Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

New Media: the role of agenda setting theory in online movement.

New media is now one of the most influential medium which influence our behaviours and thoughts in the 21st century. It sometimes can be problematic as well, in which many movements nowadays actually happen online. Most of them are triggered because of the repetition of the theme, which we call the effect "Agenda setting theory". We will talk about a media event recently happened on the Facebook page.

The ‘Dakota Access’ Pipeline (DAPL) is a 1,100-mile fracked-oil pipeline currently under construction from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota to Peoria, Illinois. There is currently an organized indigenous-led movement that aims to disrupt and end the construction of this pipeline of fracked gas. Not only does the pipeline destroy sacred land it also threatens to disrupt the eco-system and destroy the water supply. The movement has been lasted for several months, suddenly spreading all over the world. The reason of such explosion is because of a status released on Facebook by one of the activists after confronting the police: 

“The Morton County Sherriff's Department has been using Facebook check-ins to find out who is at SR in order to target them in attempts to disrupt the prayer camps. So Water Protectors are calling on EVERYONE to check-in at SR, NorDak to overwhelm and confuse them. This is concrete action that can protect people putting their bodies and well-beings on the line that we can do without leaving our homes. Remember, make your check in public.” 
As a result, thousands of people from different nations checked in at the same time to Standing Rock Indian Reservation as a means of disrupting any police’s violence and surveillance to activists at Standing Rock. For most supporters, such action shows their resistance and solidarity. 

Looking at the Facebook page of Standing Rock Indian Reservation, a prevalence of a narrative is posted and reposted for thousands times:

“I stand in solidarity with your struggles of oppression. I hope your strife ends soon and with no more blood shed. Water is life and should be considered a human right especially for those that have been victim to major genocide in the past. I hope that one day human decency is restored and we can all live as one. I hope that we no longer bow down to the corporate enterprises that have deceived this country and stolen our freedom in exchange of profits and materialistic want. May we be guided by the great spirit in defeating those that are intent on harming the great mother earth. Love and peace to those in the trenches of the great mother earth. Love and peace to those in the trenches. Calling on the Creator to love and protect our loved ones from harms way in this battle, may peace be with us all and the battle end in our favor. #Waterislife Way back in my family history there is Native Americans. I have their blood flowing in me, it may be a minute amount but it is there. I stand for respect for all!”


This media event provides an example of Agenda setting theory. Agenda setting theory refers to the idea that there is a strong correlation between the emphasis that mass media place on certain issues and the importance attributed to these issues by mass audiences (McCombs & Shaw, 1972).


The narrative is structured in the emotive way, including a repetitive emphasis on love and peace. Such repetition influenced the improtance of the norms in people's mind, making people think that everyone should support the protest and stand for the justice and solidarity even they were not at there. The reason of such thought is manipulated by those who originally posted the words. They could decide what they want public to know about the event on Facebook. As suggested by Zucker (1978), `people today live in two worlds; a real world and a media world. The first is bounded by the limits of direct experience of the individual and his acquaintances. The second spans the world bounded only by the decisions of news reporters and editors'.


Reference

McCombs, M. E., & Shaw, D. L. (1972). The agenda-setting function of mass media. Public Opinion Quarterly, 36(2), 176–187. 

Zucker, H. G. (1978). `The variable nature of news media influence'. Communication Yearbook No. 2, Rubin, B. D. (ed.) New Jersey: 225-245.

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