Annenberg School for Communication

Founded in 1959 through the generosity and vision of diplomat and philanthropist Walter Annenberg, The Annenberg School for Communication stands at the forefront of education, research, and policy studies on the processes, nature, and consequences of existing and emerging media. The School offers students a firm grounding in a wide range of approaches to the study of communication and its methods, drawn from both the humanities and the social sciences. Home to a wide range of centers and projects, including the Annenberg Public Policy Center, the Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research, the Center for Global Communication Studies, the Scholars Program in Culture & Communication, the Institute for Public Service, and others, research at Annenberg encompasses political communication, global communication, health communication, visual communication, cultural studies, children and media, as well as new media and information technologies, with interests extending beyond the classroom. For decades, research conducted by faculty and students at the Annenberg School has influenced public discussion of the role of the media in shaping the perceptions of the viewing public.

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Now showing 1 - 10 of 50
  • Publication
    How The Public Perception Of Political Polarization Affects American Social Life
    (2020-01-01) Lee, Hye-Yon
    Many Americans believe that the country is deeply divided over politics and that polarization will only get worse. Americans also tend to overestimate the degree of polarization and political extremism. Such exaggerated perceptions of polarization are widespread, but we know little about their effects on our society. Existing studies on perceived polarization have tended to focus on its effects on political attitudes and behavior (e.g., whether it leads to actual polarization), yet its impact outside the political sphere remains largely unknown. I argue that people’s perceptions of polarization matter, often above and beyond actual polarization. My dissertation addresses the consequences of perceived polarization for the quality of America’s social fabric. Specifically, I focus on two factors that are essential for social cohesion: social trust (generalized trust in fellow citizens) and cross-cutting contact (interactions across group boundaries). They serve as a social glue that binds people together, as both elements foster positive and tolerant attitudes toward those outside one’s small circle and promote a sense of togetherness among members of society. Is the public perception of polarization detrimental to social trust and cross-cutting contact? My first two studies use data from a nationally representative panel study and an experiment to demonstrate that perceiving greater polarization and extremism undermines Americans’ trust in each other. I find that perceived polarization makes people more skeptical of the good intentions of others and less likely to cooperate for the benefit of the collective. My third study focuses on the role of perceived polarization in limiting cross-cutting contact. To the extent that perceived polarization causes people to be less trusting and more critical of others, it could also negatively impact their willingness to interact with others, especially those unfamiliar and dissimilar to themselves. Using an experiment, I show that perceptions of polarization make people more responsive to social cues that signal attitudinal dissimilarity, which leads them to avoid those of differing political views early in the acquaintanceship phase. People who perceive the country as polarized are more averse to forming social ties and interacting across political lines, reducing opportunities for cross-cutting communication. My dissertation demonstrates that people’s perceptions of polarization have far-reaching consequences beyond the realm of politics and into their everyday lives. In turn, these social consequences have important ramifications for society’s ability to work together towards achieving common goals and bridging social and political divides.
  • Publication
    Where The Two Trusts Meet: How Social Trust Influences Political Trust In The New Media Environment
    (2021-01-01) Lee, Do Eon
    In the modern democratic society, where it is difficult to get to know politicians in person or to fully internalize the complex political system, news articles strongly influence the forming and updating of political trust. Technical developments have created the layer of one’s personal network between traditional media and its audience by allowing one to share any article with a few clicks. Reflecting this change in how one shares information, this dissertation investigates how online social trust influences one’s political trust, a more deep-seated attitude. There is little agreement on how to conceptualize and measure political trust. Study 1 shows how the NPTMS (New Political Trust Measurement Survey) demonstrates a gap between how the public creates the meaning of political trust and how scholars do. It then proposes more reliable and valid measures of political trust. To better simulate information exchange online, this dissertation introduces the concept of OIST (online interpersonal social trust), trust in a particular person from one’s online social networks. Study 2 looks at the factors that lead to OIST and explores how to manipulate it in an experimental setting. By combining two different manipulation strategies—partner profile and flashcard exercise—OIST was successfully manipulated without influencing other types of social trust. Based on the NPTMS and OIST manipulation strategies, Study 3 connects OIST with political trust and experimentally demonstrates that they are causally related but moderated by the valence of the shared; receiving an article negatively depicting the government from a person one trusts resulted in a lower level of trust in the subjects of the article. This dissertation uses OIST to also reflect the recent changes in how the public consumes news. It offers evidence that “regular people,” who are not necessarily experts or opinion leaders in a particular subject, can make others significantly readjust their levels of political trust. As an increasing number of people consume news through their online social networks, we should note that each individual can influence another’s trust in government, and that the effect may accumulate with continued interactions.
  • Publication
    Dismantling The Art Of Deception: Using "inoculation" To Combat Misinformation From Misleading Cigarette Advertising
    (2020-01-01) Gratale, Stefanie Kristen
    DISMANTLING THE ART OF DECEPTION: USING “INOCULATION” TO COMBAT MISINFORMATION FROM MISLEADING CIGARETTE ADVERTISING Stefanie K. Gratale Joseph N. Cappella Misinformation is a growing concern in the public health realm, as it is persistent and difficult to correct. One strategy recently considered to address misinformation is “inoculation”, which leverages forewarning and refutation to defend against a subsequent persuasive message. Here, I aimed to assess whether inoculation can be harnessed to forestall implicitly arising misinformation such as that from misleading natural cigarette ads, which have been shown to prompt widespread misbeliefs. I conducted three randomized online experiments assessing means of inoculating against misinformation. The first tested inoculation tactics to determine whether particular message formats are more effective (i.e., exemplar, narrative, or exposition), and to assess whether inoculations must refute the exact arguments from the misinformation or can more generally match argument themes. The second study tested an attenuated generic versus a specific refutation, and explored results over time. The final study focused on a particular inoculation strategy – highlighting prior deceptive messaging by the persuasive source. Results indicate that inoculations can successfully defend against misinformation from misleading ads; further, they do not need to match exact arguments or even exact themes from the arguments in order to reduce misbeliefs. In fact, high level, generic refutations successfully reduced misbeliefs both immediately and with a time delay, and, crucially, so too did inoculations that included an explicit forewarning but only an implicit refutation. Furthermore, multiple inoculation message formats were successful, and the effectiveness of inoculations was enhanced, to a limited degree, by identifying prior deceptive messaging by the persuasive source. Finally, findings supported counterarguing as a potential mediator of effects of inoculation messages on misbeliefs. The significance of the results here lies in their support for key inoculation components – forewarning and refutation – as well as the much-hypothesized mechanism of counterarguing, when attempting to combat misinformation. The core contribution of these studies is the consistent finding that we can successfully inoculate against implicit misinformation without directly addressing the exact misinformation claims, which is particularly important with implicitly arising, often difficult-to-anticipate misbeliefs from misleading advertising.
  • Publication
    Networked Memorialization: Victims Of Communism Memorials In Germany, Russia, And The U.s.
    (2020-01-01) Oliver, Samantha
    This dissertation examines victims of communism memorials in Germany, Russia, and the U.S. to shed light on the current state of Cold War collective memory. Drawing on literature in communication and memory studies, I articulate a key set of taken for question assumptions about the nature of war memory, and examine how such premises are problematized by an unconventional conflict like the Cold War. Then, I turn to a series of case studies – the Berlin Wall Memorial in Germany, the Wall of Grief monument and Last Address Project in Russia, and the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington D.C. - to examine how the Cold War is being made meaningful within these contexts, and to consider what each project contributes to our understanding of the Cold War and collective memory more generally. My methodological approach centers the institutions and organizations that develop, execute, and maintain these sites. I explore these case studies through interviews with stakeholders, site analysis of the memorial spaces, and a textual analysis of organizational and planning documents, project websites and social media, and media coverage. I find that the Cold War is not a universal signifier, and that each of these sites disaggregates and re-aggregates “the Cold War” in a way that attends to localized concerns. I find uneven support for existing premises of war memory, and articulate the need for new ways of understanding contemporary memorial projects. I develop the concept on networked memorialization as a framework for understanding the relational nature of contemporary memorial projects. Networked memorialization is the idea that memorial projects are made meaningful within a complex network of institutions, projects, and actors, and that those networked relationships play a role in shaping commemorative work. Memorials are networked internally and externally, formally and informally, collaboratively or antagonistically, and are subject a variety of power dynamics, including issues of funding and visibility. This dissertation thus contributes to our understanding of Cold War collective memory by revealing its partial, unstable signification, and to our understanding of contemporary memorial projects by offering networked memorialization as both a heuristic and analytical tool.
  • Publication
    Cultural Influences On Social Norm Development, Perception And Conformity
    (2021-01-01) Pei, Rui
    The behaviors and expectations of others powerfully shape human behaviors. This dissertation investigates how culture may influence the conformity to and perception of social norms. Specifically, I focus on individualism vs. collectivism, a cultural variable that characterizes the extent to which people conceptualize themselves in the context of social relationships. This work demonstrates that the developmental trajectory of norm susceptibility during adolescence and early adulthood are distinct in collectivist vs. individualist cultures, and that in early stages of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), collectivists show higher levels of normative perception that other people practice preventive health behaviors.Chapter 1 introduces past research on cultural and developmental influences on norm conformity, summarizes the rationale for focusing on individualism-collectivism as a key cultural dimension, and presents an overview of the research and methods in this dissertation. Chapter 2 investigates the developmental trajectory of social norm susceptibility in a collectivist culture (China), providing preliminary evidence that the developmental trajectory of social norm susceptibility in Chinese adolescents may be different from trajectories previously observed in U.S. and European samples. Chapter 3 concurrently recruited adolescents and young adults from the U.S. and China, and provided a direct cultural comparison in the developmental trajectory of social norm conformity. Results from this chapter demonstrate that cultural background moderates age-differences in social norm conformity: whereas U.S. participants showed a steady decrease in conformity in late adolescence, we did not observe the same trend in Chinese participants. These findings suggest that the developmental trajectory of social norm conformity may depend on cultural context. In Chapter 4, we demonstrated that collectivism is associated with higher levels of normative perception related to COVID-19 preventive behaviors. Further, at a country level, more collectivist countries showed lower growth rates in both COVID-19 confirmed cases and deaths. Chapter 5 synthesizes findings across chapters and highlights new avenues for future research. Overall, these findings indicate how cultural context affects the developmental trajectory and perception of social norms, providing initial evidence that cultural differences may be relevant to public health campaigns aimed at adolescents and young adults, or during crises like COVID-19.
  • Publication
    Emergent Governance: The Politics Of Competition In Digital Markets
    (2020-01-01) Popiel, Pawel
    This dissertation examines a series of US policy debates to provide an account of how policymakers attempt to address gaps in existing policy frameworks to tackle challenges arising in digital platform markets, ranging from mass data collection, the spread of hate speech and misinformation, to increasingly concentrated market power among a few dominant firms. The focus falls on competition policy, which has emerged internationally as one of the most prominent policy frames for governing these sectors. Specifically, I explore how the boundaries of competition policy are discursively contested and negotiated in response to dramatic changes in digital communications by stakeholders ranging from policy experts to regulators to public interest groups to the regulated industries themselves. Drawing on policy documents, stakeholder interviews, and fieldwork in Washington, D.C., I identify the range of interests invested in clashes over policy, including competing definitions of digital platform markets; characteristics of competitive dynamics in them; proposed policy interventions and expectations about their outcomes; and the proper role of the state and of market competition in digital markets. First, this dissertation provides an account of how this politics animates the emergence of a governance framework for digital platform markets, which privileges stronger antitrust enforcement and economic regulation, in response to regulatory gaps introduced by technological convergence and digitization and neoliberal reforms. Second, I assess this framework, whose committed pursuit of competition in digital markets reveals blind spots in addressing the systemic problems posed by platformization and datafication, with significant noneconomic concerns remaining outside its field of vision. Cumulatively, this dissertation illuminates how these policy debates, fundamentally about the role of law, policy, and market competition vis-à-vis new technologies, both enable and constrain imagining and defining a governance regime over rapidly transforming digital markets.
  • Publication
    What We Talk About When We Talk About Journalism
    (2020-01-01) Yazbeck, Natacha
    This dissertation offers a re-examination of core practices and principles that have survived journalism’s transition to the digital. It reconsiders how we think about three fundamental aspects of reporting -- eyewitnessing, transparency and trauma – and examines them in one of the most fundamental types of reporting: covering war, the “litmus test of journalism” (Allan & Zelizer, 2004, p. 4). It takes as a point of departure the actual, physical field of covering crisis in Syria and Yemen, two countries that are home to the worst crises of our time. This dissertation moves to denaturalize naturalized associations which mask selective normalizations, structural inequities and a troubling legacy of racism in the press. It offers a grounded interpretation of three specific practices and principles as they play out among one of journalism’s liminal bridges: stringers. It unravels journalism's traditional claims to authority from the act of eyewitnessing, to accountability from transparency and to the claimability of experience through trauma. This dissertation draws on years of ethnographic observations in the world of Middle East correspondence, in-depth interviews with stringers, staff reporters, editors and psychiatrists and close readings of journalistic and scholarly texts that inform how we think about journalism, how it functions and who it includes. It finds that the privileging of certain frames or associations over others is not arbitrary and has enabled metonymic discussions of journalism in which inquiry stops at the boundaries it aims to interrogate. Failure to specify exactly what is under interrogation in the study of journalism, and to look closely at how journalism functions on the ground today, has enabled the survival of problematic, exploitative structures and systems that trap all those within.
  • Publication
    Hectic Slowness: Precarious Temporalities of Care in Vietnam’s Digital Mamasphere
    (2020-11-01) Nguyen-Thu, Giang
    CARGC Paper 14, “Hectic Slowness: Precarious Temporalities of Care in Vietnam’s Digital Mamasphere,” by Giang Nguyen-Thu explores the temporal entanglements of care and precarity in Vietnam by unpacking the condition of “hectic slowness” experienced by mothers who sell food on Facebook against the widespread fear of dietary intoxication. Crafted during Nguyen-Thu’s CARGC Postdoctoral Fellowship, originally presented as a CARGC Colloquium, and drawing on thirty months of ethnographic fieldwork with Vietnamese mothers, CARGC Paper 14 paper offers an incredibly nuanced and fine-grained engagement with the everyday digital practices of Vietnamese mothers and grandmothers in cities such as Hanoi. This grounded attention to digital life and motherhood is, then, entered in productive dialogue with feminist and media scholarship in order to build a rich analysis that challenges our continued reliance on Western-centric notions such as autonomy to make sense of care, mothering, and media practices.
  • Publication
    News Reading Publics And Audience Fragmentation: Evidence From Online India (2014-2018)
    (2020-01-01) Mukerjee, Subhayan
    A significant body of literature has emerged in recent years to understand large scale patterns of audience behavior in the context of news consumption and exposure to political information. A majority of these studies, however, have often ignored the global South, including India, the world’s largest democracy. As a result, we know very little about how Indians consume news, and the implications this may have for the political process. This dissertation aims to fill this gap by making two major contributions. The first contribution is empirical: the dissertation offers novel empirical evidence of the structure of online news audiences in India by analyzing large scale web-browsing data. The second contribution is methodological: to explain the observed patterns, the dissertation proposes a conceptual framework that synthesizes existing theoretical frameworks in the context of news consumption. Overall, this dissertation proposes an analytical approach to understanding news consumption that contributes comparative evidence and helps in cumulative theory-building. The analyses discussed here show strong evidence that the online Indian news consumption landscape is segregated along linguistic lines. However, national outlets in the English language are responsible for unifying a culturally diverse digital population and reducing audience fragmentation. This is in stark contrast to the overwhelming popularity that vernacular news outlets have in India, offline. I also find that digital-born outlets have not succeeded in contesting the hegemony of legacy media – a finding that runs counter to many optimistic claims about the rise of digital media outlets in India. I show that legacy media and English media have gradually become more popular over time, at the cost of digital-born media and vernacular media, respectively. Finally, I find interesting differences in audience migration patterns: vernacular audiences migrating to national media significantly prefer legacy outlets to digital-born outlets. Vernacular audiences migrating to international media, show no such preference. The dissertation also discusses the socio-political implications of these findings and charts the way forward for future research on India, as well as news consumption research, more generally, from a comparative perspective.