Now that we are realizing the power of DESIGN in COMMUNICATION lets revisit some working definitions concerning manipulation, persuasion, influence, control & advice. It is easy for words to get blurred in media studies, when what we need is clarity.
What we first have to realize is that we live in a CONSUMER BASED CAPITALIST SOCIETY, and as such it is a COMPETITION for the hearts, minds & money of information-product-service hungry consumers. As a result of this the thing that all communicators compete for in the market place of life is ATTENTION. Before you can get anyone to do anything you 1st have to get their attention – i attempt to do it with you guys in class!
1. When we talk about ADVERTISING we are talking about an industry of professional communicators who create text & image driven campaigns to sell products. Advertising agencies are independent from the products they represent. Agencies are independent communication guns for hire who when working for one brand category will not (usually)represent another competition brand at the same time, so that there is no conflict of interests in creative execution. Do they seek to persuade customers to buy? certainly, and apply all of Mazlow’s Pyramid of human needs to do so. If the product is good there is nothing wrong with getting the message out to as many people as possible. As long as advertisers do not trick consumers, tell the truth, state the facts, then creative advertising campaigns are a lively part of an innovative economy. Is it manipulative ? yes, in the sense that they are manipulating buying behavior, but at the end of the day the consumer makes the decision.
2. When we talk of PROPAGANDA we are talking about an section of professional communicators who seek to distort the truth, it is a kind of warfare on reality, an assault on the facts, a reality distortion machine designed to re invent the truth to suit the interests of who ever is wishing to control the recipient of the message. We see propaganda at work most clearly in times of war, in dirty political campaigns & with religious fundamentalism.
Where the difficulty arises and especially in matters of dogma, religion, politics & education is .. ‘When they say it it is propaganda when we say it is is education … ‘ It often comes down to matters of IDEOLOGY. In countries that employ only propaganda & no free speech there is heavy censorship so that citizens cannot get access to even to the facts. Propagandists seek outright control giving no choice to freely decide.
The main difference between Advertising & Propaganda is that propaganda will distort the facts and seek to trick people into believing in something untrue, while (good) advertising will state the truth in creative ways and attempt to persuade people to try a product. Make no mistake about it both attempt to influence human behavior. It is the light & dark side of the communications force.
3. When we talk of SPIN we are talking about the PR industry, the Public Relations professionals who are employed to communicate BIASED messages by political parties, companies & individuals. Biased messages that selectively present/distort/edit facts to an unsuspecting audience. Skilled practitioners of this art are called ‘Spin Doctors’ Quite often the Dark side of the Force is employed by hiring Negative Spin Doctors to use DISINFORMATION campaigns to discredit opposing points of view, people or organizations, Dirty Tricks campaigns are created to accomplish this.
Now all of this IS about INFORMATION in one way or another, the way information is constructed & communicated to people who will make decisions. We all want the TRUTH but the truth is often just an interpretation of selected facts and as such is only ever relative . Here i have pointed you in the direction of SCIENTIFIC RIGOR when it comes to the dissemination of information via 1. Injunction 2. Data 3. Confirmation (see previous post What Journalists can Learn from Scientists)
Information passes into the General Media Stream as CONTENT in its many forms. While content connects it also COMPETES for your attention. Digital devices are taking over from print mediums & by their nature are becoming Communication Inception Devices. It is a Jedi Media Knights task to understand ‘is this a dream or a waking state’ i am in so to speak, & to realize where your attention is being directed & if it being manipulated & if so by who for what purpose. Primarily the task will be to decide whether you are dealing with disinformation or information of value.
By now you must be realizing why this is an important subject to study. We live in a world saturated with Information the likes of which has never been experienced before in history.
What is important to understand is WHO IS TELLING THE TRUTH ? when it comes to information campaigns it is a war fought with IMAGES & TEXTS
some examples :
MONSANTO is an agriculture company developing new ways to produce food