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Erik Bucy - Selected Abstract

Taking Television Seriously: A Sound and Image Bite Analysis of Presidential Campaign Coverage

Abstract

This study updates and builds on Hallin's landmark investigation of sound bite news by documenting the prevalence of candidate image bites, where candidates are shown but not heard (as opposed to being shown and heard), in general election news over four election cycles. A visual analysis of broadcast network (ABC, CBS, and NBC) news coverage of the 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 presidential elections finds that image bites constituted a greater percentage of total campaign coverage than sound bites, with candidates appearing in image bites significantly more than sound bites. Even as candidate sound bites continue to shrink over time, image bite time is increasing in duration-and candidates are being presented in image bites almost twice as much as journalists. Sound bites are also found to be largely attack and issue focused. Based on these findings, we call for greater appreciation of visual processing, nonverbal communication, and voter learning from television news in the study of media and politics.

Interactivity and Political Attitude Formation: A Mediation Model of Online Information Processing.

Abstract:

With the rise of new media, interactivity has become a central focus of research on information technology and politics. To better position the concept for systematic investigation, this study locates interactivity in the relationship between interface features and user perceptions and tests a mediation model of online information processing. The mediation model is based on the idea that objective (or technological) aspects of interactivity are not directly responsible for outcomes, whether cognitive, affective, or attitudinal, but instead are mediated by perceptions during Internet use. The results from an experiment conducted during the 2004 general election involving a political Web site support the mediation model for predicting the effects of interactivity on political attitude formation. Perceived interactivity was found to mediate the effect of objective interactivity on attitudes toward the Web site and politician for whom the site was designed. However, for policy issues promoted on the site, mediation could not be established. In the relationship between objective and perceived interactivity, Internet self-efficacy was also found to be a significant moderator, influencing evaluative outcomes and the degree of perceived interactivity during Web use.

Conceptualizing Media Stimuli in Experimental Research: Psychological versus Attribute-Based Definitions.

Abstract:

This paper argues for a clearer conceptualization of media stimuli in experimental research and identifies three issues impeding our understanding of message processing: (1) assumptions bolstered by manipulation checks about homogeneity of response to media stimuli; (2) conflation of two different classes of variables – media attributes and psychological states; and, (3) discrepancies between the conceptual model and operational-level hypotheses used to test research questions. To provide a more comprehensive framework for investigating media effects in experimental research, we argue for a clearer conceptual separation between message attributes and user perceptions and apply a mediation model of information processing to overcome the limitations of conventional approaches. Subjected to two empirical tests involving the assessment of Web-based media, the model finds an increase in explained variance in each instance.

The Mediated Moderation Model of Interactivity

Abstract

This paper argues for enhanced consideration of third variables in interactivity research and proposes a “mediated moderation” model to bring increased sophistication to bear on the study of information technology effects. Interactivity, a central phenomenon in new media research, is an elusive concept that has enduringly intrigued and confused scholars. Extant conceptualizations have produced incomplete causal models and have generally ignored the effect of third variables. We conceptualize interactivity as technological attributes of mediated environments that enable reciprocal communication or information exchange, which afford interaction between communication technology and users or between users through technology. Specifying roles for mediator and moderator variables, this paper proposes a model that incorporates interactive attributes, user perceptions (mediators such as perceived interactivity), individual differences (moderators such as Internet self-efficacy), and media effects measures to systematically examine the definition, process, and consequences of interactivity on users. Lastly, statistical procedures for testing mediated moderation are described.

For a pdf copy of this article, send a request to ebucy@indiana.edu.

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The Media Participation Hypothesis

Abstract

This chapter reconsiders civic involvement and citizen empowerment in light of interactive media and elaborates the concept of media participation. The media participation hypothesis holds that, as political involvement becomes increasingly reliant on new media formats and technologies, intensive use of interactive public affairs media will produce a heightened sense of system satisfaction and political efficacy, a trend that should manifest itself longitudinally as mass media become more interactive in nature. To accurately distinguish political involvement from civic disengagement a typology of active, passive, and inactive political involvement is presented that categorizes the types of empowerment and rewards--both material and symbolic--that various types of civic activity afford. Even if only symbolically empowering, media participation serves as an important legitimizing mechanism of mass democracy.

For a pdf copy of this article, send a request to ebucy@indiana.edu.

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Interactivity in Society: Towards a Theory of an Elusive Concept

Abstract

Interactivity has been identified as a core concept of new media, yet despite nearly three decades of study and analysis, we scarcely know what interactivity is, let alone what it does, and have scant insight into the conditions in which interactive processes are likely to be consequential for members of a social system. This paper argues that the study of interactivity has been stunted by the lack of a coherent theory of interactivity to explain what the concept is good for and how the phenomenon operates in society. The analysis attempts to address this deficiency by critiquing three self-defeating tendencies and an erroneous assumption of interactivity research, then proposes four basic propositions around which systematic knowledge regarding interactivity in society may be built. In the spirit of bridging mass and interpersonal processes, a model of interactivity is proposed to initiate discussion about the concept as a cross-level and multivalent phenomenon–one with both positive and negative consequences–and to spur more socially relevant research.

For a pdf copy of this article, send a request to ebucy@indiana.edu.

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Democratic Realism, Neoconservatism, and the Normative Underpinnings of Political Communication Research

This article traces the development and diffusion of four basic normative assumptions in the political communication literature identified by Chaffee and Hochheimer (1985) and examines how these assumptions were brought into the field by Paul Lazarsfeld and his Columbia School colleagues under the guiding principles of democratic realism. As this article demonstrates, these assumptions continue to operate in the literature today. In updating the normative orientations that inform political communication research, the analysis focuses on certain research agendas as exemplar efforts of a changed philosophical position, called neoconservatism, which undergirds and structures studies critical of press performance. In particular, we critically examine three research programs in political communication that adhere to the field’s formative intellectual assumptions as enduring critiques of media and democracy: the videomalaise hypothesis, media intrusion theory, and the social erosion thesis. Suggestions are made for a fuller integration of communication perspectives into political communication research as well as new ways of thinking about media in relation to politics.

For a pdf copy of this article, send a request to ebucy@indiana.edu.

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Presidential Expressions and Viewer Emotion: Counterempathic Responses to Televised Leader Displays

Abstract

Despite the biological predisposition to recognize and mimic facial expressions, research has shown that contextual or experiential factors may elicit emotionally incongruent, or counterempathic, responses. This experimental study reports how counterempathic responses to televised leader displays may be evoked in political communication. Findings suggest that unexpected nonverbal communication is subject to cognitive appraisal, which may influence emotional responding. Subjects were shown a series of four news stories, each followed by a 30-second televised reaction of President Bill Clinton. The story-reaction sequences varied by story topic, level of emotion, and degree of leader display appropriateness. Physiological (heart rate, skin conductance, and facial muscle activation, or EMG) and emotional self-report measures indicated that evaluations of display appropriateness moderated how much attention was given to the display, the affective direction of viewers’ facial muscle activation, and the level of autonomic activation, or arousal. The EMG data showed that viewers frowned in response to positive expressive displays that followed positive news. Smiling activation also decreased for high-intensity, positive displays. By manipulating the valence and intensity of the associated news event, facial mimicry–and emotional responses to leaders generally–are shown to be situationally influenced by the larger social and informational context.

For a pdf copy of this article, send a request to ebucy@indiana.edu.

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Emotion, Presidential Communication, and Traumatic News: Processing the World Trade Center Attacks

Abstract

During traumatic national events, attention to the news and scrutiny of leader communication becomes particularly acute. The terrorist actions of September 11, 2001 and ensuing U.S. response focused public attention on the president to an extent unknown before the attacks. This paper reports on an experimental study of audience responses to televised news coverage of the World Trade Center attacks. As the coverage of the attacks and compelling images featured on television illustrate, news can be regarded as a type of survival-relevant information with immediate consequences for viewers. Within this framework, the study examines how, in the aftermath and ongoing processing of this traumatic event, a political leader’s televised behavior evokes emotional and evaluative responses in viewers. For the experiment adult and student subjects were shown a series of news reports featuring negative compelling images of the attacks followed by close-up reactions and statements by President Bush. The news images varied in their intensity, while the presidential reactions varied in their potency. Results indicate that varying degrees of image intensity and communicator potency significantly influenced emotional responses to the crisis and viewer feelings of self-control. When paired with low intensity images of traumatic news, potent presidential communication had the effect of allaying viewer anxiety; in contrast, potent appearances appeared to lose this influence when shown in conjunction with high intensity images.

For a pdf copy of this article, send a request to ebucy@indiana.edu.

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Media Credibility Reconsidered: Synergy Effects Between On Air and Online News

Abstract

This study, an experimental investigation of media credibility, examined the combined, or synergistic, effects of on-air and online network news exposure. A between-subjects factorial experiment exposed student and adult news consumers to broadcast news, online news, and telewebbing conditions. Results indicate that perceptions of network news credibility are affected by channel used. Perceptions of credibility were enhanced when the channel used was consistent with the news source being evaluated, suggesting a channel congruence effect. In addition, evidence is offered for the existence of a synergy effect between on air and online news. In comparison with control group ratings, cross-platform media use is associated with more favorable perceptions of TV and Net news credibility than use of television or the Web in isolation.

For a pdf copy of this article, send a request to ebucy@indiana.edu.