Communication Theses and Dissertations

Permanent URI for this collection


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 20 of 178
  • Item
    A New Journalism For A New Climate: Is Solutions Journalism The Solution?
    (2023) Thier, Kathryn; Nan, Xiaoli; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Climate change is an existential threat to humanity. Yet news warning about its risks has not typically included information about how to address it, possibly depressing support for policy action. Some scholars and practitioners suggest that an emerging reporting practice, solutions journalism, may offer an antidote. By showcasing credible, collective responses to social problems, such as climate change, solutions journalism may make progress seem possible, thereby increasing support for pro-social policies. However, little is known about climate solutions journalism, particularly its effect on audience climate action policy support. Accordingly, through content analysis and an experiment this dissertation seeks to answer two overarching and interconnected questions: 1) What is the nature of solutions journalism about climate change? and 2) How does solutions journalism about responses to climate change, compared with problem-oriented journalism, impact news audiences? In Study 1, I undertook an inductive quantitative content analysis guided by Entman’s (1993) four functions of framing. Cluster analysis of 244 text-based climate solutions news stories published in U.S.-based outlets resulted in three previously undescribed news frames. The most prevalent frame, the future is now, focused on adapting to a changing climate which causes environmental problems. The next most prevalent frame, the undeterred stewards, described a variety of climate impacts and causes, frequently mentioned climate change’s victims, and focused nearly equally on mitigation and adaptation responses. Stories emblematic of this frame featured responses led by people typically drawing on place-based identity and working cooperatively beyond partisanship. The least frequent frame, moral mitigation, focused on mitigation and who was responsible for both causing and addressing climate change. Study 2 examined the effects of climate solutions journalism on preference for public-sphere policy support of climate action and climate misinformation susceptibility. I conducted a 3 (government solution vs. business solution vs. problems) x 2 (food waste vs. wildfire) + 1 (control) between-subjects online experiment among U.S adults (N = 368). Results showed that threat appraisals mediated the effect of solution (vs. problem) on preference for policy support, with topic-level analysis revealing the effect present for stories about climate-related wildfire, but not food waste. Additionally, political ideology moderated the effect of policy support preference in a manner consistent with solutions aversion, the idea that ideologically (in)congruent solutions bias information processing of solutions to social problems. This experiment also added to a growing body of research that solutions journalism increases audience positive affect, decreases negative affect, and increases media trust. Surprisingly, there were no evidence that several efficacy constructs mediated effects of story orientation on policy support. However, solutions journalism did decrease climate misinformation susceptibility through negative affect, but raised it through positive affect. This dissertation provides several theoretical and practical implications. First, this study shows that climate solutions journalism is framed differently than traditional, climate journalism. In focusing mostly on climate change’s negative environmental impacts, adaptation over mitigation, with little mention of causes, the most common climate solutions frame may not convey that mitigating greenhouse gas emissions is critical. Furthermore, the less frequently employed frames may better engage conservative audiences. This dissertation is the first to demonstrate that solutions journalism can increase threat appraisal, despite increasing positive affect and decreasing negative affect, and do so without depressing support for policy action. In doing so, this dissertation answers calls for solutions research guided by theory although findings suggest additional theory development is needed. In sum, this dissertation offers support to the idea that climate solutions journalism is a promising journalistic approach for the reality of the Anthropocene age.
  • Item
    The Paradox of Expertise: U.S. Abortion Law from 1973-2022
    (2023) Farhat, Aya H; Parry-Giles, Shawn; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    In the last fifty years, abortion rights in the United States have gone from being criminalized in most states, to being legal on a federal level, to being regulated through individual state legislatures. In 1973, the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade granted fecund persons a federal right to abortion for the first time in this nation’s history. To do so, the Supreme Court conceived of abortion rights within a rhetoric of expertise. The Court relied on legal, medical, and personal conceptions of expertise as knowledge, procedure, and deference to ground abortion rights in a precedent of privacy tied to the trimester framework. Since its codification, multiple cases at the Supreme Court and lower court levels have challenged the precedent established in Roe. These challenges have worked to both protect and constrict fecund persons’ abortion rights to various degrees. Each of these post-Roe cases have reconfigured the triangulation of expertise to make sense of abortion rights in their particular political and temporal moments. For instance, the landmark abortion case Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992) sought to reinforce the precedent in Roe by clarifying its legal and medical inconsistencies with the undue burden standard. Thirty years later, the Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022) decided such inconsistencies warranted returning the abortion decision back to the states. The ability for abortion rights to undergo such a significant shift legally exposes the rhetorical paradox of expertise. The last fifty years of abortion law indicates the inability of legal and medical knowledge and procedures to consistency define the boundaries of legal abortion. But it also shows how the Court has deferred to these expert institutions time and time again to first expand, and then constrict, fecund persons’ personal expertise over the abortion decision. The Paradox of Expertise explores the complex triangulation of expertise in abortion law through an analysis of three pivotal U.S. Supreme Court cases: Roe (1973), Casey (1992), and Dobbs (2022). In each of these cases, the justices interpreted this triangulation in differential ways to shift the boundaries of legal abortion. In Chapter One, I explore how Roe read the legal-medical history of abortion to authorize the trimester framework and regulate fecund persons’ abortion rights and expertise. By regulating abortion through the trimester framework, the Court entangled legal, medical, and personal expertise in a complex web that ultimately privileged legal and medical expertise throughout a fecund person’s pregnancy. In Chapter Two, I analyze Casey to show how the Court responded to the ambiguities presented by the trimester framework. In Casey, the Court reinterpreted the precedent in Roe to affirm abortion rights under an undue burden standard. Because the Court failed to define this standard in a consistent manner, future courts continued to battle over the ambiguities of abortion law. In Chapter Three, I examine the decision in Dobbs to show how such legal battles over expertise allowed the Court to reinterpret abortion history and warrant returning the abortion issue back to the states. But because the Dobbs Court failed to clarify the past inconsistencies in abortion law, state legislators, medical physicians, and fecund persons struggle to make sense of the legal, medical, and personal barriers to abortion access in the present moment. Today, the current landscape of abortion politics is still mired in the paradox of expertise that foreshadows the long road ahead for pro-abortion advocates and those seeking abortion access and care.
  • Item
    Psychological inoculation against vaccine misinformation: why and how it works
    (2023) Wang, Yuan; Nan, Xiaoli; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Vaccine misinformation has posed a significant threat to public health. Drawing upon inoculation theory, this dissertation investigates whether exposure to an inoculation message – a message that forewarns and refutes potential persuasive attacks – can confer resistance to misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. Based on two online experiments, this research seeks to answer four overarching questions: Can exposure to an inoculation message reduce susceptibility to misinformation? Through which mechanisms does inoculation message confer resistance to misinformation? Does the effect of inoculation messages vary among initially informed, uninformed, and misinformed individuals? How do partisan source cues (in-group vs. out-group) impact the effectiveness of inoculation messages among politically affiliated individuals? Study 1 investigated the effectiveness, mechanisms, and recipient factors related to inoculation messages. A two-condition (inoculation vs. control) between-subject experiment was conducted (N = 659). Results indicated that exposure to an inoculation message effectively reduced individuals' susceptibility to misinformation. Inoculation message not only counteracted beliefs in misinformation but also protected positive attitudes and intentions toward COVID-19 vaccination. Moreover, perceived ease of counterarguing and anger were identified as significant mediators underlying the persuasive effects of the inoculation message, while counterarguing was not a significant mediator. Furthermore, the effectiveness of inoculation message remained consistent among initially informed, uninformed, or misinformed groups, suggesting that inoculation message offers both prophylactic and therapeutic effects. Study 2 examined how partisan source cues impacted inoculation message effectiveness. A 2 (in-group vs. out-group inoculation) X 2 (in-group vs. out-group misinformation) between-subject online experiment was conducted among politically affiliated individuals (N = 448). Results showed no main or interaction effects of in-group (vs. out-group) inoculation and in-group (vs. out-group) misinformation on persuasive outcomes, suggesting that the efficacy of inoculation messages in conferring resistance to misinformation did not differ based on whether the inoculation or misinformation messages came from an in-group or out-group source. Additionally, party identification strength moderated the impact of in-group (vs. out-group) inoculation on beliefs in COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and COVID-19 vaccination attitudes. Surprisingly, the advantage of in-group inoculation over out-group inoculation was stronger among individuals with lower levels of party identification. Moreover, out-group inoculation appeared to be more persuasive than in-group inoculation among individuals with extremely strong political identification. This dissertation offers several theoretical and practical implications for health communication research and practice. First, this research contributes to inoculation theory by examining two alternative mechanisms – perceived ease of counterarguing and anger – underlying inoculation message effects. The findings underscore the importance of considering cognitive, meta-cognitive, and affective routes that underlie resistance to persuasion. Additionally, this research expands the scope of inoculation theory by demonstrating its effectiveness among initially informed, uninformed, and misinformed individuals. These results suggest that inoculation messages can be useful beyond the traditional scope of cultural truisms, offering both prophylactic and therapeutic effects. Furthermore, the study challenges the conventional assumption that messages from in-group sources are more persuasive than those from out-group sources, indicating that political groups should work together to address vaccine hesitancy. Overall, this dissertation supports the use of inoculation messages as an effective tool in counteracting misinformation and promoting vaccination acceptance.
  • Item
    Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining: How Residents in Flood-prone Areas in China Cope and Cultivate Community Resilience in the Post-Crisis Stage
    (2023) Yan, Yumin; Liu, Brooke; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Background and Purpose. Catastrophic crises such as floods have resulted in millions of fatalities and tens of billions of dollars in direct economic losses annually worldwide throughout the twentieth century (Merz et al., 2021). Crises can create severe and widespread disruption, but successful communication may also act as a catalyst for constructive change in the post-crisis stage, as it fosters a shared understanding of the situation and provides protective action taking instructions (Liu et al., 2016; Sellnow & Seeger, 2021). The role of crisis communication in the post-crisis stage is insufficiently examined (Liu & Viens, 2020) despite the fact that many communities have the greatest need for support when the media spotlight and widespread public attention disappears. This dissertation emphasizes the notion of learning from crises in the post-crisis stage (Huber, 1991; Moynihan, 2009; Renå & Christensen, 2018) by examining individuals’ coping and their perceived community resilience in the post-crisis stage within a collectivistic and non-democratic context (i.e., mainland China). Theoretical Frameworks. To understand how individuals adapt to emotionally charged situations like floods, this dissertation draws insights from the integrated crisis mapping model (i.e., ICM; Jin et al., 2012; Jin et al., 2016), the infectious disease threat appraisal model (i.e., IDT; Jin et al., 2020; Jin et al., 2021), emotional contagion theory (Barsade, 2002; Barsade et al., 2018), social appraisal theory (Manstead & Fischer, 2001; Parkinson, 2011; 2021), and identity-based emotions research (Mackie et al., 2008; Smith & Mackie, 2015; Tajfel & Turner, 1979; Turner et al., 1987) to explore how individuals’ appraisal of a crisis, susceptibility to emotional contagion (Doherty, 1997; Jin et al., 2020), and identification with their local communities influence individuals’ coping and perceived community resilience (the communities advancing resilience toolkit (CART) assessment; Kim et al., 2023; Pfefferbaum et al., 2013; Pfefferbaum et al., 2015). Methods. As a country prone to flooding, China’s flood damage constitutes a significant portion of global flood losses (Ding et al., 2022; Guo et al., 2023; Qazlbash et al., 2021). Yet, no found crisis communication research provides evidence-based scientific guidance for individuals and social groups in flood-prone areas of China to recover and rebound. Thus, this dissertation explores how individuals cope and cultivate community resilience in the post-disaster recovery phase in the Lukou District, Zhuzhou City, Hunan Province of China. This dissertation deploys a self-report survey utilizing systematic cluster sampling to test the proposed model. Because the flood season in Hunan historically is from April to the beginning of September (Du et al., 2019; Hu et al., 2021; Zeng et al., 2021), the data collection started in mid-September 2022 and was completed by mid-October 2022 to capture residents’ post-flooding experiences. A total of 1,000 complete responses were collected. Because this dissertation’s proposed model includes latent factors, a two-phase modeling process (i.e., measurement and structural; Muller & Hancock, 2019) with maximal likelihood with robust standard error (MLR) estimation is adopted for analysis. Results. The overarching idea delivered in this dissertation’s findings is that individual coping mechanisms (e.g., perceptions, affective experiences, and behavioral intentions) as adaptive and socially functional coping, further contribute to individuals’ perceived local community resilience. Focusing on the adaptive perspective of individuals’ coping, this dissertation’s findings show that vulnerable individuals (e.g., those who perceive greater incurred damage and resource constraints) are more likely to experience negative emotions and less likely to engage in information seeking behaviors or take protective measures to recover from damage and prevent future threats in the post-crisis stage. This dissertation’s findings on the relationships between individuals’ crisis appraisals (e.g., perceived crisis predictability, controllability, and responsibility) and individuals’ affective experiences of emotions and behavioral intentions differ from previous research that focuses on the pre-crisis and crisis stages in Western contexts (e.g., Austin et al., 2021; Jin, 2010; Jin et al., 2020). Furthermore, this dissertation’s findings reveal that negative and positive emotions’ influences on individuals’ information seeking intentions, passive protective action taking intentions, and active protective action taking intentions are largely muted in the post-crisis stage within a collectivistic and non-democratic context. Focusing on the socially functional perspective of individuals’ coping, this dissertation reveals that individuals’ perceived social support, feature-driven emotional contagion, meaning-driven emotional contagion, and ingroup identification influence individuals’ affective experiences of negative and positive emotions, information seeking intentions, passive protective action taking intentions, and active protective action taking intentions. Specifically, findings on perceived social support show that participants who perceived higher levels of social support are less likely to experience negative emotions about floods and more likely to have passive protective action taking intentions. Findings on feature-driven emotional contagion in public emergencies show that participants with higher tendencies of unconsciously capturing others’ emotional expressions are more likely to experience negative emotions about floods and have passive protective action taking intentions. Findings on meaning-driven emotional contagion in public emergencies show that participants with higher tendencies to capture others’ emotional expression by cognitively interpreting the crises are more likely to experience positive emotions about floods and have active protective action taking intentions. Findings on ingroup identifications show that participants’ identification with the local community contributes to their information seeking intentions, passive protective action taking intentions, and active protective action taking intentions. For individuals’ perceived community resilience, this dissertation’s findings show that participants with higher information-seeking intentions and active protective action taking intentions were more likely to perceive greater community resilience. Whereas there is no found statistically significant relationship between participants’ passive protective action taking intentions and perceived community resilience. Theoretical and Practical Implications. This dissertation’s findings contribute to crisis communication research and practices. This dissertation contributes to crisis communication research by examining individuals' coping in the post-crisis stage, extending existing crisis communication literature on emotion by integrating group-level factors (e.g., feature-driven emotional contagion, meaning-driven emotional contagion, and ingroup identification) and broadening previous crisis communication literature by studying a collectivistic and non-democratic context. This dissertation also advances crisis communication research on community resilience by tripling the explained variance of perceived community resilience (from 21% to 65%) and paving the way for future crisis communication research by providing measurement instructions with high reliability scores. This dissertation also offers valuable insights for crisis communicators, enabling them to comprehend the intricate mechanisms of individuals' coping and community resilience in a collectivistic and non-democratic context. This dissertation's findings can assist crisis communicators in devising culturally sensitive messaging and recovery-focused intervention programs that cater to the needs of vulnerable groups while bolstering the community's overall capacity to rebound in the crisis recovery phase.
  • Item
    What makes a college worth it? A critical examination of constructions and interpretations of institutional prestige in U.S. higher education
    (2023) Ashby-King, Drew T.; Anderson, Lindsey B.; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    In the United States (U.S.), attending and graduating from college has been positioned as necessary for individuals to get a good job, earn a high salary, and be successful in life (Ashby-King & Anderson, 2022). However, not every college degree seems to be created equal as graduates of elite (i.e., highly selective, well resourced, highly ranked, prestigious) institutions have been found to experience an increased return on investment in comparison to their peers at less selective institutions (Ge et al., 2022). Colleges and universities then compete to increase their ranking and decrease the percentage of students they admit trying to gain prestige and symbolic capital in the marketplace of U.S. higher education (Blackmore, 2018; Brewer et al., 2002). As not every institution can be highly ranked, in addition to engaging in prestige-seeking behaviors, they also use communication and public relations practices to communicatively construct themselves as prestigious. Thus, I suggest that it is important to examine and understand how institutions are constructed as prestigious and how students interpret said constructions as they seek to gain capital themselves by attending college and earning a degree. As determinations of what is deemed worthy capital in different fields creates the social structures that exist in said field, I took a critical public relations approach to examining this problem to understand how communicative constructions of prestige reinforce and/or challenge dominant ideologies—especially neoliberalism and whiteness. In this dissertation, I conducted a two-part qualitative study that included a textual analysis of articles related to prestige and rankings published in two media outlets and in-depth interviews and a follow-up questionnaire with currently enrolled college students. Based on my critical thematic analysis, I argue that discourses of institutional prestige functioned to reinforce the notion that higher education is a marketplace by focusing on competition, hierarchy, and exclusivity. As students interpreted these discourses, they were less focused on institutional prestige and more concerned with the social capital they would gain from an institution that would help them get good jobs post-graduation. Throughout this process, when interpreting institutional communication college students did not always trust the institutions. Therefore, they sought additional information from social media and their networks and interpreted said institutional communication in relation to other texts and discourses. Through this project, I advance theory by (1) emphasizing the agency individuals and publics have when they communicate with organizations; (2) theorize public relations as a vehicle for communicating the social and cultural capital an organization can offer publics; and (3) reinforce the ways discourses of institutional prestige function to reinforce neoliberalism and whiteness. I conclude by offering practical implications to inform public relations and communication practice within and beyond the context of higher education.
  • Item
    Queer Ecology of Monstrosity: Troubling the Human/Nature Binary
    (2023) Thomas, Alex Jazz; Steele, Catherine K; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    As a form of visual communication, monsters in popular culture represent and reinforce the changing thoughts and emotions cultures have toward the human/nature binary. This binary, historically supporting discrimination based on race, gender and sexuality, and the environment’s abuse, is often supported through monstrous representations of the Other, but this is a limited view of a monster’s potential. I argue that contemporary hybrid monsters that blend humans and nature together in one queer, boundary-defying body represent U.S. society’s changing relationship with nature while giving the audience a new form of connecting or identifying with the environment and Othered body that critiques the popular ideology of both being something to fear or use. In this study, I advance a monstrous splice of queer theory and ecocriticism that probes the plasticity and queerness of humans and the environment allowing for new narratives, forms of life, and discourses about naturalization and the environment. Through queer ecological theory and methodology, I examine visual and contextual media to study the monster’s potential to embody nature, people, and their conjoined discrimination. The plasmaticness and subversive culture of animation and comics let the monstrous thrive in their display of the plasticity of humans and the environment. I structure my analysis into three case studies focusing on the potential of monsters to critique evolutionary ideology, human exceptionalism, and ecological interaction in light of queer theory’s critique of what is ‘natural.’ Radford Sechrist’s television series Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts and K.I. Zachopoulos and Vincenzo Balzano’s graphic novel Run Wild oppose human exceptionalism by visually plasticizing humanity and giving animals culture and agency in a way that rejects anthropocentric thinking. The monsters of Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart’s independent film, Wolfwalkers and Morvan and Nesmo’s ecological detective novel Bramble critique the cultural separation of urban and green spaces that has excused racial and sexual violence by displaying humanity’s innate connection to nature. Finally, Marguerite Bennett’s erotic graphic novel Insexts and select episodes from Tim Miller’s Love, Death, & Robots challenge evolutionary ideology. In this last case, characters retain their femininity and humanity in their monstrous transformations, rejecting evolutionary and societal inferiority and ultimately showing they can still retain parts of themselves and be powerful and deadly. Taken together, these texts span genres, writing/drawing styles, intended age groups, and environmental messages. They provide a wide range of monster representations and give audiences new ways to view and understand the issues surrounding what we see as ‘human’ or ‘natural’, balancing empowerment, subversivism, and condemnation.
  • Item
    (2023) Dias, Shawna; Aldoory, Linda; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Domestic abuse has long been regarded as a significant public health issue, but intimate partner violence cases increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading some reporters to label it as “an opportunistic infection.” The United Nations attributed the increase in domestic abuse to COVID-19 quarantines and shelter-in-place orders, which forced victims to remain trapped in their homes with their abusers. Cosmetics brand, Avon, which has a history of responding to women’s health issues, launched the #IsolatedNotAlone abuse intervention campaign on its social media platforms. The campaign sought to educate the public about the ubiquitousness of domestic abuse and inform victims about available intervention resources. The #IsolatedNotAlone campaign was most active during the spring and summer months of 2020. During that time, the campaign reached an estimated 2.9 million social media users and provided supportive services to nearly 16,000 domestic abuse survivors. Although the campaign was a success, it didn’t reach near as many social media users as other abuse-related initiatives, like the #MeToo movement, which achieved 12 million reposts within its first 24 hours.This dissertation explores the usefulness of the Situational Theory of Problem Solving (STOPS) for understanding how publics organize and react to #IsolatedNotAlone and similar abuse intervention campaigns. STOPS is commonly used to examine public reactions to organizational crises, but this dissertation took an alternative approach and examined its applications for health communication. The research questions ask how situational antecedents, as outlined in STOPS, motivate social media users to learn more about domestic abuse, and how situational motivations and referent criteria influence the communicative actions of social media users. Additionally, the research questions ask how communicative behaviors influence online social support group formation and organization. The sample in this research included ethnically diverse men, women, and non-binary participants who identified as white, Black, Native American, Asian, and Hispanic. I chose to keep the sample demographics wide because I wanted to better understand how diverse groups experience and understand domestic abuse and domestic abuse intervention messages, and their motivations for communicating or not communicating about abuse. Twenty-eight social media users participated in semi-structured qualitative interviews via telephone or Zoom. The data suggests social media users with alike situational antecedents are similarly motivated to communicate about domestic abuse interventions unless they individually recognize significant constraints. Individuals with strong problem recognition and involvement recognition display a wider range of communicative actions than those with low problem recognition and involvement recognition. Based on the findings, this study produces practical implications for abuse intervention message design and distribution. The findings also demonstrate that STOPS has some utility for understanding public response to health intervention messages, though the framework may require adaptation for use in future health communication initiatives. The data suggest that referent criteria, time, and power have a larger role in health communication and influence audience members’ problem recognition, involvement recognition, and communicative actions.
  • Item
    (2023) Iannacone, Jeannette Isabelle; Sommerfeldt, Erich J; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    In considering the realities of 21st century society, research cannot overlook how livelihoods are becoming increasingly defined by one’s (in)ability for and agency over movement, i.e. mobility, especially on the transnational scale. Simultaneously, the relational turn of public relations scholarship has emphasized a network perspective, examining how a set of relations among social actors—be it people, groups, or organizations—create systems that comprise, maintain, and/or disrupt society (Yang & Taylor, 2015). As such, public relations should be inclusive of the depth of multiple, rich, and mobile relationships in social networks that span national borders. Yet the development of the network perspective in public relations has not been without its limitations, notably the absence of public perspectives, actions, and realities—all of which impact the communicative interactions that produce their social networks. This research thereby incorporates a public perspective through insights from people who migrate to highlight an increasingly important dimension to public formation and relationship dynamics: mobility. In doing so, this dissertation takes an innovative qualitative approach to social network analysis (SNA), which integrates a visual network mapping exercise alongside qualitative interviews and ethnographic observations. Findings captured how the enactment and context of mobility impact migrant network dynamics across the world as well as their subsequent communication behaviors and relational expectations, particularly with U.S. civil society organizations (CSOs). They further depicted an organizational perspective that highlighted three dichotomies to how CSOs perceive and maintain their social networks, and showcased the role of mobility as an underlying context generating distinct actors, ties, and positioning. Findings lastly emphasized entanglements between social and other forms of capital as well as patterns in who is perceived as having versus needing capital.As such, this dissertation proposes the conceptualization of the mobile social network ecology, a concept that integrates social network analysis and the experiences of public mobility by accounting for distinct publics and organizations perceptions. It allows for public relations to better consider the impacts of the enactment and context of mobility on key public relationships, inclusive of the distinct publics of the modern world, the CSOs that seek to serve them, and their linkages to civil societies on a transnational scale. Additionally, in noting the significant ties between migrant publics and migrant-serving CSOs, this dissertation connects the exchanges of (social) capital within a mobile social network ecology to relational power dynamics and differentials, emphasizing their lived, embodied impact as well as introducing a new salient category: spatial capital. All together, these contributions advance public relations in reckoning with the transnational, globalized dimensions of the modern world, showcasing how public mobility shapes and complicates our fundamental societal connections and presenting unique takeaways for the field in scholarship and practice.
  • Item
    Living a Participatory Life: Reformatting Rhetoric for Demanding, Digital Times
    (2023) Salzano, Matthew; Pfister, Damien S; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Living a Participatory Life explores how people navigate demanding, digital times where social movements and digital media meet, in the context of what media scholars refer to as the participatory condition. The participatory condition describes how participation is an inherent, inescapable condition of digitality with its always-on and always-prompting media; it is distinctly different from the participatory cultures theorized of the blogosphere and Web 2.0. In the participatory condition, the digital is demanding, and our demands are digitized. What does it mean to live a participatory life in the participatory condition? How should we practice rhetoric (as a productive and critical art) during demanding, digital times? To aid in answering these questions, this dissertation offers a format theory of participation. I theorize four key concepts—parameters, imperatives, trans-situations, and sensibilities—to define participation as a formatted rhetorical practice that modulates affect and sensibilities within a formatted ecology. In the following three chapters, I locate three participatory sensibilities from advocates for social change across intersectional issues: Disparticipants, offering participatory dissent at the Women’s March; Fictocritics, generating criticism of the YouTube manosphere; and Installectuals, transforming Instagram during the Summer 2020 resurgence of Black Lives Matter activism. Each illustrates the ramifications of the participatory condition and how advocates for social change navigate it. The dissertation concludes with a provocation to learn from these sensibilities and begin reformatting our own participatory lives.
  • Item
    Understand You Are Going To Deal With Hardships That Women Deal With In The Civilian World, Kind Of Like On Steroids”: Air Force And Army Women Veterans’ Perceptions Of The United States Military
    (2023) McDermott, Victoria Marie; Anderson, Lindsey B; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    The United States military (USM) is a totalistic and hegemonically masculine institution that leaves lasting effects on former members sense of self and identity. The performance of gender by individual members, and the gendered nature of the institution itself make it a challenging profession for those categorized into the subordinate gender to navigate and succeed. Using feminist standpoint theory, this dissertation explores women’s perspectives of their experiences during and after military service to better under the role of gender on institution-public relational meaning making. Findings demonstrate that gender performed, on individual and institutional levels forms gendered relationships to the institution that have long term effects on individuals willingness to engage with the institution. From the findings identified, theoretical extensions and practice implications, as well as recommendations for the USM to improve its relationships with women veterans are suggested.
  • Item
    The Race Palimpsest: Examining the Use of Ancestry Testing in the Rhetorical Construction of Identity
    (2022) Lee, Naette Yoko; Pfister, Damien S.; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Race is a palimpsest or layered rhetorical formulation that imbricates competing interpretations of human diversity. Efforts to understand the race concept and intervene in the effect of systemic inequity have been premised on the treatment of race as a social construction. However, the ascendancy of genetic ancestry testing and related biotechnologies have spurred the reiteration of biological categories, rivaling, or supplanting the constructivist perspective. In this dissertation, racial constitution is a rhetorical process that determines how novel understandings of human diversity are interpreted and integrated into the racial palimpsest. This project proposes a theoretical model for understanding the discursive interaction between genomic testing and current racial categorizations. Three case studies were conducted to demonstrate the operation of Kenneth Burke’s positive and dialectic terms for order in this process. The cases examine the genetic test reveal genre and situate their discursive circulation in digital media ecologies. The findings elucidate the operation of rhetorics of genetic certainty, heritability, and narrative invention through which publics process genetic test results and integrate them into understanding of human difference. This dissertation identifies the need for more accurate discursive terms to make sense of ancestry testing and disrupt the integration of genomic data into the palimpsest of race.
  • Item
    (2022) Carroll, Darrian Robert; Parry-Giles, Shawn; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Black people continue to struggle for freedom. This project examines the way that leaders of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) fought for the freedom of Black people from 1914 to 1925. UNIA leaders rhetorically fought for Black people’s freedom by building on their belief in Black self-determination to practice world-making and envision a public. Turning back to UNIA leaders’ espousal of evaluations of the present and expectations for the future illustrates how UNIA leaders developed a view of a public capable of including all Black people and left behind a roadmap for how to make a more equitable world now. Chapter One investigates Marcus Garvey’s “Address to the 2nd Universal Negro Improvement Association Convention.” Garvey’s evaluations and expectations, his world-making, and his freedom dream, provided the foundation for UNIA leaders’ view of their public as one that included all Black people. Chapter Two examines the rhetoric of UNIA leaders Henrietta Vinton Davis, William Ferris, and Marcus Garvey during the “Africa for the Africans” campaign. The second chapter reveals how leaders’ world-making rhetoric provided them with the opportunity to envision a parallel public—a public inclusive of all Black people and insulated from the negative views of the “dominant” public. The third chapter examines how leaders articulated evaluations of the past and present and expectations for the future to develop a view of their public as one still capable of supporting Black self-determination despite the imprisoning of Marcus Garvey. UNIA leaders like Henrietta Vinton Davis, William Ferris, Amy Jacques Garvey, William Sherrill, T. Thomas Fortune, and Marcus Garvey exemplified a rhetoric of champions as they predicted the future success of their public. The fourth chapter investigates how the most indispensable women leaders of the UNIA reflected on the UNIA’s successes from 1914 to 1925 after the UNIA had passed its prime. Chapter Four turns to Amy Ashwood Garvey’s and Amy Jacques Garvey’s reminisces of Marcus Garvey in their interviews for “The Ghost of Garvey” conducted by Lerone Bennett Jr. In their interviews, Ashwood Garvey and Jacques Garvey produced a rhetoric of falling forward by evaluating the UNIA’s past and expecting that the efforts of the UNIA leaders would have purchase for Black people fighting for freedom in the future. Ashwood Garvey’s and Jacques Garvey’s rhetoric pushed a view of leaders’ public as strong and supportive of Black self-determination into perpetuity. This project concludes by reflecting on what UNIA leaders’ world-making and envisioning of a public illuminate about Black Nationalism in the 1960s and world-making now. Leaders did not get to see their Black Nationalist world come to fruition, but UNIA leaders did bring millions of Black people together around the idea that if they believed in self-determination, the future was theirs for the making. Turning back to UNIA leaders’ rhetoric from 1914 to 1925 evinces how by believing in Black self-determination and articulating their own evaluations of the present and expectations for the future, UNIA leaders charted a path to a different world.
  • Item
    (2022) Shi, Duli; Toth, Elizabeth; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    When companies take stances on controversial sociopolitical issues, diverse publics form divided responses and engage positively or negatively, actively or passively with the focal companies in the online discourse. This dissertation took a cross-disciplinary approach to investigate this corporate communication practice, corporate social advocacy. First, Study 1 employed a quantitative content analysis study to explore the existing communication strategies (relational vs. elaborational vs. activational) used in companies’ CSA social media. The results showed that the most commonly used communication strategy (elaborational) did not appear to be the most effective one in facilitating publics’ social media engagement behaviors. Instead, using a relational communication strategy in a CSA message to build explicit linkages to corporate images or functions was often associated with a higher level of publics’ social media engagement. Meanwhile, existing activational communication strategies in CSA communication tended to be general and ineffective in enhancing publics’ engagement and participation. Second, In Study 2, a pilot study and a main study were conducted to examine the impacts of advocacy fit and social identities on publics’ CSA attributions, attitudes toward the company, and social media engagement intentions. A holistic measurement of social media engagement was empirically validated by covering the activeness and valences of engagement in the pilot study. The main study showed that congruency between a company and its CSA, especially image-based, contributed to more perceived value-driven and less egoistic and strategic motives, which, in turn, led to more positive attitudes toward the company and desired social media engagement intentions. Moreover, Study 2 introduced publics’ social identities to explicate their responses to CSA. Participants’ social group membership and ingroup identification were significant factors in explaining their CSA attributions, attitudinal responses, and social media engagement behaviors. Additionally, Study 2 demonstrated that social group membership and ingroup identification could function as antecedents for publics’ situational perceptions of sociopolitical issues, offering additional ways to identify and categorize publics. This dissertation is theoretically and practically valuable in terms of several aspects. First, it reinforced the imperative role of communication in CSA with empirical evidence about the communication strategies across various companies on social media. Second, investigating the effects of advocacy fit on attributions guides strategic CSA communication that needs to align organizational identities and sociopolitical issues. Third, by incorporating the social identity approach (Tajfel & Turner, 1979; Turner, 1985), this dissertation moves the theorizing publics forward with the additional considerations of societal-level factors, such as power structure and intergroup dynamics. Fourth, the comprehensive measurement of social media engagement intentions contributes to the public relations literature, given the central role of social media engagement in building and maintaining organization-public relationships (Lim & Young, 2021).
  • Item
    (2022) Ma, Lingyan; Aldoory, Linda; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    This study applied visual communication to the Situational Theory of Publics (STP) by testing the effects of environmental campaign visuals in different frames (i.e., problem and solution) on individuals’ problem recognition and constraint recognition. Besides, this study explored the predicting roles of negative and positive affect in influencing individuals’ information seeking and processing, the dependent variables in STP. Also, this study revealed how information seeking and processing were related to behavioral intention to take advocated action, and how perceived visual effectiveness moderated this relationship. A between-subjects experiment (frames: problem, solution, control, n = 600) was conducted to test the effects of visual messages regarding the waste pollution issue. The principal component analysis (PCA) revealed two components that participants experienced when exposed to visual messages: negative affect, and positive affect. The mediation analyses confirmed that strategic visual messages had indirect effects on people’s problem recognition and constraint recognition through the induction of affect. However, the direct impacts of visuals on problem recognition and constraint recognition, and the causal relationships between affective responses and problem recognition and constraint recognition remained not fully explored. Furthermore, according to recent studies related to the situational theory of public which involved affect, this study continued to explore the associations between affect and information seeking and processing. An extended structural equation model based on STP including negative and positive affective responses as predictors of information seeking and information processing showed that the new model explained significantly more variances of the outcomes (i.e., information seeking & information processing). In addition, a series of multiple regressions showed that information seeking and information processing were both positively associated with behavioral intention to take advocated action. Moderation analyses revealed the moderating role of perceived visual effectiveness (PVE) on the relationship between information processing and behavioral intention to take advocated action. A comprehensive structural equation model was built based on the original situational theory of publics, with the meaningful inclusions of affect and behavioral intention to take advocated action. The textual analysis revealed participants’ sense-making of the messages in different visual frames. Theoretical and practical impactions, future research, and limitations were discussed.
  • Item
    (2022) Chen, Junhan; Namkoong, Kang; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Social norms refer to what most people do (i.e., descriptive norms) and what most people (dis)approve of doing (i.e., injunctive norms). The influence of perceived social norms and norm-based messages (i.e., messages presenting descriptive or injunctive norms) on health behaviors has long been a research focus in communication studies. However, the mechanisms that underpin social norm influence have not been fully understood. In addition, researchers have been exploring strategies to enhance the persuasiveness of norm-based messages. Based on social norm theories and the message matching theory, the dissertation focused on understanding norm conformity motivations and testing the effectiveness of norm conformity motivation appeals in changing health-related attitudes and behavioral intentions of getting a coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) booster vaccine. By focusing on COVID-19 booster vaccine, this study aimed to extend the scope of social norm approach to crisis contexts and provide practical implications to combat the COVID-19 pandemics using norm-based message. Through a literature review, the dissertation provided a framework that synthesized norm conformity motivations identified in the literature. The framework defined five norm conformity motivations and categorized them into motivations to conform to descriptive norms (i.e., accuracy motivation, identification with admired group motivation, and relative benefit motivation) and motivations to conform to injunctive norms (i.e., social award motivation and social punishment motivation). Pilot study 1 developed and validated a 23-item instrument to measure the five motivations. Face validity, construct validity, and reliability were evaluated using Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) samples. And content validity was evaluated by five expert judges. The instrument had adequate validity and reliability. Pilot study 2 designed norm-based messages with motivation appeals (i.e., linking norm (non)conformity with the benefits or costs related to norm conformity motivations). Based on the results of manipulation check, pilot study 2 determined which messages to be used in the main study. The main study compared the influence of norm-based messages and norm-based messages with motivation appeals on U.S. adults’ attitudes and intentions to get a Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) booster vaccine. The main study also examined the persuasiveness of matching norm conformity motivation appeals with individual characteristics, including norm conformity motivations, perceived uncertainty, need for closure, upward social comparison, fear of missing out, need for approval, and fear of negative evaluation. The results showed that adding norm conformity motivation appeals increased perceived message effectiveness, and in turn, perceived message effectiveness was positively associated with attitudes. However, the total effect of motivation appeals on attitudes and the mediation paths through perceived message relevance were not significant. In addition, matching motivation appeals with individual characteristics did not result in better persuasion outcomes. The study contributes to the social norm literature and health communication practice by providing a conceptual framework and an instrument of norm conformity motivations. The framework helps understand the norm conformity process. And the instrument allows future studies to empirically test the psychological mechanism of norm conformity. Health communication practitioners can use the instrument to gauge recipients’ norm conformity motivations and design tailored messages. The study also contributes to social norm theories and the message matching theory by highlighting the importance of perceived message effectiveness in norm conformity and the importance of motivation salience in message matching.
  • Item
    (2022) Wang, Xiaojing(Romy); Joyce, Nick; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    The prevalence and severity of mental health issues among students have increased on college campuses in recent years. Online counseling can provide a good way to improve college students’ mental health, but the amount of social presence of online counseling types may impact its effectiveness. Moreover, communication challenges may arise when the counselors and clients are from different racial groups, and these challenges may in turn be impacted by the characteristics of the communication channel. Using an experiment with 292 participants, this study investigated how counseling channels and inter/intragroup contact, as well as their interaction, affect counseling effectiveness (state anxiety, self-disclosure, satisfaction, and working alliance) and intergroup outcomes (intergroup prejudice and intergroup anxiety) as well as the moderation effects of communication competence and stigma. The results indicated that videoconferencing counseling had a higher satisfaction than online synchronous chat counseling. Intergroup counseling significantly reduced intergroup prejudice and intergroup anxiety. Participants’ self-disclosure, satisfaction, working alliance, reduced intercultural prejudice, and reduced intercultural anxiety significantly decreased their state anxiety. Implications of these findings for intergroup communication in online counseling are discussed.
  • Item
    (2022) Hundal, Savreen; Fink, Edward L.; Waks, Leah; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Emotion-regulation strategies are attempts to impact emotions within oneself or others (McRae & Gross, 2020). Strategies such as mindfulness and reappraisal are associated with benefits to well-being and mental health. However, the influence of culture on mindfulness and reappraisal has not been established. Emotion-regulation strategies are culturally dependent. It is through cultural socialization that cultural values are transmitted. Cultural values give meaning to emotion and emotion-regulation strategies. This dissertation proposes a theoretical model in which (1) cultural values predict mindfulness and reappraisal emotion-regulation strategies, and (2) the effectiveness of both strategies is assessed using the emotional dimensions of valence, arousal, power, and surprise. Three pilot studies were conducted to test the validity of emotion-regulation instructional messaging, to create a negatively valenced emotion-eliciting video stimulus, and to assess the differences in mindfulness between American and Chinese students. For the main study, American and Chinese students completed an online experiment that tested the effects of emotion-regulation strategies. The findings suggest that emotion-regulation strategies differ both culturally and in their effects, either altering the emotions individuals feel (in the case of the reappraisal strategy) or the experience individuals associate with the emotions they feel (in the case of the mindfulness strategy). This study supports the need for further investigation into the relationship between cultural socialization’s impact on emotion-regulation strategies.
  • Item
    Issues Management of Compounding Wicked Problems by Critical Infrastructure Utilities: Cybersecurity and COVID-19
    (2022) Williams, Gareth Thomas; Sommerfeldt, Erich J; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    “Wicked problems” present issues managers in public relations with complex challenges and no definitive resolutions. Multiple concurrent wicked problems may compound these challenges. This study extends understanding of how issues managers address compounding wicked problems with a multiple-case study. The multiple-case study focuses on the experiences of issues managers at public cooperative electric distribution utilities and includes interviews with issues management personnel at multiple levels of oversight and influence, including regional, national, and federal organizations. Interviews with issues managers explore strategies for identifying and addressing wicked problems and reactions to messaging from other organizations. Examination of publicly available organizational communications and media triangulate conclusions. This study illustrated that compounding wicked problems require issues management, issues managers do not directly address the wicked problem(s), education alone or enforced by policy did not produce lasting changes in behavior advocated to publics, that study of compounding problems requires the problems also have common publics; and issues management by critical infrastructure seeks cocreation. Specific observations include that cultivated networks of communication improved perceptions of legitimacy in sources of information and guidance, attempts to convey legitimacy from the cultivated network to other publics were not successful, utilities were subject to and responded to power imposed upon them by state authorities, and that utilities relied heavily on establishing organizational legitimacy with member/owner publics when communicating about changes resulting from external influences of either legitimacy or power. In addition, this study illustrated that resilience is the overwhelming priority of critical infrastructure utilities when responding to wicked problems, and both supply chain and utility personnel play indispensable roles in organizational resilience. This study extends existing issues management literature of critical infrastructure utilities, which are currently under-represented in issues management literature.
  • Item
    A Theory of Argumentative Norms: Conceptualizing and Evaluating Domain-Specific Argumentative Expectations
    (2021) Stoltz, Nathaniel Halkias; Hample, Dale; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    This project develops and tests a theory, the Theory of Argumentative Norms. The Theory of Argumentative Norms states that individuals carry specific social norms into interpersonal arguments that depend on the goal of the argument—persuasion, inquiry, identity, or play. Conforming to these norms is theorized to lead to optimal argumentative perceptions and outcomes, and violating any of these norms is thus theorized to lead to more negative consequences. The first two chapters detail the theory and its specific normative constructs, leading to the construction of ten hypotheses and a research question. The nature of the theory called for the creation of new instruments and stimuli, so the next two chapters detail the piloting of these measures and materials. The predictions are then tested in two further studies, primarily by the construction and manipulation of dialogic argument vignettes that do or do not contain particular violations, and then asking participants to rate the vignettes for their conformity to argument norms and for other argumentative perception and outcome measures. Findings of the research were mostly supportive of the theory: it was found that norm violations were associated with significantly more negative perceptions than normative arguments, both with respect to in-the-moment perceptions (argument quality, pleasantness) and outcomes (goal attainment, future willingness to argue, escalation). The theory also predicted that different argument goals would be associated with different patterns of outcomes, but these predictions were mostly unsupported.
  • Item
    Facilitating Expressed Empathy: Lessons Learned from Public Conversations
    (2021) Heist, Nora Lee; Maddux, Kristy; Communication; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Empathy, it seems, is having a moment. However—even as empathy’s conceptual popularity is on the rise—displays of empathy are on the decline, reflecting polarization trends in the United States. This project seeks to cultivate a culture of empathy in a time when we are particularly hopeless about the future of public conversations and democracy. I forward empathy as a practice for elevating deliberative and dialogic discourses by helping participants more fully consider other perspectives, asking: what deliberative and dialogic practices facilitate empathy? To answer this question, I articulate a rhetorical definition of empathy. Individuals practice what I term expressed empathy when they 1) express shared emotions with the other, 2) use language that acknowledges and imagines the other’s experience, and 3) articulate a recognition of difference between self and other. I analyze three distinct public conversations to answer this project’s central question, responding to calls for research on actual examples of deliberation and dialogue. In the first chapter, I analyze audio tapes from four 1968 Citizens Interracial Committee community dialogues on education in San Diego public schools. I identify two distinct types of expressed empathy based on CIC participants’ communication, which I term second- and third-person expressed empathy. In the second chapter, I examine 75 transcripts of community conversations hosted by the Local Voices Network and New York Public Library from February 2019 to March 2020. These conversations illustrate the value of expressed empathy centered around similar experiences, as they also prompt questions about the degree of difference necessary for expressed empathy to meaningfully enhance the epistemic goals of dialogue. In the third chapter, I review videos from a 90-minute virtual dialogue I hosted in collaboration with the Dayton International Peace Museum during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. This case explores participant use of narrative kernels as resources for expressing empathy based on similar experiences, along with the kernels’ conforming influence. Taken together these cases represent a range of rhetorical practices along the deliberation-dialogue spectrum. From these cases, I articulate lessons learned about conversation formats, facilitation strategies, and communication practices for cultivating second-person expressed empathy in dialogue and deliberation settings.