Communication Theses and Dissertations

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    (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.
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    (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).
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    (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.
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    (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.
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    (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.