Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Visual Rhetoric & Affective Images: Part 2

Pictures can be very effective communication tools. Choosing the right pictures for the right message is very important. Corbett, Cox and the McAllister research confirms that testing images in advance of using them for communication materials is the best approach. The McAllister poll also found that some pictures could speak for whole concepts and problems. Especially for a concept as complex as climate change, images (both pictures and their associated captions) can help explain concepts to people quickly and effectively. This approach may help provide the public with the mental shortcuts, metaphors and level one frames that the FrameWorks researchers recommend.

As mentioned above and in the previous post, affective imagery goes beyond the use of photographs. Using affective imagery in many cases means speaking in a language that the general public can understand. Using metaphors and descriptors that paint a particular “picture” that will make sense to the particular audience at a particular time. Using terms and everyday experiences people understand are important. For example discussion of elimination of traffic congestion and commute time make more sense to the everyday person than does complex ideas like “less urban sprawl”.

The lesson here, which is mentioned in frequently in the research, is that the end result of the actions requested, must be communicated in a way that connects with the person’s beliefs, values and day to day concerns. In essence, creating affective imagery that connects with the level one frame or big ideas that most people already subscribe to.

Additionally, It is important to present information that is vivid “…[vivid] information increases the likelihood that a message will be attended to initially, a process called encoding, as well as recalled later”(McKenzie-Mohr & Smith, 1999). So the information has to communicate in language that is understood by the audience but it also has to be vivid and captivating in order to encode the information in the audience’s brain.

Following this, the message has to be specific. “Messages that describe actions to be taken in clear, straightforward steps are more likely to be understood and followed”(McKenzie-Mohr & Smith, 1999). It also has to be easy to remember “All actions that support sustainability require reliance upon memory. Some activities, such as recycling, make substantial demands on memory. In asking people to recycle, we are requiring them to remember how to recycle (commingled versus separated, whether items have to be washed, etc.)”(McKenzie-Mohr & Smith, 1999).

Finally, feedback for people participating in a new requested behavior is absolutely important so that they can see that their actions are having a measurable impact. The more vividly this can be done with picture graphs, images, and statistics, the better(McKenzie-Mohr & Smith, 1999).
Personal relevance is also an important aspect of the communication message. One finding associated with this was that the health impacts of climate change seem to be all but absent from climate change communications. Although health impacts are expected to pose the greatest risks to humans from climate change they are missing from most communications. Focusing on the local health implications could bring the message home to a lot more people. While the image of rising sea levels may seem dramatic. For people living above the tide line the health effects that their children will face will be much more effective.

No comments:

Post a Comment