University of Florida 1. Theory summaryThe Framing Theory is a concept of “cognitive categorization,” with the basis that “meaning depends on context” (Scheufele 1999, Changingminds.org). Under the framing theory, an audience’s attention is drawn to events or issues placed within a frame, or a field of meaning, rather than on a particular topic. Although this sounds very similar to that of the Agenda Setting theory, framing is often a conscious choice by the media who act as gatekeepers, organizing and presenting these events and topics to the general public. When the frame, or surrounding elements, of a topic changes so does the meaning of the topic.
Framing is often classified in two groups: frame-building and frame-setting. In frame-building, framing is the dependent variable, focusing on how a culture, journalist or politician presents an issue. On the other hand, frame-setting is the independent variable and focuses on how public opinion is shaped by such frame. In mass communication research, there is a focus on frame-setting and how media coverage affects mass opinion “by emphasizing specific values, facts, and other considerations, and endowing them with greater apparent applicability for making related judgments” (Entman 1993). There are four stages that make up the historical foundation of the framing theory:
1. The 1930s and World War 1 – Strategic propaganda are believed and feared to influence attitude (Scheufele, 1999); The late 1960s – Studies revealed that citizens were mostly uninformed about the “American government, political office holders, and contemporary political issues… [and] failed to depend the application of rights (free speech and free association) in specific circumstances” (Chong, 103). It was concluded then that “the major effect [of framing] is the reinforcement of existing attitudes” (Klapper, 1960); 3. In 1974, Erving Goffman, describes framing as a cognitive effect in which the “schemata of interpretation enables individuals to “locate, perceive, identify and label” occurrences or life experiences” (Goffman 1974); 4. In 1993, Robert Entman modernized Goffman’s definition of framing, stating it is a way of promoting “certain facets of a ‘perceived reality’ and make them more salient in such a way that endorses a specific problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation” (Entman 1993).
In other words, framing constructed the individual’s social reality “in a predictable and patterned way” (McQuail 1994). The Framing theory can be and has been applied to finance within behavioral economics such as investing and lending; law and perception of legislator behavior; media and their presentation of information; and rhetorical frames presented through politics.
II. Theory goodnessBased on the goodness criteria, the framing theory is very good. Given its application to finance, as well as politics and media, the theory’s scope is very wide. It provides an opportunity to generalize information and gives predictive power. The theory has logical consistency and provides directions for new ideas and scholarship research. For example, in Deidre Freyenbeger’s study on Amanda Knox, there is a focus on only one form of media – newspapers. There is heuristic value and future researchers can take the premise of Freyenberger’s study and apply it to other forms of media like television or online news sources. The theory is testable and valid since it can be replicated and measured, and is reliable. Several different researchers over the years presented intension, extension and revolutionary applications of the theory, so its openness is apparent.
Frank Luntz and the “Republican deception” were discussed in the The New York Times: Luntz says that a Republican never advocates “drilling for oil”; he prefers “exploring for energy.” He should never criticize the “government,” which cleans our streets and pays our firemen; he should attack “Washington,” with its ceaseless thirst for taxes and regulations. “We should never use the word outsourcing,” Luntz wrote, “because we will then be asked to defend or end the practice of allowing companies to ship American jobs overseas” (NYtimes.com). Through Luntz’s quote, we see the framing theory in practice within politics. Its additions, revisions, and extensions of framing, aren’t always simplistic in its explanations. It could also be argued that identification may be difficult since it is often confused for the agenda-setting theory.
III. Entity, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) uses digital mass media. The UF/IFAS mission is “to develop knowledge in agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge accessible to sustain and enhance the quality of human life” (ifas.ufl.edu). UF/IFAS was created in 1964 in an effort to consolidate UF’s College of Agriculture, School of Forestry, Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Cooperative Extension Service into a single unit. As a federal-state-county partnership, there is a dedication to developing knowledge in agriculture, human and natural resources, and the life sciences, and enhancing and sustaining the quality of human life by making information accessible. IFAS provides research and development in support of Florida’s agriculture, natural resources and related food industries.
UFI IFAS extends into each of the state’s 67 counties, with 12 Research and Education Centers and a total of 20 locations (including demonstration sites) throughout Florida. IFAS has developed an international reputation for its accomplishments and agricultural commodities in the diverse Florida climate Today UF/IFAS includes extension offices the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the School of Natural Resources and Environment, and portions of the College of Veterinary Medicine. To communicate with its many constituents, UFZIFAS has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube. They also distribute an e-newsletter on behalf of Jack Payne, the Senior Vice President of Agriculture and Natural Resources. IV. Theory application, “Framing is a tool used by media and politicians to make salient points that would direct their readers to a desired frame of mind” (Cissel, 2012).
UFZIFAS addresses societal challenges and needs that guide their extension service program development and delivery. These “super issues” as they are called, include food systems and our environment, sustainability and conservation of resources in Florida; financial security; youth STEM opportunities, and embracing a healthy lifestyle. In two specific instances, UF/IFAS attempts to frame these super issues to direct their readers to a desired frame of mind. GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are a politically charged topic. As a super issue addressing food systems and sustainability of state resources, however, UFZIFAS frames a news article on “the discussion toward the facts and help the public make decisions based on evidence and not on fear” (Buck, news.ifas.ufl.edu).
In an article announcing an upcoming testimony to the US Congress about GMOs, they admit that there is a “substantial distance between the scientific facts and public perception,” but also mention that it’s worth discussing “the scientific strengths and limitations of the technologies and suggest new thinking” (Buck, news.ifas.ufl.edu). These “distilled terms and phrases [resonate] with specific interpretive schemas among audiences and therefore [help] shift people’s attitudes” (Diatram A. Scheufele & David Tewksbury, 2007, p. 9). Just before the state’s budget was released to UF/IFAS’ internal and external stakeholders a few weeks ago, we learned that a quarantine research facility at the UFZIFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce, was on the verge of getting a funding cut.
In an effort to frame public opinion on why funding should be considered, the UFZIFAS news team published an article on the lab’s research “to identify new candidate biological control agents of Florida’s worst invasive plants and insects” (Buck, news.ifas.ufl.edu). By presenting the information as a solution to a problem that many Floridians aren’t aware of, it affects public opinion so that they deem the lab important to residents. Framing the news in support of the expansion of state budget in this area, rather than on its impending veto, increases the likelihood of keeping the quarantine facility open and the research of invasives and the need for biological control ongoing.
V.PredictionsUFZIFAS could apply the framing theory by adapting the use of new platforms like Snapchat into their digital communications. Since UFZIFAS shapes the public’s knowledge about current events in Florida, this is another way that they could frame the information to individuals. Snapchat’s user interface is one that allows the e story location to become the context, or frame, with the content as the main focus for the creator as well as the viewer. Snapchat could also give UFZIFAS the opportunity to frame certain issues in a very authentic, unfiltered way. Not only uld they be able to continue to deliver content that shapes the public’s opinions, but they would reach a younger audience base as well, which ultimately fulfills their mission of making “knowledge accessible to sustain and enhance the quality of human life” (ifas.ufl.edu).
VI. Theory extension, New characteristics that can be added to the theory include visual framing, or the effectiveness visual representations of content to impact one’s construction of reality and/or shaping of opinion on a topic or event. On the same note of visualization, the framing theory can be expanded to meet the changing digital landscape today. According to Smart Insights’ “Digital Marketing Trends 2015” article, visually curated content, such as video and photos, have the highest impact on audiences (Chaffey, 2015). The framing theory can be adapted to this current trend by any entity or organization that wishes to influence the public’s opinions, ideas and emotions. They can do so by including visually compelling video, social media, and blogging with their messages. In Stephanie Geise and Christian Baden’s research on “Putting the Image Back Into the Frame: Modeling the Linkage Between Visual Communication and Frame-Processing Theory,” they say “text-oriented framing research is at risk of losing traction with current media reality.”
With the basis of framing theory, they propose that complex stimuli, regardless of their form (visual, verbal or textual), “[feed] into the same kind of construction process wherein a coherent interpretation is formed.” In this study they concluded, “visuals generate additional salience, facilitate long-term storage, and circumvent discretionary control… [and can be] processed with only little knowledge of conventional codes and connotations” (Geise and Baden, 2015). UFZIFAS’ series of infographics supports the adaptation of the framing theory. The scalloping infographic below, for example, is framed with the intention of increasing Floridians’ knowledge about the recreational activity and the rules to which they need to abide while engaging in the activity to remain safe. They influence and educate the public on scalloping by presenting it in a colorful and fun “How-to” frame. It would be interesting to study the effects of the framing theory and behavior change or knowledge gained in educational settings with the use of visual messages and communications.