Blog 3: Why Do We Conduct Agricultural Communications Research?

Happy Labor Day. You certainly are not expected to read or comment on this on the holiday. However, I thought I would go ahead and post in case some of you wanted to use your day off to post.

You may have noticed that I did not respond to your posts in week 2. I may pop in and comment to make clarifications in discussions, but I will predominantly let the discussion happen among you from here on out.

Today, I want to talk about why you should care about agricultural communication research. You clearly care at least a little about agricultural communication research and theory or you wouldn’t be in this class.  I know this week’s readings may not have been page turners, but chapters two and three of your text provide some important foundation information for how we will investigate theory in agricultural communication.

As we discuss the importance of agricultural communication research, it is difficult to separate the values we associate with agricultural communication research. It is important for researchers to strive for a lack of biases in their research. A lack of biases make research and theory more valuable. However, as we have discussed agricultural communication is an applied discipline. We conduct research and build theory in order to solve problems in agricultural communication. Based on chapter two of your text and my discussion here, what axiological view does agricultural communication research take? Is this a positive or negative thing?

In agricultural communication, we often seek to address research questions or objectives through an epistemological lens. We try to understand how people know or don’t know about agriculture and its value in our society. We often research methods for exposing people to agricultural knowledge and understanding in explicit and tacit ways. As we try to understand how people respond to agriculture and policy related to agriculture and natural resources, we regularly investigate phenomenons and human decisions related to those. Critical theories seek to change the world, which is something we often try to do in agricultural communication, I believe figure 2.4 in your text describes this process well and will help you understand theories as we discuss them.

The terms in chapter 3 are important for understanding and interpreting research. I don’t intend to repeat all of the terms here, but know they are an important foundation as we continue to explore theory. Let me pose a few more questions for our class discussion. How might someone develop a campaign to improve agriculture’s public image from a scientific/objective paradigm approach? How would this campaign look if designed according to a humanistic/subjective approach?  How would you operationalize the concept of agriculture’s public image in order to conduct a quantitative survey?

Blog 2: Tools of The Trade: AgCom Journals and Resources for Research

In order to understand theory within agricultural communication, it is important to understand the disciple. The articles you read this week were included to do exactly that. Additionally, I wanted to introduce you to the Journal of Applied Communications (JAC). JAC is the only journal dedicated specifically to agricultural communication research.  There are other journals that publish research related to agricultural communication like the Journal of Agricultural Education, Agriculture and Human Values, and the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Journal.

Mainstream communication journals also impact agricultural communication theory and will publish articles related to scientific communication, teaching communication, health communication, and environmental communication, which are all subjects that impact agricultural communication. In order to streamline the process for this course, our selected journal article readings all come from JAC, but please make note of the vast number of different journals cited within the JAC articles we read.

In the article you read this week by Naile, Robertson, and Cartmell they outlined many more details relating to JAC’s history and content. Because they looked at JAC up to 2006, there are some changes I would like to note. JAC used to only be published quarterly, however, recently in 2014 JAC will add one more journal per year. There is a more recent version of the National Research Agenda than the one mentioned in the article, which you can find here. The article also mentions the Agricultural Communication Documentation Center (ACDC), which is an excellent resource for scholarly and popular sources related to agricultural communications.

Table 4 in the publication shows the populations investigated. I would assume that if this study were repeated with articles since 2006, you would see members of the general public as a population investigated frequently. Our communication with members of the general public has increased in this timeframe, and I know of research focusing specifically on these groups,  we will read some later in the semester. What other gaps did you notice in the populations investigated? I would have liked to see an investigation of which theories were utilized in research published in JAC. Do you have other critical evaluations to offer?

There is an organization that focuses on researching perceptions of the general public related to agriculture and natural resources. This organization is the Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources (PIE Center). I encourage you to seek out this organization as you explore research and theory related to agricultural communication. The PIE Center has webinars on current research projects that are free to join. You may consider attending one or more of these.

If you’re interested in new and social media research related to agriculture, the Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement at Kansas State University focuses on conducting and sharing research on the use of new technology to improve rural livelihoods and producers’ bottomline.

The Irani and Doerfert article you read offered history of agricultural communication and the outlook for the future. I wanted to point out a few things in this article and pose questions for your consideration. First, note the importance given to strategic communication. As you may have guessed from last week’s post, this theme will continue throughout our discussion of theory. Also, the authors’ discussion of the digital age related to agriculture and the green divide. How have you seen these change your communication with audiences? Perhaps this is on behalf of your current job, maybe as a part of a personal advocacy movement, or with members of your family who aren’t familiar with agriculture.

I would also like for you to take note of the discussion related to the academic field. If you graduated with an undergraduate degree in agcom, what do you think about the lack of standardization of course offerings? Do you believe your education would have been enhanced if your program were structured differently? What about dual listing of graduate and undergraduate classes? For those of you in other disciplines, has your academic pursuit been similar? different?

I believe the challenges mentioned related to a low number of faculty positions and small research appointments adversely affect our profession, as the authors mentioned. Recently, PIE Center and the University of Florida have hired faculty members with higher research appointments than teaching or extension appointments. This represents a change in our discipline, which may allow an increase in agricultural communication theory and research productivity. Of course, this is just one institution. Finally, as a class with people from multiple academic disciplines, what do you think about the concept of Figure 1 and multi-disciplinary instructional efforts? What benefits do you see? What challenges exist?

When I first started teaching this course, I struggled to identify the theory used in the discipline of agricultural communication. That is why I developed the study presented in the third journal article you read. The purpose of this study was to describe how theory is used in agricultural communication and what theories are used. This article was a part of the 100th JAC issue and offers a state of the industry related to theory. We will discuss these theories in more detail throughout the course and will discuss how theory can be used an applied. At this point, I just want you to be aware of this article as a resource for theory in the discipline and as a reference for your assignments throughout the semester. In your discussion this week you are welcome to comment on this article too if you have something to say, or just respond to my questions about the other articles.

Blog 1: Introduction to Agricultural Communication Theory

Thanks for joining me for week one in agricultural communication theory. I don’t want to repeat too much information contained in other places on this website or in the syllabus, so please spend some time on this website this week to find out about the course. I will hit a few highlights. Find your weekly readings here and in your text for the course. For information about how to participate in this blog see the assignments page. View the course syllabus for all other details not included in this blog post. See the welcome page to contact me.

With all of the housekeeping information out of the way, let’s talk about this class. Technology is now more important than ever to agricultural communication, as witnessed by your participation in this course online.  I seek to use new technology to connect with people in my research, personal life, and teaching. My goal for this blog is to make a connection between the general communication theories in your text and agricultural communication while allowing us to discuss the text and additional readings as a class. I want this to be a virtual classroom where we can bring ideas together and learn from each other. In my initial posts I will offer insight into your assigned readings and pose questions to you. I encourage you to bring in your experiences, as we will all have different insight based on our past interactions.

This first week, I would like for us to all introduce ourselves. Share with us your first name, your connection with agriculture and natural resources, why you’re taking this course, and something unique about yourself. I will get us started. I am Dr. Lauri M. Baker. I received my B.S. in agricultural communication from Texas Tech University in May 2003. I then went on to work for the Texas Wheat Producers as their Vice President and Director of Communications for nearly five years. I loved that job and the connections I was able to make with farmers and buyers of wheat. I also enjoyed the opportunity to have interns and share what I knew about agricultural communications. This lead me to graduate school at the University of Florida where I received my M.S. and PhD in agricultural communication. When I started my graduate work, my primary interest was in teaching. However, I quickly started to get excited about research and the understanding it offered related to how people think about and perceive agriculture and the environment. By the time I graduated with my PhD in April 2011 and accepted by first tenure-track faculty position at Kansas State University, I was driven to continually work on research. Primarily, I continue to design research projects to determine how agriculture and natural resources can communicate more strategically with the public and the role new media plays in impacting the bottom line of these industries through the Center I co founded, The Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement.  

Let’s discuss chapter one of your text. Chapter one talks about communication as a basis for human interaction and shared culture. Agriculture certainly has an unique culture. This culture can be a blessing and a concern when discussing agricultural communication theory. Often we see agriculturalists “preaching to the choir”. We love to tell ourselves how great we are at producing the world’s food and conserving land for future generations. It is also a part of our culture to keep to each other when we need to share agriculture’s story with the general public. I have also seen this close culture take on a negative connotation. I have seen some involved in agriculture develop an outward superiority assuming everyone outside of agriculture doesn’t have good values or a hard work ethic. Your book describes this occurrence as a perceptual consequence. This social structure is something we will continue to discuss as we look at ways to apply theory to engage the public in conversations about agriculture. Your book talks about the need for strategic communication, which is a term you will continue to hear throughout this course. Communicating strategically is extremely important when dealing with complex, scientific topics like food policy, biotechnology, and precision agriculture.

When your book discusses social reality as a dialectical process, an agricultural example immediately comes to my mind. We have seen the general public become farther and farther removed from production agriculture, primarily due to technological advances in agricultural science. This has been a challenge in the public’s perceived value of those who produce the world’s food supply. In recent years we have seen a shift. The public no longer wants to be completely removed from food production. The public now regularly expresses an interest in visiting farms, purchasing locally grown items, and even growing some food themselves. This concern also extends to the way animals are handled in meat and dairy products. The public’s concern offers new challenges and opportunities for agricultural communicators, which we will continue to explore.

I would imagine many of you have “lay theories” right now related to why people behave the way they do, I encourage you to continue to think about these. Perhaps your lay theory will work into a research question you can examine in order to inductively create theory, or perhaps as we examine existing theory you realize there is already a related communication theory. You may also began to ask more questions as you learn about new theories. You may end up developing a research question in order to deductively add to theory. I encourage you to continue to question and seek answers. Please share your questions and answers with the class. This is how we will all continue to grow together. I encourage you to use pg. 14- 19 of this chapter as you encounter theory in the book and in your assignments. As a scholar, continue to seek validity for theory.

Now, I want to hear from you. As you read chapter one, what connections to agriculture did you notice? It is ok if you do not have an agricultural background. That will make our discussion even more diverse. What terms and/or theories stood out to you as describing agricultural communication? Can you think of a strategic communication effort in agriculture and natural resources? What challenges do you see to strategic communication in agriculture and natural resources? Also, remember to introduce yourself.