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Annie Specht – Wiki Entry #2: Media Richness Theory



Main Authors

R.L. Daft & R.H. Lengel (1986)




“Media richness” refers to a communication medium’s “ability to change understanding within a time interval” (Daft & Lengel, 1986, p. 560) and is determined by certain mechanical characteristics of the medium, including feedback speed, the number of cues, the degree of personalization, and the language variety (Yoo & Alavi, 2001). Media richness theory essentially means that the richer the medium, the more effective a means of communication it is. In traditional communication media, a rich representation “uses a wide variety of symbolic languages, such as graphics, voice inflections, and body gestures to convey information” (Lim & Benbasat, 2000, p. 451); media richness can be employed to create a sense of presence that facilitates group identification in online environments (Scott, 2007; Rock & Pratt, 2002). Digital media richness involves characteristics such as interactivity and multimodality.



Related Study

Lim, K.H., & Benbasat, I. (2000). The effect of multimedia on perceived equivocality and perceived usefulness of information systems. MIS Quarterly, 24(3), 449-471.



Relation to Agr. Communication Issues

Media richness theory has a strong impact on studies involving online communication. Agricultural communication has traditionally maintained a strong foothold in traditional mass media, like industry magazines and radio programming, but the emerging presence of agriculture in computer-mediated environments means that care must be taken to include various media to increase richness and thus communicative impact. Industry organizations have increasingly begun to utilize multimedia on their websites, such as YouTube videos, podcasts, and interactive feedback opportunities (like blog comments and message boards).



Annie Specht - Wiki Entry #1: Social Identity Model of Deindividuation Effects


Main Authors

M. Lea & R. Spears (1991)




The social identity model of deindividuation effects (SIDE) is an offshoot of social identity theory that posits that “lack of identity cues, when coupled with a shared group identity, amplifies the influence of the group by obscuring within-group interpersonal differences” (Lee, 2008, p. 647). The anonymity of the Internet allows for the “deindividuation” of the communicative dyad, in which users shift from the realm of the personal to the social, and it may also lead to over-reliance on the minimal sociocontextual cues afforded via CMC. This reliance may cause inflated impressions of communicative partners, diverts attention from within-group idiosyncrasies, and makes people more susceptible to group influence (Walther, 1996; Scott, 2007; Lee, 2006). It also promotes the salience of a social identity within an in-group. This increase in group influence and subsequent identification has strong persuasive ramifications: Establishing a strong collective identity, then, provides organization leaders with a heuristic capable of “overriding persuasiveness of arguments” (Lee, 2007, p. 140).



Related Study

Lee, E. (2007). Deindividuation effects on group polarization in computer-mediated communication: The role of group identification, public-self-awareness, and perceived argument quality. Journal of Communication, 57(2), 385-403.



Relation to Agr. Communication Issues

The SIDE model has strong persuasive implications related to social identity theory – it is a model of SIT in practice. Past studies of SIDE include analyses of interactive online games and the real-world response that users have to other game participants – agricultural communicators studying online communities, such as social-networking sites and message boards, can use SIDE to understand group cohesion and subsequent interactions among group members. For instance, a firmer grasp of SIDE may influence how a communicator chooses to set up an organizational message board to increase anonymity and promote group identity among members, which would theoretically contribute to the persuasive impact of the group’s messaging. It also provides a framework for studying how other organizations utilize interactive technologies for communication purposes and to what effect.



Theory wiki #1 – Jen Villard

Theory: Non-verbal Immediacy Construct



Main authors: Janis Andersen, Peter Andersen, Arthur Jensen (1979)



Description of the theory (in this case a construct):

A number of nonverbal behaviors make up the immediacy construct.  Some of the most common behaviors are touch, eye contact, facial expressions and meaningful movements, and whether they are viewed as positive or not.  Nonverbal immediacy is typically studied in parts and not as a gestalt.  Very little research has attempted to study the subfield in its whole, but rather has studied various parts, or effects, of some of the common behaviors that are typically more obvious.  According to Andersen et. al (1979), immediacy, though, “must also be studied as a gestalt for two reasons.  First, since many immediacy behaviors exist, it is unlikely that any study can systematically isolate all relevant immediacy behaviors or ascertain which combinations had the most effect. Second, some immediacy behaviors operate at low levels of awareness or at a subliminal level and cannot be accurately reported by either the interactants or trained observers when coding interactions.”  Housel and Wheeler (1980) say that nonverbal behavior plays a significant role in communicative interaction.  “It is the precise manner in which nonverbal reinforcement affects interaction in dyadic situations that is in need of additional clarification,” (Housel & Wheeler, 1980).  The investigation of reinforcement is only preliminary in developing this framework in dealing directly with interaction.



Example study: What does that smile mean?  The meaning of nonverbal behaviors in social interaction




How this construct relates to Ag Communication issues:

I relate this construct and agriculture issues together through the case of a first impression.  Regardless of the situation, the obvious immediacy behaviors are easily sought out, but not necessarily interpreted as having a particular meaning.  Because different behaviors mean different things and these vary depending on the situation, it is hard to say that interpretation of these behaviors is completely accurate.  I think this construct and the idea of how it plays a role in first impressions is completely applicable to communication in agriculture today.  Regardless of whether a person with very little or no knowledge of agriculture sees an advertisement on television or sees a farmer working in his/her field, that no-knowledge individual is going to make a judgment and have an initial impression of agriculture based on what has been put before him/her.  If on TV or even in person a farmer seems happy and friendly, gives a smile, a solid handshake, gives open and warming gestures to the no-knowledge individual, then that individual may have a different opinion of agriculture because of that interaction.  We are not always aware of the effect nonverbal cues can have on us, but they, in fact, can make or break an interaction and its potential in the future.  First impressions and the nonverbal cues drawn from them can many times have more of an impact than anything said (“actions speak louder than words”).


Theory Wiki:

There are a multitude of communication theories, more than any course can cover in a quarter well.  I want you to find three theories not discussed in class and post them to our Ag Comm theory wiki. Your entry shall include the following: Theory Name, Main authors, Brief Description, Link to an example study, how it can relate to an agricultural communication problem/issue. You will also present your theory briefly in class. Please be sure to put your name next to your additions.



Social Identity Theory  

(Carla Jagger) 


Main authors: Henri Tajfel and John Turner (1979)



Description: A person has multiple selves as opposed to one “personal self”; these selves correspond to widening circles of group membership i.e. family, personal, national levels of self. An individual will think, feel and act on these different levels of self, depending on the social contexts they are in. Social Identity Theory asserts that while in groups the membership of that group creates self-categorization and enhancement that favor the in-group at the expense of the out-group. An example of this is when you are with a group in another country (i.e. study abroad) you tend band together and in some cases by making comments about the natives of the country you’re in.



Example study: Social comparison and group interest ingroup favouritism




Relation to Ag Communication issues:

I think that this theory relates to just about any issue we have in agriculture and ag communications. We always seem to put people in two groups those that know agriculture and those that don’t and all too often in conversation we draw ourselves to the group of people that we identify with the most (those that know about agriculture) by making fun of or commenting about how little the general public knows about agriculture.  When issues come up like animal welfare, environmental issues, etc. it might be a good idea to pull people from the out-group in so we get more perspectives of the problem and look at the issue in a 360 degree manner.






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