Blog 9: Media Use & Effects in Agricultural Communications

Take a minute and think about how you learn about current events affecting agriculture. How do use media in this process? What media do you select? Now, think about another topic that you are completely unfamiliar with. How do you learn about it? What role does media play in your understanding? How are these two processes different for you? How are they the same? What does this tell you about how people unfamiliar with agriculture may learn about it? What did you learn is this week’s readings that could help you improve this process?

Sorry to begin with so many questions, but I think it helps to put us in the right frame of mind when discussing the role of media in agricultural communications. We all know that the number of journalists with a specific ag beat has dropped dramatically. Reporters are now asked to cover multiple topics and likely take the pictures and video associated with the stories and upload it to the web or a blog themselves. Very few members of mainstream media understand agriculture, but I hope you realized from this week’s readings that we cannot make grand claims about the media’s power to corrupt (or save) society. Media is one piece of the entire puzzle. People do not absorb 100% of the content they come in to contact with and personal characteristics play a huge role. The theories discussed in this week’s readings play a large role in our understanding of how people process and seek information. If you were seeking to change a person’s attitude toward the handling of livestock, which theory from this week do you think would help explain the process best? Would you select a different theory if you were trying to change a farmer’s attitude toward adopting new technology?

As you are learning in the peer review process, scholars do not always agree. From disagreement arises some of the world’s best discoveries. As scholars you shouldn’t just accept things the way they are. Ask questions, challenge the norm, and test the theories you find issue with. You may disprove what another scholar has found, or convince yourself that the theory should stand. As you read through chapter 14, was there a place where you questioned the author’s claims or how they were presented? Was your reception the result of negotiated meaning or an outright oppositional decoding situation?   

 

 

19 thoughts on “Blog 9: Media Use & Effects in Agricultural Communications

  1. Class,

    Agriculture communication is vital especially when learning about current issues affecting agriculture. Due to being heavily involved in agriculture each day I tend to be educated on current events through being involved in the field. However, if I was not in the field of agriculture I would most likely not be as interested in learning the current events. Simply because if it was not the center of my interest as with other aspects of life I would not study it nearly as much. Therefore, other than the normal day to day keeping up with agriculture and learning what is occurring, I learn through social media, local radio stations that serve the local farm community, and RFD tv.

    In contrast, when I learning about current events in the world outside of agriculture I tend to watch Fox News. Unless it is a major event, agriculture news is not always at the forefront of the day to day current news. With that being said, we must check into the day to day happenings related to agriculture if we want to know. When thinking all of this through I realize that those that are not familiar with agriculture really do not have opportunities to be educated. Like I said above, I choose to watch and listen about agriculture because that is my passion and livelihood. By watching the local news an individual would not have the opportunity to be taught about agriculture. That makes me realize that as agriculturists we must continue to get the positive word of agriculture out there.

    Next, I believe that any of the theories could be used in some way to change the attitude toward handing livestock. Each theory brings about successful attributes that can be used toward positive aspects of agriculture.

    In conclusion, chapter 14 brings about several awesome ideas related to agriculture communication as well as the many theories. One could come up with a variety of opinions in regards to if the theory should be altered or remain the same. Throughout the claim there was not a place that I questioned the authors claims. I felt that strong backing was used with each aspect that was mentioned which made each claim believable.

    Ashlyn Richardson

    1. Ashlyn,

      Contrary to your daily media intake, I don’t really watch Fox news or any news channel, but it does seem that agriculture doesn’t really reach mass media unless it is a major event. But are these events mainly causing negative opinions of agriculture? Is there a way to reach those outside of agriculture through their normal channels of communication? Listening to the local radio station sometimes provides a blurp of agriculture, but it is mainly advertising. I wonder if it is a means of funds to reach the public through their own channels of communication, or the gatekeepers of newspapers, radio stations, and tv channels.

      You stated that we need to spread a positive message of agriculture. What are some of your initial thoughts of doing this? Or what would be something that holds us back? For me, one of my first thoughts is billboards! These are typically used for advertising on the interstate, but what if we utilize them to entice people about agriculture? People are constantly driving, so this would be a great way to expose agriculture to those outside of the industry. But funds could be an issue, and if there is only the driver in the vehicle, will they really care to be scanning the billboards?

      Thank you for your post this week! A lot of what you presented, I completely agree with and enjoy reading your thoughts.

      Jessica Woofter

      1. Class,

        Being involved in agriculture through class and work, I am exposed to media daily. But now that I am asked how I utilize media and what my selection process is, I can’t help but be ashamed. As an individual in the agricultural industry, I should be actively searching for news on a daily basis, whether that be through newspapers, journals, tv, or newsletters. Instead, the majority of the media I interact with is through work emails and social media, or word of mouth. For instance, a hot topic that has been discussed at work is the partnership between Dow and ADM that allows more growers to plant Enlist E3 while they await the trait approval form China. My use of media in these situations is typically relayed through opinion leaders, whether that be coworkers, family, or friends.

        In the instance of learning about an unfamiliar topic, the process is similar to agriculture. I may obtain information from a secondary source, but in return perform my own research on the topic, or find the main source of information. Similarly, for school or work, when I research a new topic, I typically utilize google for general information. The general information then leads my research on the topic, depending on my interests (or class requirements).

        My process for selecting media and learning about an unfamiliar topic are different in the aspect that I generally don’t deliberately search for media on agriculture, it crosses my path through work or social media. On the other hand, when learning about a new topic, I actively seek out information. My means for validating information is similar in both processes, I seek out trustworthy sources to validate what I found or disprove.

        When people outside of agriculture use a similar process, it is understandable how they could become disconnected from the industry. Hearing news from opinion leaders influence individuals differently than interpreting the news them self. Since opinion leaders have initially interpreted the message based on their opinions, experience and beliefs, the message they relay may form a negative perception of agriculture, although the message is not negative. In the article about salmonella, not all tomatoes were contaminated, but those who interpreted this passed that message on.

        Through several of the theories we read about this week, I have learned a lot about my personal media selection. I don’t have cable to watch the typical morning news, and I’m not sure that I would at this point in my life, and I also don’t really care to spend my entire day on my phone reading news either. I am typically a skimmer, unless something is of interest to me. I find most media sources through social media and work, but I want to expand my knowledge and interaction with media. Now, I consider creating an alert of some type that will send notifications or emails to me when media is released about a certain topic of interest. In google news, one can set preferences up and this will start to connect me more to media, instead of relying of social media, work or conversation.

        The reception theory is one theory that could be incorporated to use when explaining livestock handling to the general public. Voice inflection, body language, graphics, music, and other elements guide the reception of the content of the message. On the other hand, the diffusion theory is a great process to use when introducing new technology to a farmer, filtering out the early adopters. More farmers will incorporate the technology once they see the early adopters experience and success.

        In chapter 14, the fraction of selection theory is discussed. The actual fraction of expected reward over effort required is displayed and triggers my thoughts of the perception of agricultural communication to the public. Personally, if I read a headline that doesn’t pertain to me, I probably won’t waste my time reading the news. While I agree with the claims of this theory, how do we, as communicators, make our messages worthwhile to the public and consumers? Is it through words, pictures, people?

        Jessica Woofter

    2. Ashlyn,

      You say that you are heavily informed on current events because you are in the field. How do you get this information? Are you sitting in on meetings that provide summaries of current events? Are you actively spending time researching current events? Is it primarily word of mouth or internet research? Even though I am in the field, I would suggest that I am only very educated on the agricultural education policies and hot topics not those of crop sciences or food science. Are you educated in all of the vast areas of agriculture?

      I agree with you that unless it is major news, agriculture news is not showcased on the daily news. Most of the time the agriculture news that is considered major is only when something negative has happened. How could we promote positive messages about agriculture? Could we suggest a social media page that highlights what the good people in the agriculture industry do in their spare time? Could we create more parodies like the Peterson Brothers to reach wider audiences?

      I always enjoy reading your thoughts.
      Christina Peterson

    3. Ashlyn,

      I too am interested in keeping up with agricultural stories and current events. However, I feel I struggle with finding information. As most of us have mentioned, many large media outlets do not cover agricultural news stories and that is more of a specific industry or related page’s job. I’d be interested to know what sources you find beneficial to your news consumption. Additionally, I find the industry to be so vast and region specific that sometimes we wouldn’t want our news to be from a large media outlet, unless it pertains to legislature or regulations. As an example, the state of Kansas – what might be relevant to media consumers in the western half, probably isn’t as useful to consumers in the eastern half.

      Also, when thinking about solely agricultural news story outlets, I am having trouble thinking of any. In the agricultural industry, I find that many outlets also supplement their content calendars with lifestyle, entertainment, or feature pieces. These are great pieces for those media consumers who want to hear about interesting and heartwarming pieces, but are we losing sight of the goal of agricultural news stories? I know not all outlets operate like this, but I am just thinking of some examples that I know of. Just a thought!

      I enjoyed your perspective this week on the blog. Thanks for sharing!

      -Anissa

  2. In the past, as an undergraduate studying agriculture, I had no trouble learning about current events in agriculture. I took a class on the subject and was involved with collegiate Farm Bureau programs that focused on agricultural issues. Most of my knowledge about the issues came from word-of-mouth first. As a graduate student, though, I am not currently involved with agricultural groups, so don’t always hear about current issues in agriculture from those around me. Because of this, I learn about a lot of current events through social media, specifically Facebook. I follow many agricultural groups on Facebook, so I usually see news about hot-button issues there. Since Facebook allows two-way communication, I feel like I can more accurately form my own opinion on things because I usually see responses from different sides in comments or posts.

    Since a newspaper or TV news broadcast communicates one-way, I think it is easier to either not listen to information or to soak it up as fact without questioning or thinking; to selectively expose yourself to what interests you or what you want to hear. I think that the uses and gratifications theory can be applied to this thought. I can choose what I want to see on Facebook and what I don’t want to see. In fact, I just “left” two different women in agriculture groups because I did not agree with the material that they were posting. I felt that it was not factual, agricultural information, so I purposively chose to not be exposed to it. Many times, I see a topic on social media that interests me and then I do my own research to learn more about it. I try to be careful about choosing credible sources so that I get the most accurate information that I can.
    Growing up, each evening my siblings and I would get home from school and watch the local and national news on TV with my parents. This was part of my daily routine for years and it was where I learned about general current events. I continued that routine when I moved out on my own until about a month ago, when my TV broke. At first, I was very upset but have found that, while I miss watching the evening news because of sentimental reasons, I am a little bit less stressed about what is going on in the world. I do enjoy hearing about local happenings, events, and weather, but I don’t really miss the scary or depressing stories. I know that it is important to be aware of current events and, thought I want to be, I don’t feel anxious about not having access to certain media right now. I think this is a situation that could illustrate media dependency theory, as I look to media for information about politics, events, and weather but also am not completely dependent on the TV news to give that information to me.

    As an example of agricultural issues and selective perception, I watched the documentary “Food Evolution” last night with an auditorium full of K-State agriculture students. The film’s premise is to educate and change people’s minds about genetically modified agriculture and food. It uses scientific facts and is credible; I enjoyed watching it and agreed with the message. Still thinking about it this morning, I logged into Facebook and went to the Food Evolution Movie page. It was very interesting to see the comments from both GMO supporters and from advocates against genetic modification on the page.

    While watching the film, because I was with a group of people who have similar feelings about the issue, I did not wonder what others in the room were thinking; however, when I checked what people were saying on Facebook, I found myself thinking about how those who don’t know anything about the science behind genetic modification would view the information presented. The movie even addressed this briefly when it mentioned that humans like to hear things that they believe in. The example given was that, if someone agrees with the opinions of Fox news, they are most likely going to be most comfortable watching Fox news.This fits in with several topics discussed in this week’s reading. Much of chapters 13 and 14 focused on the idea of consonance or following media sources with which an individual shares beliefs. The individual differences theory states that each person is influenced differently by media due to variances in psychological construction. For example, since I am involved in agriculture, my beliefs aligned with the film’s message; therefore, I was positively influenced by it.

    On the other hand, a student near me stood up as soon as the film ended, muttered under his breath that he couldn’t take any more of this, and stomped out of the room. Clearly, he was influenced differently and negatively and was experiencing dissonance with the topic. I think that, often, this reaction is common when people unfamiliar with agriculture learn something new about agriculture. In addition, those reporting agricultural or scientific news are not always familiar with the topic. Since they don’t have a thorough understanding of the subject, they can’t produce informative reports or they only report information that they believe in.

    As the multi-step flow theory illustrates, information can be filtered through groups or people several times before being delivered to the receiver. I think that this is done often with agricultural information and, since agriculture affects everybody, people tend to have selective perception and choose to hear or believe what they want. Many times, information that causes fear or other emotions is selectively retained by media consumers. Agricultural communicators tend to spew facts and data that doesn’t necessarily mean anything to the general public, whereas anti-agriculture groups use emotional information to connect better with people. Selective retention reinforces existing beliefs as well, so people don’t have to deal with processing the cognitive dissonance of new information that does not align with their previous thoughts. Keeping this in mind when communicating agricultural issues is important. Attacking people with things they are uncomfortable hearing, whether they need to or not, does necessarily not make them want to believe something.

    If I were trying to change someone’s attitude toward livestock handling, for example, I would use the social learning theory. Introducing a new idea or an unpopular one is hard but can be done by observational teaching and learning. Instead of telling people how well the livestock industry treats animals, I opt for showing them. Perhaps this means a photo campaign showing people working with animals humanely, or maybe something on TV with farmers talking about their livestock and showing how they handle them. Through vicarious reinforcement of good livestock handling examples, people can be shown that farmers treat their animals well.

    If I was attempting to change a farmer’s attitude about adopting a new technology, I would use the diffusion of innovations theory. This theory categorizes people as early adopters, opinion followers, and laggards or late adopters. Most of the farmers I know most likely fit into the laggard or late adopter category when it comes to technology. Farmers are hands-on learners, for the most part, so they would probably need to test out the new technology and play with it to see if it works for them. If it does and they like it, I think they would be more likely to both use it and recommend it to others, which can be a great way to integrate new technologies into agriculture.

    The fictional account of Robert at the beginning of chapter 14 was a nice story but I found it somewhat unbelievable. I know that I have used media to learn things so that I can better relate with people, so the story isn’t completely unrealistic. It just felt like a situation that would only happen in a perfect, storybook world, which I suppose means that I used negotiated meaning to interpret it. Perhaps I’ve watched too many movies in which the main character just really wants to be liked by their peers but ends up looking goofy, but I kept waiting for Robert to be made fun of or rejected by the other guys. The authors meant for the story to teach about how media can be used as a tool and, though it did, I could not identify fully with it.

    1. Deanna,

      Great post! I really liked that you mentioned that during your undergrad degree that you were able to keep up on current events within agriculture more. I agree, that when studying and being constantly involved that it is normal to know everything that is happening. If I was not currently working daily in agriculture each day and studying current market trends such as livestock prices etc. that creates a sense of interest for me to view RFD TV and then listening to agriculture and farming related radio stations. If I was not involved each day then I doubt that I would keep up as much as I do. However, when I decided to take a look into it, I recently realized that those that are not involved enough in agriculture to have the desire to study the latest happenings and trends really do not have an outlet to even have agriculture related news presented to them. I appreciate your take on implementing new technology into agriculture especially because farmers have specific ways of doing things that they have done for many years. Therefore, changing things would be difficult. Thanks!

      Ashlyn Richardson

    2. Deanna,
      I just showed the Food Evolution movie to my Animal Ethics class, and I was so amazed at the fact that this movie grasped the attention of every single one of my students. This movie tapped into the emotions of each and every one of my students, and also really opened up their eyes about the importance of becoming educated about a topic before picking a side. I knew that this movie had a significant impact on every single student because for the first time I did not have to remind them to put away their cellphones, I am excited to read their reflection papers which I will be collecting from them tomorrow. I will be sharing this movie in my Animal Ethics class for many years to come. Thanks for sharing I am excited to see that someone else has also seen this movie.
      -Leah

  3. Reply for Jessica Woofter’s Post
    (There is no reply link under Jessica’s post)

    Jessica,

    I can identify with your thoughts on media selection. I also feel like I don’t always seek out agricultural news like I should. For that matter, lately I haven’t been seeking out general news like I feel I should either. When I do hear news from opinion leaders or word-of-mouth, I sometimes feel like I don’t have the whole story. I feel like media selection about agricultural topics is important but can be tricky because I am familiar with agriculture. Because I know which agricultural groups I usually agree with or I have been around people who believe strongly about a certain aspect of the issue, I don’t always take time to research all sides of a story. It’s good to be aware that I do this, so that I can make myself look at things more objectively.

    Your reference to the Salmonella article that we read last week is a good illustration of news interpretation and perception. I hadn’t thought about that specific article, but it is relevant to this week’s topics too. You say that you are usually a skimmer when it comes to news headlines. I think a lot of us are guilty of that these days. Maybe that is one reason false news and incorrect reporting sticks with us more than the real news. To help myself get the news that I need, I really like your idea of setting up alerts on Google. I think that is something I am going to do so that I can stay better informed. Thanks for that idea!

    Your example from chapter 14 about the fraction of selection theory is good too. I had not thought about that, but I agree with your thoughts. The questions that you pose are also very relevant. I think the question about making our agricultural messages worth the public’s time and energy is a great one. I certainly do not have an answer, but I do think that we, as agriculturalists and agricultural communicators, tend to get caught up in throwing out big words, science, and facts. We don’t always remember that the general public does not “speak scientist.” This communication dilemma is a challenge though, because we have to be credible and not just rely on emotion and opinion, like many anti-agriculture groups do. It’s a slippery slope, indeed, but something that we can, hopefully, help change for the better!

    -Deanna

  4. Class,
    My everyday encounters with media learning about current events affecting agriculture are limited. When I discover new information, it is often through newsletters sent through email or articles that pop up on my newsfeed on social media. Often I find that I am not as current on hot topics in agriculture, even though I am passionate about the industry. I find that in my career choice, the most reoccurring hot topic is funding for agricultural education which leads me to research and stay informed on education hot topics and policies. I agree with other classmates that the information I receive is usually through opinion leaders. Although I am not actively seeking new information on a daily basis, I did choose to follow certain social media, so that I can be exposed to new ideas and topics.

    As an agricultural educator, it is upsetting to reflect on my actions and how I learn about hot topics. I should be actively pursuing topics on a daily basis to keep my students informed. During public speaking and parliamentary procedure season, I am researching information to help my students stay prepared for possible motion and speech topics. It would be great to have a hot topic Wednesday in classes where students and myself can bring hot topics to class and discuss for the first 20 minutes.

    On the other end of the spectrum, when I am learning about another topic that I am unfamiliar with, I head straight to good old google and start researching. This is a topic that I am actively seeking out information. I go through the generated list of information looking for reputable sources to gain information from. I may go to Wikipedia to gain a general overview, but do not look for specifics on any information at that source.

    Reflecting on my current process of how I get information about hot topics, it is understandable how a majority of people unfamiliar with agriculture may get confused or seclude themselves from hot topics facing agriculture. Many of these individuals may like a social media page that is distributing information lacking validity, which could skew their perception of agriculture. They may also lack the motivation to sit at a computer scrolling through pages to research current agriculture trends. People unfamiliar with agriculture are likely going to continue to be unexposed unless an event in their life triggers them to research information. For instance, a jimmy dean sausage recall may prompt consumers to research current food safety guidelines if they are a constant consumer of the sausage.

    Something I read in this week’s readings that can help me improve my own process of learning about current agriculture topics is to make sure that the expected reward is greater than the effort required as described in the theory of fraction of selection. I can do this by downloading AGRO news on my phone and substitute twenty minutes daily of social media scanning to scanning AGRO news. This will make the effort minimal but the reward of learning new information high.

    If I were seeking to change a person’s attitude toward the handling of livestock, the theory from this week that would help me explain the process best would be both cognitive dissonance theory and individual differences theory. When explaining to someone who is against the handling of livestock, I think it is important to keep in mind that the media influences people differently. While trying to change a person’s attitude, that individual may have preconceived notions that are working against you. If you are constantly thinking of what they may already have experienced or researched, you can be more mindful of how your body language, voice, and actions come across to them. Cognitive dissonance theory also will be helpful as you are sharing information that may not be consistent with their experience. Using strategies within this theory to turn dissonance into consonance will greatly impact the effectiveness of your message.

    On the other hand if I was trying to introduce new technology to a farmer, I would use diffusion theory. Farmers are often set in their ways because they are tried and true methods. This theory explains that once you get an opinion leader on board, the followers will do what they do best—follow. After the initial followers, it will hit the critical mass, which then will prompt the late adopters to join. This theory is best to help new products spread.

    Best,
    Christina P.

    1. Christina,

      I really enjoyed reading your post. I loved hearing about your ideas to take a more active approach towards learning about agricultural issues. While utilizing the fraction of selection theory, I too may alter my ways of obtaining this type of information to ensure that I am balancing my expected reward with the effort required.

      Utilizing the cognitive dissonance theory to explain animal handling practices to someone who is unfamiliar with the subject sounds like an excellent idea. To craft our messages, we must first be aware of the dissonance that we may cause. We also need to be aware that because of this dissonance there are two outcomes. The audience may change their attitudes because of the message, or they may discredit the message to support their existing beliefs, opinions, and attitudes.

      I also liked your idea of utilizing the diffusion theory to introduce new technologies to farmers. You could get opinion followers to jump on the bandwagon after witnessing the successes of big companies and trusted groups utilizing these technologies. My grandfather is the poster child for farmers that are set in their ways. Thus, I completely see how this theory might be helpful towards changing the ways of these types of individuals. For example, my grandfather’s friends started utilizing computers over 15 years ago in their farming operations. I would consider them opinion followers. On the other hand, my grandfather finally purchased a computer this past year. He would be considered a late adopter.

      Thanks for your insights this week!

      Best,
      Alyssa S.

    2. Christina,

      I really liked your idea about hot topic Wednesday I think that is a creative way to keep your students educated and informed on current issues or topics within the agricultural industry. I might try to incorporate this into my Animal Ethics course, I know that my students have really enjoyed covering hot button issues. Thanks for sharing!
      -Leah

  5. When looking back on how I use media to learn about current events affecting agriculture, it was almost tough for me to think of what mediums I consumed. After considering it, I’ve gathered that I rely on social media for a large portion of my agricultural news. Since many of my connections on social media care about agriculture, there are often stories, news updates, and entertainment pieces being shared through my newsfeed. I would consider this my main source of agricultural news. In addition, I would say I have previously been exposed to agricultural news through my courses on campus, whether that be through examples used in class or just pre-class discussions of news happenings. Another minimal method of agricultural news sources for me is the radio. When it comes to the selection process of agricultural media, I strive for reliability of the source and ease of understanding of the topic.
    On the opposite side of the spectrum, I still use similar mediums and qualities of my news sources. However, news of unfamiliar topics is less likely to appear in my online newsfeed. Often, if I read an article, “related articles” pop up that have similar topics/news. For me, this is a good test and showing of how the same content can be framed differently.

    As I think about these scenarios, I can understand how food and agriculture can be a difficult, emotional understanding for people, as there is a lot I still haven’t learned. To begin, there are many methods and concepts that can be science based and unknown to many. That alone makes agriculture difficult to understand and show to consumers. Additionally, it effects literally everyone. I think this is why I sometimes don’t retain or process much of the news I consume – because it doesn’t directly effect me most of the time. This can be scary for consumers who have questions or don’t understand a process about agriculture. This week’s readings helped bring to light the issues that can arise in how messages are received in the reception theory. I believe this theory could be applied to help change a person’s attitude toward livestock handling. To be successful, there would need to be appropriate and honest information presented in an objective, easy-to-understand manner. Ultimately, as the theory states, “different people can use the same message to process different meanings”. Therefore, we can present the information, but can not be sure the consumers hear, use, or perpetuate the information. For an adoption of a new technology or practice within a farmer population, I would not use the same theory, but rather the diffusion of innovations theory. There are already studies out there relating to these concepts and could be duplicated for different situations.

    Throughout chapter 14, I never really questioned any of the theories or text. I believe this is because I’ve had some previous exposure to some of the ideas, so I already believe those concepts to be true.

    1. Annisa,

      I to had troubles thinking of what sources I looked to when it came to agriculture related topics. I usually do not put much thought into what source to use, it is almost an innate behavior, I don’t think about it I just do it, in a sense. I can really relate to your use of social media for information pertaining to agriculture. I follow a lot of agriculture groups and really enjoy skimming through their information for updates and new advances in the industry. I had not considered class to be a source of media, but It truly can be a great source to learn about new materials. When I lived in a more rural part of Western Kansas, the radio use to be one of my biggest sources of agricultural related news. The stations always had an ag update twice a day. After moving, sadly, I have not been able to find a radio station that provides that kind of information.

      Your use of the reception theory to educate individuals about livestock handling was something I had not thought of, but you bring up a great point. You mentioned that “ultimately, as the theory states, “different people can use the same message to process different meanings.” This, I think, can stand for the agricultural industry as a whole. Because the industry is so wide spread and so misunderstood we have to be careful and be prepared for any circumstance. We may release information but it may not always be understood or perceived by individuals like we thought it would. So, it is extremely important to expect the unexpected and be prepared for all outcomes.

      I really enjoyed your thoughts on this week’s blog!
      -Kelsey Tully

  6. I had never really put much thought into how media affects my perception of topics and how I decide where to get my information from, until reading this week’s chapters. When it comes to gaining more knowledge about a topic, familiar or unfamiliar, I heavily rely on the internet as my source of information. As I had mentioned in a previous post, I have not had cable for a few years now. I rely on other sources to get my information. My main source of information however, is the internet. If I am interested in a topic, or a professor or friend brings something to my attention that I would like to get more information on, I look for articles, documentaries, or websites online. The book talks about the fraction of selection theory and how we balance the effort required with the reward we expect form our specific media uses. To me, finding a newspaper or reading an entire book to gain the information I am looking for seems like a daunting task, when I can quickly find what I need online. I strongly believe, if I had TV, news stations would be my main source of information. It requires less effort and is presented in a manner I prefer. However, with that being said you don’t necessarily get to choose what is presented to you, like the internet allows for. I am also a big fan of social media, I really enjoy reading the shorter more personalized stories that Facebook and snapchat have to offer. I feel more connected with the industry. Social media, allows for a mixture of personal, entertaining, and informational items all mixed together in one location. I love that even when I am not looking for information, there might be an interesting topic on something I was not familiar with as I scroll through my page. The book discusses selective exposure, perception, and retention. I find myself falling into these “traps” because I tend to limit my information sources to the internet. I look at what I want, read what pertains to me, and if I do not agree with an article or what it has to say I lose interest and usually don’t finish the article. I realize this is a terrible habit, and I am trying to be a better-informed individual. Even if I do not agree with the information presented, it is good to know about both sides of the discussion to be better informed, and help bridge the gap as an agricultural communicator. From my own personal standpoint, I feel like people who are unfamiliar with agriculture, will face what the book labels as the cognitive dissonance theory. This theory explains that individuals presented with new information, not consistent with their beliefs will experience discomfort. For agricultural communicators, this means we need to present information in a way that potentially aligns with something individuals are interested or invested to get their attention, then integrate information to them so they are willing to listen and feel confident in what we are presenting them with.

    If I was seeking to change a person’s attitude toward the handling of livestock, I might consider using the multi-step flow theory. I feel that it helps to hear information from more than one source and more than once. As the information trickles down the line some individuals might be more willing to accept the material from different sources as well. For example, a big organization comes out with a commercial about livestock handling, individuals who are not a fan of big agriculture organizations may not choose to accept this information. Later down the road, the message is put out by a local “mom and pop” farm in an area surrounding the same individual. They might be more willing to accept the message the second time from individuals they may personally know.

    If I was trying to change a farmer’s attitude toward adopting a new technology I would use the diffusion of innovations theory. This theory states, several steps or stages allow new knowledge and new products to spread through societies. First, the technology is introduced through media. Then early adopters experiment with the new technology. People see the need and purpose of the new technology through the early adaptors utilization of the new technology and others are more likely to adopt the use of the new technology. Farmers tend to be reluctant on integrating new technologies into their operations due to cost and the time it takes to learn how the technologies operate. By showing the farmers first-hand how it can be beneficial to their operations, I think farmers would be more accepting of the technologies.

    One section that I questioned the authors claims was the section titled, “How Can I Get Happy.” “The author claims that since a vast portion of our lives are spent with media, many times it is experiences with media that leave positive memories.” I would have to say this is an outright oppositional decoding situation. I personally cannot identify with this message. I understand that yes media plays a big part in my life, but to equate that to my personal happiness is way farfetched for me.

  7. Upon reflection, I realized that there are a few ways that I learn about current events affecting agriculture. First, I learn about issues through local and national news stations. I watch the news daily so I often learn about issues that are either directly or indirectly impacting agriculture. I also learn about these issues through word of mouth. I live in a small town, and I interact with members of the agricultural industry daily. It seems like we are always discussing current events that are impacting agriculture. In addition to learning about current events by word of mouth, I also gather information from social media. I follow a variety of agricultural groups on social media, and I rely heavily on these groups to keep me updated through online videos, articles, and blogs. I would say that the group that I rely most heavily on is the California Farm Bureau. I receive updates from them through social media, emails, and their weekly newspaper, “Ag Alert”. I consider the California Farm Bureau to be a credible source, and I trust them publish accurate information. Like my classmates, I would say that I primarily rely on opinion leaders to alert me to current events within the agricultural industry.

    I take an active role in staying up-to-date on current events affecting the agricultural industry, but when I am learning about a topic that I am unfamiliar with, I do not always take an active approach. I typically learn about topics that I am unfamiliar with on accident. I may learn of an unfamiliar topic while watching the news or stumbling across an article on social media. Sometimes I investigate the topic further, but usually I take what I heard and go about my business.

    Chapter 13 describes the process of exposure, comprehension, and memory of media messages as a selective process. For me, I often expose myself to pro-agricultural media messages, and interpret the messages in ways that are consistent with my beliefs. I also retain this type of information. On the other hand, I am more likely to avoid exposure when I am learning about a topic that I am unfamiliar with. I am also less likely to comprehend and retain the information.

    If I were seeking to change a person’s attitude toward handling livestock, I would utilize the two-step flow theory. According to the theory, information flows from opinion leaders to opinion followers. Thus, I would start by trying to change the opinions of the opinion leaders because these individuals are influential over the opinion followers. For example, if a trusted group of veterinarians supported certain handling methods, this may influence the attitudes of their opinion followers.

    If I were trying to change a farmer’s attitude toward adopting a new technology, I would utilize the cognitive dissonance theory. My grandfather is still the boss of our family’s almond operation. He is not progressive and getting him to utilize new technology has been a challenge. For example, this past year was the first year that we had a computer at the ranch office. We started submitting our USDA reports electronically, and my grandfather was very apprehensive because he was experiencing a high degree of dissonance. Luckily, my grandfather started to change his ways to decrease his sense of dissonance. I know that my grandfather is not the only farmer who is uncomfortable with technology, which is why if I were to try and change a farmer’s attitude toward adopting a new technology, I would utilize the cognitive dissonance theory.

    As I read through chapter 14, I questioned the reception theory. The theory suggests that the audience members make sense of media content by interpreting the signs and structure of the content. Today, some people read social media headlines and share these stories without even reading the articles. In this example, are audience members interpreting the signs and structure of the content, or are they taking the words of the headlines at face value? I do not completely disagree with the theory.

    -Alyssa S.

  8. Between teaching 17 credit hours and coaching a 40 member equestrian team I must admit that I do not always have the time to sit down and watch the news. To keep myself up to date on events within the agricultural industry I rely heavily on social media. I am friends with several long time professors who use their social media accounts as platforms to educate the public on current issues, I generally tend to explore their pages frequently and that is how I acquire a lot of information on hot button issues. I know that these professors are very well educated and I find myself often relying on them to help form my opinion on certain topics. Recently there was ICE arrests at the Saratoga race track which caused much discussion at our University because of the tracks close distance to us. This was often the hot discussion at many lunch tables and I found myself being persuaded not by what I saw on social media but by the words coming out of the mouths of the professors that I looked up to and respected. Although initially I did not know much about this topic I found myself researching google so that I could join in on the conversations and understand the concepts at hand that were being discussed. I noticed that a lot of my students were also talking about this topic mainly by what they had read or seen on social media, but the experienced professors were forming their ideas because this was something that had experience with first hand from their experience at the race track.
    When it is a topic that I am well informed with such as horse slaughter or GMOS I have the ability to skim through articles and pick out what is fact and what is the authors opinion. When it is something that I am not well informed in I rely on the experience and expertise of my peers to guide and educate me in the appropriate direction. Something that stood out to me in relation to this concept is, “individual relations theory,” where individuals respond differently to mass media depending on their needs. I am always careful what I read and believe on social media especially when it comes to agriculture because I know this information is often one sided and doesn’t always share the full truth to a story. At the same time I have noticed that a majority of my students believe a majority of things that they see on the internet. I noticed in my class that a lot of my students were completely against GMOS but they couldn’t tell me why or give me any examples of negative effects of GMOS, the only thing I have to blame for this is because of what they have been exposed to and see in the media. There is far more negative attention on GMOS than there are positive ones and the opinions of my students is a pure reflection of this statement.

    If I were to change a person’s opinion on the handling of livestock I would utilize the “uses and gratifications theory” because it is an audience centered approach used understand mass media. I feel that understanding your approach is very important when trying to change a person’s opinion because you want to be careful not to offend them, or cause them any hard feelings because then you definitely won’t be able to change their mind. The objective is to go about this in an educated positive manner to have a positive everlasting impact on the target audience or person.
    The theory that I would use if I were to attempt to change a farmer’s attitude toward adopting new technology is the individual difference theory. We know that often times farmers can be stuck in their way and not always open to changing them, I think that this theory helps us to understand the individual’s needs (farmer’s needs) and can help us identify the best form of media to use to leave a positive impact when trying to persuade the farmer. We don’t want to use anything that a farmer may not agree with or that they may take offense to, we want them to be able to make a connection with us so that then they will feel more comfortable to form the same opinion as us. Those of my thoughts in regards to this week’s reading.

    -Leah

    1. Leah,

      I too rely on social media to find information and stay up to date about agricultural news. I try to follow pro-ag bloggers and agricultural companies on social media, and rely on them to share information onto my feed. It sounds like you also rely on these “opinion leaders” to diffuse the information to you, just as I do.
      I thought it was interesting that you mentioned that many of your students believe everything that they read on the internet. I would be curious to know how much cognitive dissonance occurs for people like your students when they rely so heavily on the internet as a news source. It is always interesting to ask people “why” they believe something is right or wrong, just like your conversation with your students about GMO’s. It makes me wonder how trusting people can be of opinions that they perceive on the internet. It is incredible how powerful opinion leaders on the internet can be, especially when it comes to new technologies or products.
      -Hannah

  9. I use social media such as Facebook and twitter to learn about events affecting agriculture. I mainly rely on the agricultural bloggers and companies that I follow to share events and news about agriculture to find out about it. I also work in Cooperative Extension, so I often hear about agricultural news from our other agents and producers who visit our office. I read about local news, which sometimes involves news about agriculture, in our local newspapers. Something that I am generally unfamiliar with is political news in the city of Wichita and Sedgwick County, which is where my husband and I live. We live in a rural part of the county, and I work in a different county. Because my husband works in downtown Wichita, he is usually more informed about the local political news or issues. I rely solely on him to relay the news to me as he interprets it. The main difference in these processes is that I seek out information about the topic that I am familiar with (agriculture). I stay informed from several sources, discuss news and events with colleagues and generally stay up to date on my own. On the other hand, I do not hear about news or events regarding the City of Wichita unless my husband thinks that something is “newsworthy” enough to mention it to me. In this case, my husband is the opinion leader who initially consumed the media and passed the information on to me while adding his interpretation.

    This comparison between looking for answers regarding something I am familiar with and something I am not was eye opening when I thought about people who are unfamiliar with agriculture. It is likely that people who are unfamiliar with agriculture are going to rely on an opinion leader to inform them of news and events about the subject. That opinion leader’s ideas and interpretations could be skewed or biased. This week’s readings highlighted the power of opinion leaders, which I thought of myself as. While many of my friends or coworkers may selectively choose to avoid agricultural news media, they may rely on me to be their opinion leader to share important news and issues.

    If I was seeking to change a person’s attitude toward the handling of livestock, I would keep the cognitive dissonance theory in mind. If a person had strong personal beliefs about the topic, it would likely cause them dissonance to hear information that conflicted with their beliefs. Knowing that this discomfort would occur, it would be important to help the person create a consistency between their personal beliefs and the information I was giving them about handling livestock. Perhaps their beliefs were that handling livestock in working chutes was inhumane, so consonance may be created by explaining humane animal handling and how working chutes help to keep animals safer and healthier.

    I believe that the diffusion theory would be helpful to know if I was trying to change a farmer’s attitude toward adoption new technology. Farmers are notorious of gathering a coffee shops or restaurants to talk with each other. There are likely opinion leaders in this coffee shop groups who could get on the bandwagon for a new technology and have the power to persuade other farmers to try a product.

    As I read chapter 14, the author’s claims and explanations of the theories were believable. In fact, I could think of personal experiences where each of these theories could have been observed. I did not question the author’s claims about these theories.
    -Hannah Anderson

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