Has the Message Defined the Medium?

By: Evan Johnson   Nupoor Jalindre  

“Fake news,” a term that gained traction during the 2016 United States Presidential Election, is “frequently used to describe a political story which is seen as damaging to an agency, entity, or person, and seems to have currency in terms of general news.” Fake news has made the search for reliable information on the web a precarious exercise as political and economic forces are working against would-be seekers of truth. Scholars have built models to detect the mechanistic propagation of fake news and identify its characteristics. Marshall McLuhan was famous for the phrase “The medium is the message,” which denotes the ways in which the medium influences how a message is perceived. However, there has been little research that looks at the inverse of this relationship--how the message affects the perception of the medium. Studying this perception can help technical communicators analyze and design the medium that they work with. Paradoxically, data from the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer suggest that there is a growing distrust for sites generally accepted as being the most authentic, while non-traditional sources with higher risk of invalidity are gaining confidence. We plan to examine this trend in-depth using a controlled experimental design that tests participants’ reactions to five different news sources: traditional media, social media, owned media, search engines, and online-only media, in order to determine whether it is the message or the medium that the distrust is being directed toward.

Audience, Information, Perception
Media Theory
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Evan Johnson

Nupoor Jalindre

-, -, North Carolina State University

Nupoor is a PhD student with a focus on Technical Communication, usability Analysis, Data Analysis and Rhetorical studies in the Artificial Intelligence and IoT domain. She has a backgrund in computer Engineering and has earned an MS in Technical Communciation from the NC State university. She is interested in exploring the field of Human Computer Interaction and the role it plays in behavioural studies which impacts the pedagogical approach. She is currently pursuing a research assistantship with SAS where she is exploring research opportunities with knowlege management and chat bots.