Q&A on Framing, Public Engagement, and Social Media

The American University news media relations office is running a Web feature that focuses on many of the themes discussed at this blog. The feature is in the form of a "Q&A." You can read the feature here. Below are the questions for which I responded with written answers.

Q: What is "framing" and why is it important?

Q: What, in your opinion, is the most pressing scientific issue in need of being reframed in the United States, and why does it need to be reframed (what about the communication of this issue has not worked to win over broader public support)?

Q: How would you reframe this issue to win broader public support?

Q: Severe cut backs in mainstream news media will likely lead to even less coverage of scientific issues. What opportunities -if any- do you see in social or participatory media for improving science communication?

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Excellent answers. What I get from this that I like is the idea that framing is simply what everyone is doing already, whether they know it or not, or accept this fact. The idea here then to me is getting it right and with that comes being skeptical of others approaches.

Two quotes I liked:

~ "Framing is an unavoidable reality of the communication process, especially as applied to public affairs and policy."

~ "The choice therefore as a journalist, expert, or advocate is not whether to employ framing, but rather how to effectively frame a message for your audience."

Of course critics of your framing idea falls along the lines of skip framing and offer what is true. My perception of that criticism misses the point that to be skeptical of claims is no less part of the process, and also that whether dismissing framing or not the technique is employed by the critic. Thus, critics who advocate whatever approach they wish end up being hypocritical since they are framing the debates as they see as most effective. Claims within a framing context can not only be a wrong approach, but also wrong in content at certain levels. Proper framing then in my opinion is beholden to communicating what is true, while recognizing the provisional nature of scientific truths.

By Luke Vogel (not verified) on 31 Dec 2009 #permalink

An example of what I am talking about above is illustrated well by Richard Dawkins (there's many examples I could use since the release of, The Greatest Show On Earth). It's useful since critics of framing often wouldn't apply that criticism to what Richard says below, even though there's no mention in the post of communicating what is true, though it would be most likely argued that is already assumed, again that would miss the point which is why I'm posting this.

This is advocating framing very openly and precisely:

Richard: ~ "I suspect that most of our regular readers here would agree that ridicule, of a humorous nature, is likely to be more effective than the sort of snuggling-up and head-patting that Jerry is attacking. I lately started to think that we need to go further: go beyond humorous ridicule, sharpen our barbs to a point where they really hurt.
I am more interested in the fence-sitters who havenât really considered the question very long or very carefully. And I think that they are likely to be swayed by a display of naked contempt. Nobody likes to be laughed at. Nobody wants to be the butt of contempt.
Listen to the stumbling, droning inarticulacy, the abysmal lack of anything approaching wit or intelligence. Imagine this yammering fumblewit coming up against Christopher Hitchens, or Dan Dennett, or PZ Myers â doesnât it make your mouth water?
Maybe Iâm wrong. I'm only thinking aloud, among friends. Is it gloves off time? Or should we continue to go along with the appeasers and be all nice and cuddly, like Eugenie and the National Academy?"[End]~

The framing techniques advocated: Contempt, ridicule, aggressiveness. The "wit and intelligence" are actually criticisms of the appointments which is used to highlight they are "stumbling, droning inarticulacy".

By Luke Vogel (not verified) on 31 Dec 2009 #permalink