive communication occurs as messages exchanged are dependent upon previous messages. And full interactivity takes place as messages are responding to a list of all other previous messages.


Two-way communication A M1 M2

M3 B M4




Reactive communication A M1 M2

M3 M4 B[M3]

A[M4] Mj-I B[Mj-2]



Interactive communication A M1 M2


A[M4/M3/M2/M1 M4 M6





Figure 4.2 Rafaili’s interactivity (Rafaili, 1988)

This idea of full interactivity will be important when we examine the message characteristics of a persuasive communication in a network environment. The map of communication that includes audience members as having access to all previous 56

messages helps us describe what happens in a propaganda environment devoid of hierarchical controls. Keeping certain information from the audience is one of the primary goals of the propagandist. This is in opposition to the map Rafaili’s map of fully interactive communication. Two dimensional definitions Two-dimensional definitions of interactivity tend to rely on what type of communication is occurring, and what variables affect that type of communication. A two-dimensional concept developed by Bohdan O. Szuprowicz (1995) demonstrates how this might be done. The two-dimensional definition presents some problems, however. It is difficult to determine what variable should fit along each dimension, which makes theoretical applications difficult, and it is also not clear that all forms of communication behavior can be applied to the model. (Jensen, 1999) The two dimensions in Szuprowicz’s model are as follows. Along one dimension lie various descriptions of how a user might “interact” with information. These descriptions are listed in increments of increasing interactivity. A user may 1.) interact with documents or other established, pre-constructed forms of information in the user-to-documents construct. 2.) A user-to-computer construct is a level of interactivity characterized by the use of a computer to manipulate data according to certain needs and choices, and finally 3.) a user may interact with another person in real time in the user-to-user construct. These levels of interactivity are applied to the second dimension of variables chosen because they affect the first. These include 57

Object-oriented manipulation, broadcast, and Interactive access. This model is difficult because it does not necessarily have each dimension defined thoroughly enough to escape providing only simple descriptions of what kind of interactivity a certain media form may offer. Three dimensional definitions Three dimensional definitions of interactivity may be some of the most useful. They tend to be easy to understand, while at the same time offering considerable information on degrees and types of interactivity. Additionally, Jensen offers a possible method of graphically representing the definition along three axis that lend to its understanding. (1999) Brenda Laurel establishes a very useful three dimensional model. (1986, 1990) This usefulness may be partly due to the fact that Laurel’s three dimensional components can easily fall within much of the characteristics of communication models that have already been discussed. These three components, or variables, are: 1.) frequency, or how often one could interact; 2.) range, a description of how many choices are available to the audience member; and 3.) significance, a measure of “how much the choice really affected matters.” (1990, p. 20) A situation of low interactivity would be one that scores low on all three of these variables, frequency, range and significance. A high degree of interactivity would be characterized by the audience having many opportunities to act, a large number of choices of actions, and those choices significantly influencing the outcome of things. Jensen maps these dimensions 58

on a three dimensional graph, reproduced below. The model can also be used to describe the interactivity offered by certain media forms or technologies. (Jensen, 1999)


The user has: --A frequent ability to act --Many choices --Great significance



The user has: --Little ability to act --Few choices --Little significance





Fig 4.3. Jensen’s graph of Laurel's "interactivity"

Four dimensional definitions Moving beyond three-dimensional models of interactivity makes things very complicated. It may be difficult to apply them theoretically while at the same time maintaining elegance and simplicity. Yet they do overcome some problems with threedimensional models. (Jensen, 1999) Laurel’s definition of interactivity takes into account the options available to an audience member, but they do little to describe 59

communication types that do not include ‘choices’ available to the audience. Four dimensional models allow us to include, or exclude, other variables. This is merely a way of saying that instead of three descriptors of ‘interactivity,’ and all the combinations thereof, we can, with four dimensional definitions, use four descriptors, and all the combinations thereof. However, four-dimensional models are difficult to construct, and many suffer from the problem of confounding variables; their many dimensions are often not mutually exclusive. (Jensen, 1999) Lutz Goertz’s four dimensions were developed in response to the problems of other, less complicated definitions. Each dimension operates seperately, at least theoretically, and within each dimension is another measure of degree. These are much like the measures of degree for each of the components of the three-dimensional model. Goertz’s four dimensions are: 1.) ‘the degree of choices available’; 2.) ‘the degree of modifiability,’ or the ability of the user to modify or add new message content that will be recorded for other users; 3.) ‘the quantitative number of the selections and modifications available,’ or the number of selections available in each of the other dimensions; and 4.) ‘the degree of linearity or non-linearity,’ or the ability of the user to modify and influence the time, tempo and progression of the reception of the message. (Goertz, 1995) Each of these dimensions is measured according to four increasing levels of degree, and this is probably the ultimate downfall of the model. When mapping all the 60

possibilities out lined by Goertz’s model, we are confronted with about 500 possible combinations. (Jensen, 1999) This might be useful only under extreme theoretical circumstances, and it is in no way useful to the layperson, or even most researchers. Additionally, this four dimensional model violates a basic tenet of theory construction. Note that the third dimension of Goertz’s model, “quantitative number of selections and modifications available,” refers to the other three dimensions. This is called a ‘confounding variable’ because it is actually dependent upon the others in the model. This confounding variable makes the separate application of dimensions impossible, and Jensen notes that when graphically represented, Goertz’s model collapses into a 2dimensional matrix. (Jensen 1999) Obviously, adding more dimensions to our definition of interactivity may merely augment complexity and contradictions, making theoretical and practical applications problematic. Jensen describes many more models than these, and even goes into detail concerning N-dimensional models. (Jensen, 1999) These tend to suffer the same problems seen cropping up in Goertz’s attempt. However, this trend of increasing complexity in undaunting to Jensen, and he does attempt a definition that overcomes the problems of others. Jensen's "interactivity" Essentially, Jensen defines “interactivity” as “a measure of a media’s potential ability to let the user exert an influence on the content and/or forms of the mediated communication.” (Jensen, 1999 p. 183) Jensen notes the importance of using mutually 61

independent sub-concepts, or dimensions, and uses four different communication patterns as its dimensions. This overcomes the problems of previous attempts that were dependent upon specific historic technologies. (Jensen, 1999 p. 183) It also makes the model useful for efforts that consider information flows. Jensen describes four communication patterns: Transmissional, where information is produced and owned by a central provider that also controls distribution of the information. Consultational, where information is produced by an information provider, but an audience consumer has control over what information is consumed and when it is consumed. Converstional, the opposite of transmissional communications, where an individual produces information or messages and control the distribution of the messages. Registrational, where the media system in question responds to information from a media consumer. Here, a media system or communication center collects information about, or produced by, an audience member. These communication patterns are then applied to the concept of interactivity, to make up a system of patterns of interactivity one might find in various media forms or technologies. Transmissional interractivity—“a measure of a media’s potential ability to let the user choose from a continuous stream of information in a one way media system without a return channel and therefore without a possibility for making requests.” Consultational interactivity—“a measure of a media’s potential ability to let the user choose, by request, from an existing selection of preproduced information in a two-way media system with a return channel.” (emphasis added) Conversational interactivity—“A measure of a media’s potential ability to let the user produce and input his/her own information in a two-way media system, be it stored or in real time.” Registrational interactivity—“a measure of a media’s potential ability to register information from and thereby also adapt and/or respond to a given user’s needs and actions, whether they be the user’s explicit 62

choice of communication method or the systems built-in ability to automatically ‘sense’ and adapt.” (Jensen, 1999, p. 183) These dimensions, when mapped, are combined according to how they represent choices. Transmissional and consultational interactivity are associated with the availability of choice for particular information with and without a request. Thus, transmissional and consultational interactivity are mapped in the same dimension, the ‘selection’ dimension. The graphical representation, while mapped as a cube, is still three-dimensional, a figment of combining these two communication styles. It has been posited that interactivity is simply a style of control. (Jensen, 1999) The Jensen model allows us to map 12 different types of interactive media according to the choices available to the user, the producers, and the media system in question. It offers an opportunity to describe different types of media according to four dimensions of interactivity. Since these four dimensions are based on communication patterns, the model does not depend on historically and technologically defined terms of interaction. Description of Interactivity Pattern 1.) +conversational, -selection, -registrational 2.) +conversational, transmissional, -registrational 3.) +conversational, Jensen's Examples (1999) Telephone, email, chat, fax, video conferencing

Multicasting, mailing lists

Multi-user network games, virtual reality, newsgroups 63

consultational, -registrational 4.) -conversational, -selection, -registrational 5.) -conversational, transmissional, -registrational 6.) -conversational, consultational, -registrational 7.) -conversational, -selection, +registrational 8.) +conversational, transmissional, +registrational 9.) +conversational, consultational, +registrational 10.) -conversational, -selection, +registrational 11.) -conversational, transmissional, +registrational 12.) -conversational, conversational, +registrational

Terr. TV, movie, novel

Multi-channel TV, teletext, near-video-on-demand, be your own editor, games on demand True-video-on-demand, news and sports-on-demand, interactive fiction, on-line information, hypermedia, CDROM, WWW Electronic word processing, other PC tools

TV based interactive fiction

Shared facility intelligent network games, agents, bulletin board systems Surveillance and registration systems, logging of computer systems, polling, wagering Pay-per-view

Intelligent vedeo games, internet "cookies," home shopping and banking, voice response

Table 4.1. Jensen’s Descriptions of Interactivity. (Jensen, 1999)


Jensen's model will be used in Chapter five to facilitate our case study. Using a definition of interactivity to describe communication patterns will become our definition of media forms. Since communication research has been affected by technological approaches to understanding media forms, it is a step in the right direction to seek out an understanding of media as patterns of communication, rather that forms of technology. We are not going to abandon the technological understanding of media forms, however. Instead of defining a media form by a specific technology (i.e., television, radio) we will seek out description of interactivity patterns, and then match the technologies satisfying those patterns. The case study covers mostly those activist activities that occur on-line. For this reason it is necessary to not only understand interactivity patterns, but also the nature of networks. Telecommunications have made it possible to more easily make connections and send messages to many people. The number of potential contacts tends to increase this is a phonomenon of networking, or flattened hierarchies. Defining them is instrumental to determining how persuasive communication is affected. 4.2 Networks Networks have garnered considerable attention as telecommunication technologies have disseminated over the last 20 years. Manuel Castells (1996) discusses how an increasingly networked society is arising as more activity is circulating through network structures enabled by telecommunications. He argues 65

several points about the effects this organization will have on economics, culture, and politics. Castells makes several useful conclusions about the organizational structure of networks, and much of this is drawn from studies of the information industry: of communication flows. This is obviously extremely useful for the present study. Networked organization has not gone unnoticed in the area of human communication. Several approaches have been made, and studies of the Internet are now common in communication research circles. Mary McCoy (2001) writes in the March issue of the Journal of Communication about the authority of the Internet as a news source. She concludes that some recent news stories that have disseminated over the Internet have provoked interesting responses by those in other media. She concludes that national newspapers have attempted to assert some form of authority over the Internet, especially in circumstance where that authority has been threatened. At a time when the Internet is becoming a new medium, the conclusion that some media forms are attempting to remain separated from the new media is significant. If national newspapers would prefer to keep the Internet at the bottom of a “hierarchy of mass media,” and given that their position as informers of the general public has considerable power, then they will have significant sway when it comes to conceptualizing how the Internet will be perceived by the collective consciousness. New academic approaches to the manifestations of using network technologies are also springing up. Linda Gurak (1997) uses a rhetorical approach to study on-line protests against one government policy and a plan by a technology firm to develop a 66

marketing product. Gurak describes how, in response to plans by Lotus Development Corporation to distribute a CD-ROM with demographic information about 120 million American consumers, a grassroots protest with no visible leader, using almost exclusively on-line tactics, effectively killed plans to put the product on the market. In a more organized on-line approach, she examines the opposition to The Clipper chip, a government sponsored initiative to place encryption chips in all U.S. manufactured telephones. The privacy concerns that arose from the government holding a key to access any phone conversation via computer sparked a massive response. Several organizations opposing the Clipper chip attempted to sink the program. They had measured, though not complete success. (Gurak, 1997) Although all government agencies eventually adopted the standard, it is still voluntary in the private sector, and the campaign against the Clipper chip did succeed in breeding broad awareness about the issue. So much interesting work has been done on networks and their manifestations that it would not be appropriate for many explorations of modern communication behavior to ignore their significance. We do live in an increasingly networked society, and many of the approaches taken to study networks conclude that this will bode significant changes for society. For example, Castells writes: “…networking logic induces a social determination of a higher level than that of the specific interests expressed through the networks: the power of flows takes precedence over the flows of power.” This statement clearly comes down on the side of networks as agents of 67

change, and it also puts precedence on the basic activity of human interaction: communication. This is an indication that a new perspective on human organization is emerging into a maelstrom of attention. Not since the invention of radio and television and the recognition of one-tomany patterns of communication has so much attention been brought to newly developing media forms. Recall the discussion about how the media of the times and the needs of researchers to develop useful models led to all the one-way models of mass communication. Berlo and Lasswell both had a need for models that explained how media circulated in their times. This was typically in a top-down, hierarchical, one-to-many fashion. Clearly things have changed. However, the approach of Berlo and Lasswell may not be over. They used the technology of the times to guide their models, and this is no different from the academic examination of networks that we see today. The significant thing that has changed is the perspective used. Now it is obvious that communication over interconnected network elements is significant. Researchers have in the past based their models and experiments on the times, but times have changed. New patterns of mass communication are being recognized, like those pointed out by Castells (1996) and Gurak (1997). If we are to study mass communication today, we must approach it at least from a perspective of what we can observe. What we observe today is the importance of interconnectedness; the importance of networks. Definition 68

Essentially, a network can be defined as an interconnected set of nodes. Almost anything can connect these, from fiber optics to lengths of string. Likewise, the nodes themselves can be made up of almost anything. For communication purposes, we can probably isolate the smallest possible node as being a single person. Groups can be nodes too, however, and they can be connected to other groups, or even single individuals. Simple approaches like this one can quickly become complicated. Such an open definition paints an interesting mental picture. Depending on the perspective chosen, a communication network can be made up of nodes consisting of individuals, groups of individuals, firms, nations, etc. With this option it is possible to choose a variety of scales with which to conceptualize any network in question. At a macro scale, we might imagine a network of nations, and connect them with the channels of diplomatic communication that exist between them. At the micro scale, we could imagine every single person interconnected with all others through various communication channels. This definition of networks is very broad, and it is clear that we can make them simple or complex depending upon our application. Perhaps this is why so many different applications can be seen today. Those listed above are only a few examples, and despite the diversity of network approaches, many of them yield results that can applied to other approaches. In a study cited by Castells (1996) of the network that arises from overnight letter traffic around the world, two points that could apply to all information networks were observed from the data. First, it was noted that some nodes 69

in this network were dominant over others. Second, they found selected national and international circuits of connections. It was also noted that many of these circuits changed as some nodes became more significant that others. From this and other studies of the information industry, Castells argues that hierarchy in networks is by no means assured or stable, and that it is subject to fierce competition. 4.3 Applying Persuasion Theory to Networks Communication networks can thus be viewed at various levels of complexity, and this facet of them is what makes them quite useful for study. Because the definition is so flexible, we are free to imagine networks as composed of whatever components we want. Aside from what we have seen about the various conceptualizations of “node,” we can also vary what the interconnecting circuit might be. For example, one method to connect the nodes in a network is to imagine them communicating with each other through specific technological means. This might be mapped as all people and the various connections made possible between them by using the telephone. We can also map them as they might be interconnected through the computer or television access they have. Such an approach would limit anyone viewing the map of the network to whichever specific technology is chosen to represent the various connecting circuits. Another means of interconnecting nodes could be through the various organizational relations the nodes have with each other. One church may be connected to another, which in turn is connected to other churches, or perhaps different entities. 70

Such a network would be defined by choosing which relations are relevant for study, and then applying those relations to the various actors. Establishing which relations are relevant, however, can sometimes be difficult, and oftentimes not suitable for certain research. If we seek to study communication in networks, then we must imagine a useful way with which people who communicate may be interconnected. The problems of using technology specific approaches as well as using organizational ones have been discussed. Ideally, we would conceptualize a communication network that is defined independently of the technology used. This is the same problem we had when defining the term “mass media.” It is no irony that the solution is the same. Communication networks are defined by communication patterns. By their nature, the various interconnected nodes communicate with each other. This communication is not uniform over the network, however, since some actors are producing more messages and disseminating them differently than other actors. It is these patterns that help make a specific communication network unique. Communication patterns are used here to define “mass media” independent of specific technologies or organizations. Although in our case study we will be primarily observing communication that takes place over the Internet, our use of interactivity patterns will lead us to observe different media forms that take place within the Internet. Such forms include web pages and email. Both of these can be described as different interactivity patterns, and thus they are treated as different media 71

forms. Thus, communication networks and the patterns of communication therein are the mass media. This discussion of networks and interactivity patterns raises some interesting questions about applying persuasion theory. Some elements from persuasion theories that can help describe communication patterns have already been covered. If we apply ELM and TRA, uses and gratifications and social learning to actors, we can understand how network nodes become processors of information. We even have some understanding of how that processing occurs, especially when it comes to media consumption. We also have some, albeit less, understanding of how those nodes might send information to other nodes as media message producers. We also have to develop a framework that explains communication patterns and persuasive appeals. What important aspects of persuasion theory might be affected by networks and communication patterns? Hierarchy, for example is understood as central to the propaganda process, yet it has been neglected somewhat in that we have little idea what happens to persuasive campaigns as hierarchies flatten. As hierarchies flatten they become more like our conceptualization of a network. More members of the network have access to other members, and the means by which to control message dissemination are degraded. As people become more inclined to higher levels of involvement with a particular concept or issue, they are more inclined toward effortful processing of relevant information, and they may be more likely to engage in message 72

production. A hierarchy becomes flattened as message sources available to an actor multiply, and as actors become more inclined to become message senders themselves. Another aspect of persuasion theory applicable to the concept of networks is how theories developed to describe one-to-many mass media forms can be applied to an environment where there are multiple media forms available to communicators. An attempt to categorize these theories according to what actors do within networks has been described. Approaching networks by describing them as what processing occurs at nodes (with models like ELM and uses and gratifications) and what patterns by which messages travel between them (interactivity) allows us to rise above the limited conception that successful propagandistic messages must travel along a hierarchical, one-to-many organization. However, this approach that forces us to look at actors and communication patterns means that we must also determine what persuasive communications are best suited for certain patterns. Communicating with exclusively one pattern leaves certain options open to the propagandist while excluding others. Observing messages as information that travels in a network of actors along a variety of possible patterns can help us determine what propaganda and persuasive appeals can be applied to a certain network of communicators. Persuasion research generally falls into two broad categories of audience description: interpersonal 73

persuasion and mass persuasion. The appeals for each of these vary because much of the persuasion that occurs between persons (interpersonal) does not work, or simply cannot be used, when persuading large numbers of actors (mass persuasion). Yet by conceptualizing communication in a network, whereby we can zoom in on individual interconnections or zoom out to group interactions, we can trace persuasive appeals from a micro to a macro point of view. We are essentially mapping the transition of messages, we are creating a analog map of persuasive appeals as the migrate from the interpersonal to the mass. Discovering how persuasive appeals might exist within specific patterns of communication is the subject of the next chapter. Anti-globalization activists and the networked communication pattern they circulate on-line are examined to determine how certain interactivity patterns, or media forms, affect persuasive appeals. Because the literature on persuasive appeals is so large, only a few have been chosen. It should be noted that this approach is mainly taken in the interest of space limitations, and that other appeals not examined in chapter five could be applied with the framework described above.


Chapter 5: Case Study of Anti-Globalization Activists and Persuasion

5.1 Activists as Receivers and Senders: The Elaboration Likelihood Model is the most useful approach available for making inferences about the characteristics of activists as media consumers. It allows us to predict how levels of interest might affect their processing of messages that relate to their specific issue of interest. For example, highly involved persons such as activists are predicted to pay more attention to anti-globalization themes in media. Uses and Gratifications theory might explain why they seek out such messages, but it is ELM that provides more detail about what effects those messages may have. As receivers of messages, activists are thus more likely to engage in effortful processing about globalization messages. They would likely seek out more information than someone less interested, in other words, a non-activist. As such we could expect them to form affinity groups of other like-minded individuals when it came to their consumption of anti-globalization media, and we can also expect them to devote more cognitive processing to messages. In interviews with several activists, it became apparent that they use a wide variety of media forms to gather anti-globalization related information. They reported heavy use of specialized magazines, email lists, information from peers, and selective use of mainstream media forms like newspapers. This is what we would expect from Uses and Gratifications, and ELM leads us to believe that they are not simply exposing 75

themselves to information, they are also processing and using it to form attitudes and to organize their behavior. When referring to email lists and discussion boards, activists tended to be wary of sources. When information came from an individual known to the activist it was deemed more credible. This affected the actual consumption of the message. When email messages were not from a credible source, interviewed activists reported that they often ignored the message. Yet Internet and mainstream media were not the only places activists received information. In fact, most of the elaborate messages were actually exchanged in faceto-face discussion. As evidence of this, activists from one anarchist group interviewed for this study reported that most of the anarchist theory they explored was brought up in group meetings and in conversations with like minded people. Besides theory, activists reported the kind of messages they expose themselves to vary widely. Information about protest events, meetings, other groups, and events concerning globalization were exchanged in a variety of formats. None could single out a specific kind of message that circulates through the international activist network, although they referred to information that was more specific to their cause. For example, anarchist activists mention that most of the information they received centered around the anarchist perspective of globalization. Such messages would be those that oppose government controls and international organization. Environmental activists, on the other hand, were aware of anarchists' interests in globalization, but 76

they were more prone to see and hear information that related environmental consequences of globalization, and the efforts of other environmentalists. Organizing information was heavy, however, though it was not seen as dominating other types of information. ELM and Uses and Gratifications, because of the deficiencies in communication research, do little to explain how or why someone might choose to send messages concerning anti-globalization themes. We can infer, however, that very involved, highly cognitively oriented individuals will be more likely to send messages as well as think more about the ones they receive. When interviewed, the vast majority of activists reported sending to others messages that concerned their anti-globalization views. How activists choose to send messages varies widely, and it also serves to define their activist leanings. Protests are the main opportunity for most antiglobalization themes to enter the mainstream. Almost all those interviewed had at some point participated in a protest. Besides the importance of expressing opinions, many cited reasons for protesting that included the entertaining nature of the events and the camaraderie they provided. Large protests are fun, and this was as big an incentive to participate for some as the political beliefs the protests were meant to represent. Protesting is easy, as well, and this was cited as a reason for participating in other forms of media production. Most activists had sent email messages to friends, 77

and had with peers conversations that covered anti-globalization themes. Posting to discussion boards or composing messages occurred much less, however. Other forms of media production included writing articles for newspapers, helping produce documentaries, and producing content for WWW pages. Activists involved in these activities tended to be more active in the movement than those exclusively using email and conversations to discuss anti-globalization themes. In fact, in marked support of ELM predicting media production propensities, some activists noted that their activity levels could be measured exclusively by the media they produced. Activism is almost exclusively defined by "getting your message out." Highly involved people were not only more likely to seek out and process messages, as ELM predicts, they were also more likely to join in the production of messages and become senders themselves. Interviews also revealed important information about group communication among activists. One group described through interviews how much their organization was transparent to outsiders. Much of their group's information is posted on the Internet, and an interesting phenomenon arose when they chose to use cellular telephones as an organizing tool for protests they took part in at the 2001 presidential inauguration. The wireless communications firm that supplied the phones also provided the activists with and instant messaging service. This allowed them to send text messages to all the protesters in their organization as long as they had a cell phone provided by the same firm. Messages could be sent from phones and from the Internet. They could be read by all members who possessed a cell phone as well as anybody 78

logged onto the WWW site that contained a discussion board where all the messages were posted. No content analysis was conducted on this discussion board, but interviews revealed that the messages travelling among the activists that day quickly deteriorated from the logistical intent of the cell phone network. Although the logistical information required for the protest was communicated, there was a reported sense that many more "useless messages" were also transmitted. Instead of exclusively reporting the actions and locations of police or protest lines, some participants reading the discussion board from their computers sent messages that had little to do with the protest or its organization. Messages like: "I can see you guys on TV!" were transmitted from people watching at home to the activists in the streets. Regardless of the nuisance such messages were for some activists, the fact that they could be, and were, sent is significant to our understanding of hierarchical messages. Since anybody could send a message to the activists, they were essentially a transparent hierarchy, a network. There was considerable organization, and it is a misnomer to say there was no hierarchy at all. However, the ability to send messages to many people is equivalent to the communication patterns of networks. We can thus say these activists had a considerably networked communication system. In this networked communication system they found that messages often had little to do with what the task at hand was perceived to be. No doubt the people sending messages for some reason thought they were relevant, and the frustration expressed by others is 79

probably a figment of the networked communication patterns offering too much information. Senders of information in this network all felt the information could be relevant to those to whom it was sent. Receivers of information in this case often perceived certain information as being irrelevant. The lack of controls over what information could travel through this network resulted in senders and receivers devoting more time to processing information. Since there was such little control by some central information organizing entity, the cell phone use by activists is a direct example of how a networked communication system appears to participants. This is also an indicator of what the emotional response to a network a participant might have when obtaining only relevant information that is perceived to be is critical: they become frustrated with all the "useless messages." This should not lead us to believe that all activist groups are completely networked in their communication styles. Rather, there are many anti-globalization groups that are well organized, with leaders, lieutenants, public relations offices, and carefully constructed messages. Even most web sites that are maintained by these groups are the result of some hierarchical organization. They are full of information and persuasive appeals that have been constructed by the web sites authors, probably with quite a bit of consultation from heads of the organization. We can always see some level of hierarchy, but it does tend to disappear when we take a more broad look at all the activist groups together. Membership in one does not exclude membership in 80

another. Most importantly, these groups often share information in a way that links the groups into a network. Here, if we conceptualize the network as a set of interconnected nodes, the nodes become groups, instead of individuals, as we might have imagined in our example of activists' cell phone use. 5.2 Examining Activists' Patterns of Interactivity: Besides looking at what we can learn about the actors in this system of antiglobalization activist, this case study also sought to study the persuasive messages that circulated in various media. The importance of studying the message over the effects that message might have were discussed in the previous chapters. Looking at the behaviors of people can be accomplished to some degree by borrowing from some of the theories of persuasion that do not necessarily depend on effects for their explanatory powers. Instead of looking at the Internet as one form of media, the previous chapter has also presented us with a system that can break down the various means of communication within the internet along dimensions of interactivity. This is significant, because it could allow us to make conclusions that are not dependent upon the definition of a specific technology, and because it allows us to isolate specific message patterns for study. Unfortunately, Jensen's interactivity definition makes for twelve possible combinations of communication patterns. For this case study it was impossible to measure them all for two reasons. The first is that they are not all patterns that describe events on the Internet. This study was undertaken with the specific intend of 81

examining persuasion and propaganda as it evolved with the Internet, and while it is important to note that messages travel through all forms of media, the importance of understanding the Internet cannot be understated given the direction of communication studies and the influence of contemporary media forms throughout history. Using the Internet keeps us focused. The second reason we cannot move through all of the interactivity patterns is more salient, it would require a lot of time and resources. Ideally, the picture would be vastly improved if we did study all the interactivity patterns and the ways in which anti-globalization activists used them, but there are very real restraints. A content analysis of two patterns of interactivity and the persuasive appeals that circulate within them was conducted. Specific persuasive appeals from communication literature, as well a some other helpful variables were measured among anti-globalization web sites, and anti-globalization email list-serves. The WWW corresponds to a pattern on interactivity that is characterized by 1.) low conversational patterns, 2.) consultational information retrieval, and 3.) low registrational ability by the medium. Email lists, on the other hand are characterized by 1.) high conversational patterns, 2.) transmissional information, and 3.) low registrational ability by the medium. These two interactivity patterns, essentially media forms, were chosen for their accessibility for research, and their relative differentiation. On one hand, we have a media form that is low in conversational communication and requires people to "consult" an existing body of information as they wish. On the other, we have a media 82

form that is very conversational, yet the messages travel by being transmitted by a sender to all members of the audience. WWW sites are thus analyzed as media that is primarily consumed by users, and email lists can be approached as media that is produced by users and then sent to a list of actors that may or may not read the message. The following variables were coded in the content analysis. Additional variables such as the use of images or audio files were taken not because they have succinct definitions and effects research behind them, but because they can generally be used to offer more message description, something that is explained in the discussion below. Quantity: Quite a bit of consideration has been given to effects of quality arguments as opposed to the use of a large quantity of arguments in persuasive messages. With these message qualities much can be explained with ELM. The two persuasion routes, the peripheral and the central, can help a persuader decide to include quality arguments or simply a great number of arguments when constructing a message. The researchers that developed the Elaboration Likelihood Model concluded that when the audience is going to scrutinize the message closely it is best to use strong arguments. However, when the audience will give the messages only peripheral attention, then a large quantity of arguments can be quite effective. (Petty & Cacioppo, 1984)


Most studies determine if an argument is of high quality through a careful process of testing and elimination. Such thoroughness will be impossible here, but some helpful guidelines for the content analysis were established. Arguments were separated on the basis of their subject and whether it was a direct request for some form of attitude compliance from the reader. Each argument had a subject that supported the major cause of the electronic communities' agenda, (i.e. anti-IMF) and as each subject was separated from others it became the topic of another argument. With this process the quantity of different arguments in a message could be counted. This definition encounters some problems in terms of ambiguity, but this was lessened by limiting arguments to those that were direct persuasion claims. Two-sided: The use of two sided arguments in persuasive messages is complicated. Much early research illustrated contradictory findings when it came to the use of one-sided or two-sided arguments. However, these findings were clarified when researchers distinguished between two-sided arguments that were either refutational or nonrefutational. In non-refutational messages the arguments contrary to that of the message sender are mentioned in the message, but they are not directly refuted. In a refutational message, opposing arguments are not only mentioned, they are also explained as inferior to the argument espoused by the message sender. As can be expected, two-sided refutational messages have been found to be the most persuasive. (Allen, 1991, 1993) 84

Two sided arguments were coded whenever contradictory claims, evidence or reasoning was included with a previously coded persuasive claim. Again, as with repetition it is difficult to say what end of the ELM spectrum two sided arguments are associated with. However, we can say that the research shows two sided arguments are definitely associated with higher levels of persuasion, and would thus be an indication of a message’s effectiveness. Forewarning: Forewarning is a tactic used to make an audience resistant to future attempts at persuasion. The hope is that by informing an audience of upcoming messages they will be better able to counter the new messages by anticipating their arrival. Two types of forewarning messages exist, and research indicates both are moderately successful at thwarting persuasion. (Benoit, 1999) The first occurs when an audience is simply told they will be exposed to persuasive messages. The second occurs when the audience is not only told the persuasive messages are on the way, but is also told the topic and position of those messages. In this content analysis messages were coded accordingly whenever these instances were observed. While research indicates forewarning is effective, it is not exactly clear why. Some studies have found that forewarning works best when it occurs well before the contrary persuasive message is encountered. (Petty & Cacioppo, 1977) However, while studies have found that when subjects are given forewarning plenty to time ahead of the persuasive message they are most resistant to change, it is not clear why. 85

The generation of counter-arguments may play a role, but not if the first kind of forewarning is used; without knowledge of the future message it is impossible to generate counter-arguments. Fear: Early research into fear appeals indicated that messages evoking a moderate fear response in audience members were most effective in gaining audience compliance. One famous study used various arguments about the deleterious effects of gum disease in an attempt to convince people to brush their teeth more often. (Janis & Feshbach, 1953) However, more recent research has further dissected these findings to reveal a generally linear relationship between fear levels in persuasive messages and compliance. (Dillard, 1994) The fault in the early research concerns researchers' neglect to define fear appeals according to the two components used today: response efficacy and self-efficacy. For a message to trigger a fear response that will cause compliance, the message must include a course of action that the audience perceives to be effective at preventing whatever is causing the fear response; they must feel something can be done. This is known as response efficacy. Secondly, the audience must feel that whatever action is suggested can be executed within their capabilities; the audience must feel they have the ability to act according to the message. This is known as self-efficacy. When these components are included in fear appeals, such messages are shown to work quite well. (Perloff, 1996)


This content analysis will record a fear appeal only if it follows the structure of what researchers have discovered makes an effective fear appeal. Thus, there must be a statement of the threat and a rational course of action to reduce that threat. Since it is not possible to measure the self-efficacy of the audience with only the messages they received, this component cannot be included in the content analysis. To compensate, the definition of a fear appeal was modified to state that a "rational" remedy must be present. This will best exclude ineffective fear appeals; especially those that would have failed due to a lack of self-efficacy on the part of the audience. The trade-off with this tactic, however, is the possible error accumulated when a person coding the messages misinterprets the rationality of the course of action included in the fear appeal. Repetition: Repetition in persuasive messages can become complicated when predicting the persuasive power of a message. While it is clear that too much repetition can turn the audience off to the message, it is also evident that repetition is necessary not only for understanding of the message among audience members, but also for audience acceptance. This apparent contradiction is best explained in Petty and Cacioppo's (1979) research into the subject of message repetition and audience involvement. This study found that message repetition was most effective when the audience heard the message less that five times. Acceptance was greatest when subjects were exposed three times. 87

It should be noted that ELM nor HSM make no special explanation about how repetitive arguments could be processed systematically. Studies tend to focus on repetitive argument’s power to remind audience members about an issue, and not on their ability to force cognition. The presence of repetitive arguments should thus not be a strong indicator of cognitive processing, unlike the presence of high quality arguments. Copied Evidence: Was coded if the message contained information that was clearly copied from another source and posted in the message in question. This might include articles that were posted to email lists from newspaper sources, or information on a WWW site that had been taken from another. Evidence: To maintain simplicity and some level of accuracy the scale of quality consisted only of low and high quality arguments. Low quality arguments were characterized as being blanket statement with no accompanying logical or evidentiary reasoning. The presence of any logical or evidentiary reasoning was enough to make an argument the kind coded as high quality. Stiff (1994) outlines an excellent description of the components of rational and logical arguments, and this description was used to structure to content analysis. Stiff describes the terminology applied by Toulmin (1964) to the structure of a logical argument. Each argument, in order to be


construed as a rational argument, is composed of three parts: a claim, the data, and the information bridging the claim and data called the warrant. An argument's claim is essentially its conclusion. It is the ultimate premise that is to be proven correct. This proof, according to Toulmin (1964), is dependent on the data provided in the argument. Data is a critical component of a rational, high quality argument in that it establishes the evidence needed to back up the claim. The avenue used to combine the data and claim is known as a warrant. This is the idea or propositional statement that combines the relevance of the data and claim. The claim must be established as something worth considering in the first place, and the data must somehow follow the relevance of the claim. For example, a common argument from government circles justifying the NATO air campaign over Kosovo and Serbia stated that a despotic government was escalating a plan to "ethnically cleanse" certain areas and threatening to spread the war to neighboring countries. Thus, NATO should take military action against such a government. In this example the claim is that NATO must use military force against another nation, a claim backed up by evidence data consisting of information about ethnic cleansing and the threat of a larger war. However, this data and claim are not relevant unless we consider a warrant that ethnic cleansing and large wars must be stopped, even with extreme measures. Without this justification, this connection between the claim and the data, the rationality of the argument must be questioned.


Knowing that the warrant exists in the audience's mind is crucial to constructing effective persuasive appeals. However, for the purposes of this content analysis only the presence of data and claim can be used to determine the high or low quality status of a message. The warrant in this case must be taken for granted, since it is impossible to know which warrants exist in the minds of the audience that could be used to further establish which arguments were of high quality. This is further reasoning that only data and claim can be used for this content analysis. The obvious weakness of this definition is that, along with uncertainty about the presence of a pertinent warrant, unsound or erroneous logic and evidence causes arguments to creep into the high quality category. Thus, the present content analysis can do nothing to determine the presence of disinformation in the messages. This is unavoidable without the ability to judge the quality of the logic and evidence. This would be a daunting research challenge and might even require additional panel or focus group processes similar to the one described above--processes already ruled out. For these reasons, the unavoidable exclusion of the warrant and any misrepresented or incorrect evidence, we can expect the category of high quality arguments to be exaggerated upon completion of the content analysis. Pictures: A characteristic of vividness in persuasion, pictures were coded and numbered whenever they appeared in the message. Any images that had to be accessed at another


site or in another message were excluded. An example of this would be pictures on a site that an email message referenced. Vividness has been a subject of study in persuasion. Experiments have found that attitude change that results from pictures or concrete descriptions often is not too much different from the attitude changes that result from logical arguments and evidence. (Taylor and Thompson, 1987) However, vividness has been shown to exert a stronger influence over statistical information. Typical definitions of vividness in research examine images, concrete descriptions, or emotionally interesting information. (Perloff, 1993) The content analysis of this case study did not count descriptions. Instead, more immediate examples of vivid information were chosen such as images, animation, and audio. Language count: Many WWW sites can be displayed in multiple languages. If this were so, that the language count would exceed one. The number of languages in which it is possible to view a message is represented by the language count. Language count may be an indicator of many things, including the networked nature of the message. The larger the audience, the larger the network, and the more members of the audience that can access the message lends to the transparency of the hierarchical or organizational structure that produces the messages. Word count:


The number of words in a message was coded rather literally. All words in the message were counted, whether or not they were part of a sentence. Message length research gives some quite complicated results. Most of them center around the processing of a message either peripherally or centrally. It seems that message length has a greater effect on attitude when the audience in low in knowledge concerning the issue content of the message. (Petty and Cacioppo, 1986) When this is the case, longer messages tend to be associated with larger shifts in attitude over shorter messages. On the other hand when the audience is highly knowledgeable about the subject, message length has much less of an affect on attitude change. Interactivity patterns: The content analysis also were coded whenever the message presented options for other interactivity patterns available. This might include options to look at discussion boards, join email lists, or post information. In messages circulated through discussion boards, this might include information on writing letters to relevant parties as part of a protest, or a recommendation to look at a particular WWW site. The importance of this variable lies in how interactivity patterns affect messages and actors. It was hoped that knowing what other patterns of communication or message were offered might allow for conclusions on how messages developed from other interactivity patterns, or at least what kind of messages would be associated with other interactivity patterns. 92

5.3 Case Study Findings: Comparing the use of persuasive cues within specific patterns of interactivity should allow us to determine what effects these patterns have on persuasive messages. The results of the analysis were irregular, and many comparisons were not statistically significant. However, some rather intuitive associations were supported. For example, in the analysis of activist WWW pages, statistically significant findings indicated that as message length increased, so to did the use of such cues as fear, evidence from other sources, evidence credited to other sources, and quantity of appeals. This might be what we expect from longer messages: more persuasive appeals accompanied by more persuasive cues. One interesting finding from this analysis was that the use of images did not quite fall along this pattern. Instead, a high incidence of images was associated more with a mid-range quantity of persuasive appeals. The reason for this is unclear, but it may be a manifestation of the space required to post images cutting down on the space available for text, and thus the space available for precise persuasive appeals. Some incidence of all persuasive appeals was found in the analysis. While some may have been absent in some WWW pages, they were all used at some point by the WWW pages in the sample. One unfortunate finding was that comparisons of persuasive cues and the presence of other opportunities presented to the audience to participate along different patterns of interactivity were not statistically significant. This would have been interesting, since knowing what characteristics of the messages were accompanied by 93

invitations to participate in message formation in other media forms might have allowed us to make more inferences about the media production activities of activists. Lacking statistical significance, however, makes this impossible, and we must instead look to more theoretical explanations of activists as media producers. The analysis of the email listserve yielded similar results. All of the persuasive cues were found at some point in the analysis. The relative frequency of their use also mirrored their use in WWW pages. A positive relationship between the number of appeals made and the use of persuasive did exist. They were heavily weighted with a high frequency of persuasive appeals accompanied by some sort of evidence over the other cues that were measured. It seems that this set of interactivity patterns is also, just like the WWW analysis, characterized by a wide range of persuasive appeals, with a large emphasis on the use of evidence along with those appeals. The pattern that both the activists WWW pages and their email lists share is rather intuitive. We should expect persuasive appeals to be accompanied by some sort of evidence. However, both these mediums also shared in the relatively sparse use of the other persuasive cues that were coded. This could be a result of a measurement problem, but the consistency of their sparse use is still a rather puzzling phenomenon. Such problems will be discussed in the next chapter on the conclusions we might be able to make from this examination of anti-globalization protesters and their persuasive appeals. Since the content analysis reveals only certain elements about the messages these activists are sending and receiving, a significant amount of attention 94

will be devoted to condensing the findings from interview and statistical analysis along the lines of the more useful theory discussed in chapters three and four.


Chapter 6: Conclusions Regarding Propaganda and Hierarchies

We have used ELM in this study because it offers and elegant description of what the cognitive processes might exist in the mind of someone exposed to a persuasive message. ELM is advantageous over Uses and Gratifications and Social Learning because it is more complex, and offers more detail about how a person will look at a message, not just why, or as a function of learning. It predicts under what circumstances a person might carefully scrutinize a persuasive message (the central processing route) or when they might use other cues to make a decision (the peripheral processing route). The more involved a person is with a particular issue, the more attention they will pay to persuasive appeals concerning that issue. Activists are assumed in this study to be on the higher levels of involvement when it comes to antiglobalization appeals. This model is more suited to such needs because it allows us to make such conclusions without knowing the mental elaborations of individuals. Although the Theory of Reasoned Action might be more appropriate for predicting behaviors of individuals, it also requires quantitative measures of attitude to gain its advantage. In a study of Internet activities, where message sources are often anonymous, and audience members are spread over a wide area, gather a statistically significant sample is all but impossible. Such an approach also requires reliable reporting from subjects, something that is not always a simple task. The anti-globalization activist case study is an 96

excellent example of this, as many activists were vehemently opposed to participating in research.

From the results of the case study, we can draw some conclusions about applying some of the concepts to message production, instead of letting the model sit among those developed with only a one-way conception of mass communication. Results seem to indicate that highly involved persons have a tendency to send messages as well as to spend more time cognitively processing those they receive. The content analysis revealed that many of the messages sent included heavy use of evidence—something more associated with central message processing (Petty and Caccioppo, 1979) Since ELM already predicts that highly involved people are more likely to cognitively process messages, and since the content analysis was conducted on messages known to be rather highly involved, we have evidence that highly involved actors have a tendency to produce and send messages with cognitive persuasive cues. Sending cues of a peripheral nature is more difficult to predict. Under what circumstances will an activist send messages heavy in peripheral cues? Examining two elements of the content analysis will be helpful. First, protest events allow the activists’ concerns to enter mainstream media, and thus allow the message to reach persons likely to be less involved in the activists cause; persons more likely to use peripheral processing. Activists can be seen at any protest holding signs that boldly 97

proclaim their postion, or they can also be seen using puppets and other tactics to ridicule the institutions they oppose. Protests require highly involved activists before they can occur. Second, our content analysis shows that the most vivid peripheral cues were almost exclusively present on WWW pages. Images and other cues were much more prevalent here than in the emails activists sent to each other on listserves. The production of theses requires the effort of relatively highly involved persons. The generation and sending of peripheral cues is thus associated also with highly involved actors. In fact, it seems the more involved and actor is, the more likely they will use peripheral cues. It is important to note that none of this is evidence that being highly involved and prone to processing messages cognitively will cause a person to produce and send peripheral cues in their persuasive appeals. It is evidence that peripheral cues are produced, when they can be, by highly involved persons. The less involved

are receiving messages from the very involved, an inevitable condition of persuasive communication, but using components of ELM explains and describes this inevitable condition. How and why people become media producers is something the components of ELM can begin to explain, but it might not offer exquisite predictive powers. For such a venture, it would be best to apply TRA, since it was designed to predict behaviors in the first place. However, ELM is best suited for this study, since the problems of TRA that were cited above still apply. We cannot adequately measure the activists because


we have so little access to them, but ELM does give us a decent understanding even when we cannot rely on surveying our subjects. 6.1 Interactivity Patterns All persuasion cues present in the content analysis, but more peripheral usage was found on WWW sites, the consultational medium with low conversational character. WWW pages are also more labor intensive that email, and thus require the efforts of more involved and motivated persons. The data points that they use more peripheral cues and they become more involved. This is where we must be careful about applying ELM, since it predicts low involved persons will rely on peripheral processing when they receive persuasive messages. In our examples, highly involved persons tended to be producing more peripheral cues to be placed in a medium that could be consulted by anyone motivated to check out an activist web site. The highly involved are the ones producing and sending the messages with peripheral cues. 6.2 Networks and Persuasive Message Dissemination The study of what models describe how people process persuasive messages has led us to use ELM, and to a lesser extent other models, for some understanding of how the individuals in a network behave. To describe the interconnections between them requires the use of a framework that does not rely on one-way communication as so many historical approaches have taken. Jensen’s use of communication patterns to describe interactivity satisfies this need. This approach allows us to understand communication as a process by which people send and receive persuasive messages. It 99

explains how such messages may be transmitted, how people may consult information that has already been produced, to what degree they might converse, and to what degree a particular medium can adapt to individual characteristics. Such an understanding is exactly what we need to view persuasive communication not as something that is continuously sent from some higher source, but as something that is produced at certain points in a network and disseminated according to specific patterns. The case study was primarily, though not exclusively, applied to communication traveling over the Internet, and a complete understanding of all twelve of Jensen’s descriptions would have been ideal. Additionally, we were only able to conduct content analysis of two of these media descriptions. However, we were able to make conclusions about these and the persuasive messages circulating within them. All of the persuasive cues searched for were found in these patterns, providing evidence that many cues can circulate independently of the interactivity patterns people use to communicate. More peripheral cues such as images were found to be used more in the consultational patterns that excluded conversational elements of communication. We can conclude that persuasive appeals can, and do, disseminate along many media forms, or as we defined them, interactivity patterns. We can also answer, in detail, questions about the effect on persuasion of flattened hierarchies. Activists protest events are punctuated with a wide variety of interests that have come together despite having very little central organization. Protests are a figment of all these activists groups having free access to information and exchanging that 100

information to facilitate cooperation. We even saw a wide variety of interests represented in the example of networked communications polluting to cell phone use of some activists. This example is essentially a network within a network; it illustrates the networked communication within a group that is itself a member of a larger network of anti-globalization activism. Hierarchical organizations do make control of the massage easier, networks tend to witness the introduction of many message permutations that may confound the efferts of the propagandist. Yet we have also seen that persuasion can still function in a networked communication environment. Granted, more information is available as hierarchies flatten and become more transparent, but his does not mean that there is more information and less persuasion. In fact, this leads to the question of whether hierarchies might only be effective propaganda devices because they allow their controllers to limit information instead of manipulating the use of persuasive cues. Networks may be reflecting persuasion as it must function without the benefit of the censorship that is critical to successful propaganda. From the perspective of the actor, it seems that a networked environment would be manifest as many different messages from a variety of sources. Often the actor would see messages that he/she felt were irrelevant, and it would be up to that actor to determine what messages to disregard. The question of what makes them disregard messages, or not consider them as seriously as others, brings us back to the predictive powers of ELM. The more motivated a person is to cognitively process messages is 101

related to high-involvement, which we have also related to the generation of messages using cognitive tactics or peripheral tactics. We can now see how messages in a network might snowball, and take on a life of their own, as various messages spark interests in some activists while being disregarded by others. Those that are processed cognitively by high interest people have a greater chance of provoking a response by the highly involved. The message may be modified, but it is then put back into circulation when the highly involved person acts as a sender and produces a message based on the interests they have. Once again the message sent may be irrelevant to many on the network, just like the first, but the end result is that more information enters the system. Such a description is supported by the communication model that should have received more accurate attention fifty years ago: Shannon’s mathematical model of information. Recall that it closely resembled the equation from physics that describes entropy. Our study of activists reveals a message environment that is quite chaotic as a result of the amount of information present, a situation that is high in entropy. As more messages are circulated through the network, they have a propensity to evolve into interests that are cultivated by different actors, and the result is many more “options,” to use the terms of Shannon’s model. Propagandistic and persuasive messages follow these same rules, and in a networked environment a person can expect to see many persuasive appeals representing many different opinions. The presence of


such conditions is thus indicative of a flattened hierarchical message environment. We have a description of what a flattened hierarchy looks like. This would have been impossible without looking to previous models of communication and persuasion. By using some to describe the mental process of persuasion, as well as others to discern the presence of persuasion in the form of persuasive cues, we were able to construct an understanding of how messages were not only received, but also how they were sent. This would have been impossible without acknowledging some of the shortcomings of mass media research. Also integral to our picture of networks is the descriptions used on the interconnections between nodes. Jensen’s descriptions are extremely recent, and more discussion of them is forthcoming. (Jensen, 1999) It would be well worth the effort to find further applications for them, as it is this element of the present study that probably deserved the most attention when looking for future research. Interactivity patterns might be of great benefit to the researcher as well as to those who want to put persuasion into practice. For the researcher, these patterns can be used to develop understandings of persuasion and communication at the interpersonal and mass levels. I have flirted with defining media forms as patterns of interactivity, and it has been extremely useful. Further applications along these lines could be beneficial for developing future models of communication, and perhaps even future methods of Internet communication. For the propagandist, Jensen’s approach might be invaluable. The interactivity patterns would allow someone conducting a 103

persuasion campaign to isolate the method to reach the audience. More importantly, it would isolate the methods by which others are modifying the message. Attempting to control all of these media forms would be futile, and seeing how they work in a network environment indicates their prevalence is not helpful to the persuader that seeks to affect attitudes by censoring information. Another practical application of this approach would be for the analyst, attempting to understand a specific example of propaganda, or a persuasion campaign being undertaken by someone else. Having a complete understanding of how the propagandist is taking advantage of interactivity patterns would allow for carefully constructed responses. None of this should be disheartening to the average lay-person that does not consider themselves a demagogic propagandist. None of the activists interviewed felt they were propagandists. Perhaps the reason for this is the networked nature of the movement they help create. Controlling information is nearly impossible for these activists, yet they are taking advantage of a message that seems to propagate itself. No controlling entity is making decisions for them, and yet they still come together to repeatedly voice their strong objections to the IMF, World Bank, and globalization. All of this occurs without strong message control, without strong propaganda. In fact, if we can conclude anything about the case study of anti-globalization activists, it is that at many levels the idea that globalization is bad does circulate in many varieties; persuasion is not affected. Intentional, manipulative persuasion is much more difficult,


and we can say that networked communication environments may be good for the message, but they bode badly for the efforts of the propagandist.


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