Blog 10: Setting the Agricultural Agenda

I imagine that this week’s readings were of great interest to you, as much of the discussion on the blog has focused on how we can better understand the general public’s perceptions and attitudes toward agriculture. Agenda setting is an interesting theory that applies to so much of what we do in agricultural communications. The three agendas of media, public, and political are areas of deep concern for agricultural communications professionals. Think about the reason you turned on the television or surfed the Internet most recently. What use were you intending when you initially began using the medium? Was it entertainment, information, or perhaps explanation you were seeking? Did the media affect you in obvious ways you were not originally seeking? Can you imagine any subliminal effects you may have experienced without realizing it at the time?  How can we use your answers to these questions and the theories from the chapter this week to address concerns of agricultural literacy in the general public?

One of the common ways the public hears about agriculture is during a food crisis like in the Barr, Irlbeck and Akers article in JAC we read this week. These authors chose framing as the theoretical/conceptual framework for their study. What other theories in this week’s reading would have implications for this study or future studies of food crises?

The Goodwin, Chiarelli, and Irani study also utilized framing. What differences did you see in the way the researchers applied the theory? If you were to conduct a follow-up study based on these authors’ research, what type of study would you conduct? Which theory would you chose to guide the study?

19 thoughts on “Blog 10: Setting the Agricultural Agenda

  1. The most recent reason I was surfing the internet was because I was looking for recipes so I could make my grocery list for the weekly shopping. I was looking for information, but I definitely got distracted while I was looking. When I look for recipes I often turn to Pinterest and of course I got distracted looking at outfit ideas, fall décor, etc. I can definitely see the subliminal effects that I experienced without actually thinking about it at the time because of the distractions I had. I think that most of this ties back into agenda setting. We as agriculturalists must combat the negative notions attached to agriculture for many consumers and instead create our own positive attachment to agriculture. We can use many forms of media to do this on a personal level by posting information on social media, writing blog posts, sharing information, etc.
    The exemplar theory would be a great theory to use in studies about food crises. When food crises occur we often hear about the worst cases such as death and the gives people the stigma that if you are exposed at all to the outbreak then you will become severely ill and possibly die.
    The Barr, Irlbeck and Akers article uses framing theory in more of a positive, unintentional light. The researchers of this article are using framing theory to look at how inputs, intentional or unintentional, could affect the frame of food safety issues. The Goodwin, Chiarelli and Irani article focuses on more of the negative aspects of framing theory in the agricultural industry. They use framing theory to look at how pre-existing framers, changes in wording and activist interpretations frame agriculture in a negative light. If I was going to conduct a follow up study to this research I would conduct a study about what information impacts consumers the most in a food crisis. I would use framing theory and agenda setting for this study and look at types of media used in certain food crises and what consumers remember the most.

    1. I agree with your idea for a follow-up study on what information impacts consumers the most in a food crisis. I think that study might even go beyond framing theory and into more market research on what influences consumers’ buying choices the most during such a crisis.

  2. Everyday I am surfing the internet for classroom purposes, whether it is for a question that a student had that I might need more information on or for personal reasons. I also tend to surf the internet for recipes and of course shopping. I notice that almost every time I am on the internet I will get distracted by an advertisement or if on Pinterest the topic I am search can tend to switch very quickly. When thinking of agenda setting I can understand why there are areas of deep concern in agricultural communications. With any topic out there, one will fight negative effects. Just like we as consumers can get distracted so can those that might be looking for other agricultural topics. By sharing a positive message we could attract readers to those discussions rather than a negative post, blog, or even picture.

    I shared the same idea as Tabitha and possibly others in this course with using the exemplar theory. In this weeks reading they used the framing theory in a positive way. Most of the time the articles we will see come with a negative effect of what could happen in the food crisis. We can take the positive side of the issue and share it through the framing theory just as the article did. This doesn’t only apply to the food crisis but to anything that could have a possible and a negative side. Most of the time in media the negative side is shared. One example that I can think of is with school shootings, you always hear about the deaths rather than potentially that one or two people that helped save many peoples lives.

    1. Michelle,

      I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this week’s readings. I found your comment about school shootings to be very insightful. I agree with you how the media focused on those lives lost and the heartbreak that the families felt with the loss of their loved ones. The media surely doesn’t focus on those officers, teachers, or parents who may have stepped in to help the situation. Although including this positive information won’t bring those kids back, it may shed light on a very difficult situation and remind people how much worse the situation could have been.

  3. I often check my Instagram feed as a form of entertainment while I wait for the bus to campus. Although I was just looking for momentary entertainment on the social media site, I then got distracted by an advertisement for a new Netflix show that appeared in my feed and switched to a browser window to look up a synopsis of the show. Although I was not originally seeking a new Netflix show, I was curious and compelled to look it up anyway. Subliminally, that advertisement caused me to think about what I might watch when I got home, or how I might spend my evening. I think this kind of rabbit-hole effect of online media is very common, and displays the ubiquitousness of media in our lives, as discussed in relation to the “quasi-statistical sense” theory in our textbook. This ubiquitous, rabbit-hole effect can be used to address concerns of agricultural literacy in the general public because it can serve as a reminder to communicators that the public could stumble upon information about the agriculture industry, positive or negative, at any time. Thus, even if an agricultural communicator intends for their online material to be received at a certain time or in a certain way, one must keep in mind that online information can be accessed at any time by anyone, and our messages must be suited to a variety of different audiences with varying levels of knowledge.
    Other theories that might have implications for this study or future studies of food crises are agenda-setting theory and mean world syndrome.
    Agenda setting theory discusses the media’s ability to serve as a catalyst for public opinion and to shape the public’s thoughts on what topics are important. The way media sets the agenda on discussing food crises could have major impacts on public opinion on and perceived importance of those crises.
    Mean world syndrome is caused when heavy viewers of media begin to believe that the world is a “mean and scary place.” We already see evidence of mean world syndrome in relation to agriculture due to the many people that are wary of conventional agriculture due to cumulative exposure to anti-agriculture media. Similarly, the media’s coverage of food crises can stimulate mean world syndrome in audiences and may cause them to distrust their food sources after an outbreak likes the ones discusses in the Barr, Irlbeck, and Akers article.

    While the Barr, Irlbeck, and Akers article used framing theory from the position of how media frames stories to present them to audiences, the Goodwin, Chiarelli, and Irani study applied framing theory from the position of how the audience’s personal experiences and knowledge frame a message for their perception.
    If I were to conduct a follow-up study based on Goodwin, Chiarelli, and Irani’s research, I would attempt to see if the favorable/unfavorable views of the messages were dependent on the topic of the message itself (agriculture) or the other wording of the messages. To conduct such a study, focus groups could be shown a message about sustainability (or another topic mentioned in the Goodwin, Chiarelli, and Irani study) from the agriculture industry, and a message about sustainability from another industry, with a similar intended message and vocabulary use. Focus group participants could be asked to describe which article they considered more favorable for a variety of topics. This kind of study could determine if participants had a specific bias against agricultural messages or if the message delivery was truly the issue. This study could be guided by agenda-setting theory, which discusses how the media acts as a catalyst to shape the public belief of what topics are important. If the media has previously conditioned focus group participants to believe that agriculture is a more important or controversial topic than others, it will affect how they perceive the agricultural messages, regardless of wording.

    1. Elizabeth,

      I like your idea for a follow-up study. I think it is easy to assume that people are reacting to the agricultural industry as a whole, when really, it could just be the way the message was constructed. Focus groups could prompt pretty interesting conversation about whether participant reactions were to the entire industry or the message itself.

    2. Elizabeth,

      I like your idea of a follow-up study regarding similar vocabulary use and similar messaging but across different industries. It would be interesting to see how people’s perceptions change as industry changes, and what preconceived notions they have about agriculture.

      -Rachel Waggie

    3. Elizabeth,

      I also like the idea you have for a follow up study. Seeing if participants had a underlying bias against certain aspects of agriculture or how the message was constructed would be very interesting. I think a focus group would be the best style of interview style, because you can select members of the focus group in order to try to spark very interesting conversations around this topic.

  4. I spend a lot of time on the internet; from using web-based document storage programs (Google Drive) or browsing the internet to develop lesson plans and coach FFA Career and Leadership Development Teams, I typically require good internet connectivity. I sometimes will sneak in a few minutes for entertainment purposes and watch some Netflix or scroll social media. This access to media drives my creativity, it keeps me connected to current events and topics, it gives me access to resources and information and connects me with family and friends. Sometimes several of those things happen at one time. Media influence over time sometimes causes me to be comparative, wondering why my style isn’t as “cute” as theirs or when my house will be as clean as “theirs.” Like Tabitha and Michelle, I see a lot of agenda setting in the way that media has subliminal effects on its visitors. As agricultural communicators, it is important that our message is purposeful. Media viewers can get so quickly and easily distracted by the next thing, our message needs to be direct, authentic, short and sweet.

    The exemplar theory could fit well for situations to food crises like the one in this week’s reading. The crisis itself when coupled with like-type past crisis’ helps justify the importance of food safety and quality for consumers. This theory can also help take a pulse on the way that audience members respond to occurances or in this case, a food safety crisis. Utilizing this method with agenda setting could be beneficial for follow-up studies; allowing researchers to develop and publish studies that will truly influence the audience. These theories are similar in style in their way educate on their objectives, important for a style of publications like these studies.

  5. I am currently posting to the blog from the comforts of a teepee, camped out behind the back pens at our most current ministry event in Pawhuska. I’m certain if you’re reading this you are wondering how on earth could that relate to this week’s blog post? I have camped many, many times in my life, but you can bet that before I took off for this latest adventure that I was surfing Pinterest looking for the latest and greatest way to improve or romanticize my camping experience. Of course like many of the others in our class I was soon lost in the Pinterest spiral that took me from camping hacks to glamping airstreams, which then of course popped up some fun boho boutique ideas, and the list is never ending even though the topics have limited connection. When I consider the implications this could have for agriculture I am concerned at the rabbit trail of information consumers could be bombarded by. A simple search for a pot roast recipe could quickly turn into an overload of false information on why beef products are bad for the environment or how lab-made-meat is the next big thing… I cannot imagine how this shared “information” would impact someone who has little-to-no background in agriculture!

    The food crisis topic we read about this week brought up some very interesting ideas, I too thought of the exemplar theory for a follow-up study. Crisis are often put on public display, because of this any exposure to news regarding previous food crisis would have created a previous “category” for the information, even when it is an entirely new crisis that arises. Combining this theory with the framing theory could help to adjust the already-framed mindset regarding food crisis and agriculture.

  6. Within the last few days, I have either surfed the internet to find ideas for a Halloween costume or to find information for work related projects. Like most of my classmates, my Google internet search changed by me thinking, “Why am I looking at the internet when I could be finding better ideas on Pinterest?” This was the case for the Halloween costume search. Depending on what I am searching for work, sometimes the search will take me in a different direction and I will get sidetracked by other media or information. I would say that the media did affect me in obvious ways that I may not have been seeking. The internet turns into a domino effect very quickly, especially when I am not in any type of time crunch. I may get on the internet to check the status of an order, but then that quickly gravitates to online shopping, then checking the bank account to make sure I have enough money to shop online, and if I do have funds… comparing various products between multiple stores/sites. When I think about another example or source of this domino effect is YouTube and their “up next” or “recommended for you” options. This could potentially be detrimental to agricultural literacy. For example, an individual is curious about the dairy industry and where their milk comes from, so they decide to find a YouTube video with this information. Within the first few results is a video titled, “Dairy is Scary.” The up next video is about “I went vegan for 30 days, and this was the result,” then a video about “The truth about the egg industry.” If a consumer starts watching these videos and believes the information to be true, that one search may have completely changed that individual’s perception of the agricultural industry. A search about milk may have turned into a pleather of false/misleading videos which are shaping consumers perceptions.

    During a food crisis, like in the readings, I agree with my peers that exemplar theory could be utilized in studies related to this or any future crisis. When distributing the information, the delivery of this information will affect the public’s perception of the crisis. It would be interesting to see and compare the public’s perception based on news delivery.

    For the Goodwin, Chiarelli, and Irani study, I would conduct a follow-up study based on the recommendations and research, the theory I would choose would be the Cultivation Theory. I would first utilize the message system analysis. Using this theory would allow researchers to analyze characters, themes, plots, and settings within content on TV. Researchers would then be able to use cultivation analysis to understand the ad’s contribution to a person’s beliefs, behaviors, and values based on these messages. After analyzing this information, it would be possible to increase the occurrence of more favorable messages, and agricultural communicators will be able to focus on those things that are important and essential in the eyes of the consumer.

  7. I most often use the internet for school purposes, and especially for this class since it is online. I always have tabs open and jump around from entertainment to information quite a bit. I’m totally guilty of surfing Pinterest, from searching for recipes to finding cute outfits, when I’m bored or procrastinating. Subliminally, I think of things I need to do or buy when I am randomly surfing the internet. Someone could be searching for a leather purse and follow a trail that ultimately leads them to an animal rights page. Our job as agricultural communicators is to lead them to industry pages where they can gain facts on leather, in this scenario. However, our messages have to be short, sweet and to-the-point if we want to get our message across and hold the audience’s attention.

    Exemplar theory would be interesting to look at in a food crisis communication study. The most extreme cases are often publicized and reported on, while the milder stories are left by the wayside. This would be hard to study after the fact; during a crisis would be the ideal time to collect information regarding exemplar theory in food crisis communication.

    Goodwin, Chiarelli and Irani used messages that had performed positively in a pilot survey for their focus group studies. This frames the message positively from the beginning. Barr, Irlbeck and Akers looked at framing of Salmonella outbreak in agriculture products and found it was often framed negatively.

    -Rachel Waggie

  8. Most recently, I surfed the web to research stationery for Save the Dates. I was seeking information about both design and pricing. While I was looking at an online stationery site, a free couple’s monogram designer popped up, which sparked my interest. I then clicked on the designer pop-up and experimented with different monograms. This turned my original surfing for information into an entertainment use of media since I don’t really need a monogram design. Looking back, I think a subliminal effect I experienced was feeling the need for a couple’s monogram for my wedding. I didn’t have an interest in using a monogram before, but after experiencing the monogram designer, I have been considering the idea.

    I think my experience with the monogram designer could be combined with the social learning theory to address concerns of agricultural literacy in the general public. Just as seeing other couples’ monograms encouraged me to consider making my own, I think the general public could benefit from seeing farmers at work. Social learning theory states that people learn from observing other people. If the general public saw the stories of farmers being lived out instead of just hearing their stories, I think they may come to understand agriculture on a deeper level.

    Another theory I think could be used to study the food crises is the theory of Uses and Effects. The way that consumers choose to use their media sources would effect their perception of the food crises.

    I agree with Elizabeth’s idea about the difference between framing theory in the articles we read. The food crises study used framing theory to describe how media uses framing to present stories to audiences, while the study on improving ag messages used framing theory to describe how consumers or audiences frame messages based on their own experiences.

    To conduct a follow-up study on the Goodwin, Chiarelli and Irani article, I would use agenda setting. I think it would be interesting to compare media agenda setting to consumers’ interpretation of messages to see if the agenda has an effect on interpretation. I think this would best be done by utilizing different organization’s typical agenda setting behavior to portray the same message in different ways and asking participants for their feedback on each agenda.

    1. I agree that it would be interesting to see how the medias agenda would differ from how the consumers interpreted the message. Good idea!

    2. Agenda setting is a major factor in messages of agriculture and how the public consumes them. It would be very interesting to examine how the different media outlets effect the way the information is perceived/received!

  9. I use the internet every day, like most people do, for a variety of reasons. Most reasons are for school work whether that is for my own school work, which includes using google scholar and online library sources to look up journal articles, or for grading student work. I also use the internet for social media, online shopping, streaming shows, and so on. I would say my most recent run in with media would be on social media. I usually just brows looking for posts from my friends, but there are always adds that show up. There was one post that caught my attention. It was a picture of Trump speaking at the most recent FFA National Convention saying that all sitting Presidents are invited to the convention every year, but Trump is the first one to appear in the last 27 years. I did not fact check this at all, but, if it is true, that is impressive. It also is fairly convenient because he was already in the Midwest campaigning for fellow republicans in the upcoming election. I would say my initial feeling after reading this post was different than usual. I can see now that this was a subliminal effect that changed my opinion for a moment. I did not realize it at first. I can see how even this post can have different subliminal effects on different social groups. No matter how you feel about the president, you either take a stance on agreeing with that statement and feel pride because a person in our governmental system seems to be supporting conventional agriculture at least for a moment. He was also giving FFA members and all members of the agricultural community the support in the statements written in the post. But, I can see how this can take a negative effect on certain groups too. If you do not like Trump, you may see him supporting an organization that you are unfamiliar with and just assume that it is bad because you disagree with its supporter.

    I also agree with my classmates in that I think the exemplar theory should be utilized in future studies related to food crises or other crises. When addressing food crises, it is good to couple the current issue with previous food crises to stress the importance of food safety and correct food preparation methods.

    In the Barr, Irlbeck, and Akers article, framing was used to discuss how media frames stories to present to their audiences. In the Goodwin. Chiarelli, and Irani article, framing was used to discuss how an audience’s experiences, knowledge, and opinions shape their perception of a message in the media. If I were to conduct a follow-up study, I would re-do this study in a different geographical location to see if the findings are similar. I personally would be most comfortable do this study in the Midwest, but it might be more beneficial to do it somewhere else.

  10. When I’m online, I’m usually looking for recipes on Pinterest or researching topics for school or work. I’m easily distracted anytime I’m doing either of these topics because there are other topics or ads in the content I’m looking for. Once I see these things, I start looking up more info on whatever that topic is. I can see how this would work in the media when they are trying to persuade you to see things a certain way or bring your attention to another area. Subliminal messaging is very effective in my opinion because it’s a way to make the consumer believe they intended to learn the material they read. We often don’t realize we’ve been subjected to subliminal messaging until afterwards.

    The theory of uses and effects would be really interesting to use in the case of a food illness. I’d be interested to know what media sources the public uses or what they look for in terms of information about an outbreak and how that effects their overall perception of agriculture and that specific outbreak. As we can tell, by framing a message a certain way it can dramatically change how the public reacts. I’d like to know what type of information they seek out initially because of this.

    The Barr, Irlbeck, and Akers article showed framing from the media’s point of view while the Goodwin. Chiarelli, and Irani article was more the consumer’s side. I think it would be interesting to compare these two and see how the goals of the media correspond to those of the consumer.

    1. When I was in the US, I attended a conference about communication risk during the Hurricane Katrina affecting the agronomic industry. It was for me a key factor was to understand how the framing theory was used by the contact groups in timely and short messages helping to mitigate the impacts and organized their efforts thus reducing their economic losses.

  11. Setting agenda as a concept describes the ability to influence the importance of topic on the public agenda. Which suggests that the media can’t tell you what to think but it can tell you what to think about the agenda setting functions.

    For example, the importance of the story is indicated by the size of its heading likewise a story that appears on the front page is more important that a story that appears on page 5 according to this theory the media has the power to focus public discussion on particulars issues.
    Studies have been done that make the agenda settings functions theory seen pretty plausible typically they slow a correlation between the number of news stories on an issue and how important people think the issue is.

    One of the possible theories that it can be implemented for the situation to food crisis is the Prototype Theory which refers to an approach of categorization in psychology. According to the theory individual can make decision by comparing new examples with examples which is already present in their mind. Instead of relying on a single prototype category have many or know exemplar that fit into them. This theory helps to describe the outcomes which have been found thought research in vital areas of categorizations.

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