February 27 2014 – Think Piece Paper One

February 27 2014

Think Piece Paper One

One of the most difficult things to do is to change someone’s mind. Research has shown time and time again that the more we commit to an idea or opinion the more we refute opposing evidence no matter how undeniable the evidence may be. Our emotional attachment to our thoughts and ideas is what makes climate of opinion change very slowly. Climate of opinion is the measurement of general opinion at a given time based on societal norms and popular culture influence. The climate of opinion is always changing, however very slowly as even the most powerful rhetoric and persuasion can fall short when it conflicts with our own personal bias. The human brain simply does not feel comfortable changing its understanding of the world around us; the key is to challenge ourselves with critical thinking. The best way to change minds and challenge critical thinking is through a combination of evidence and rhetoric; a responsibility that will often times fall heavily on media. As agenda setting theory suggests, the media tells us what to think about and how to think about it.

Media is considered to be any form of mass communication, primarily, television, newspapers, radio, and Internet. The brilliant thing about today’s society is that with the prevalence and accessibility of the Internet almost anyone can create media, and more people have a voice in agenda setting theory now than ever. The down side to Internet accessibility is that with so many voices at once messages can be ignored or forgotten. The media’s ephemerally or “shelf life” of relevance is more sensitive and ever changing now than ever before. This immediacy adds an additional struggle to encouraging critical thinking and changing climate of opinion. There’s a huge competition to be heard in our media literate society and it makes it crucial to produce media that complements all three components of the media trilogy which consists of information, persuasion, and entertainment.

The artifact that I’m going to analyze is a prime example of the trilogy as well as how easy it is for people to get around the gatekeepers of traditional news and television and become their own gatekeepers on the internet. An example of this is organizations such as StoryCorp (storycorp.org) which uses the Internet as it’s medium for communication. StoryCorps produces strong ideas and concepts about critical thinking through persuasive story telling and entertaining animation. Many of their stories not only focus on challenging their viewer to think critically but they portray a certain art of how to provoke change in the climate of opinion. For instance in there story “Eye on the Stars” (http://storycorps.org/animation/eyes-on-the-stars/) Ronald McNair’s brother Carl talks about his brother’s wisdom as a little boy and how it lead him to challenge climate of opinion and become the worlds first African American Astronaut. The story starts out with some basic background information about why we should care about Ronald McNair’s story.

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Then the animation begins while Carl tells the story of how his brother Ronald stood up to the climate of culture in 1959 as a young nine year old who wanted to check out books in a whites only public library. This short 3-minute piece perfectly explains the artistry to challenging norms and changing minds. The story about Ron’s struggle to get books because of his skin color is a perfect example of how we are forced to have our opinions challenged when we are presented with peer pressure and judgment. The following flow chart shows how crucial challenging these social norms can be in changing not only minds but also the future climate of opinion.

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Not only does this story provide information about our history and what it is like to be discriminated against, it also says something deeper about how to provoke change. No one in the story ever scolded the librarian or white people for being wrong and ignorant. In fact every effort to tell her she was wrong was actually done in the form of a question. It forced the librarian to be met with a dilemma about why she felt the way she did and reluctantly she didn’t have good enough reasoning and succumbed to the pressure from the people around her. It’s likely she still walked away from that situation feeling as though she had been in the right, but encounters like this where we make people feel not normal for what they think, slowly contribute to changing social norms. Ronald’s calm and polite manner towards the people who ridiculed him took wisdom most adults haven’t captured, let alone at nine year olds. Challenging the climate of opinion takes understanding and patience and critical thinking. According to Carl these skills stayed consistent with Ronald throughout his life. He recalls one instance in particular from Ronald’s adolescence about how Star Trek had a pro-social behavioral effect on him. Pro Social behavior is a part of social learning theory and it’s the idea that we can learn behavior from what we see on TV. Where as Carl like most people experienced only reinforcement theory, the idea that television confirms the beliefs you already have and when it challenges them you find away to refute or ignore it.

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“Eyes on the Stars” was Informative persuasive and entertaining. The animation made an otherwise ordinary story engaging and uplifting. This media informed us of how we’ve been able to change the climate of opinion even though it’s a very slow process. In Ron’s case it took 25 years after his death of thinking critically and challenging social norms.

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           Being uncomfortable with being wrong about what we think and perceive is a very normal human behavior. It’s easy to get upset about all the misinformed opinions that have a voice in today online media. The key to getting people to think critically will likely be videos like this one that make people question themselves and question change. This video has all three components of the trilogy, which is an essentially quality for media to have if you want your point to be convened in virtue of all the competition of various media artifacts. We live in a world where anyone can produce information and when we use the proper strategies in getting others to think critically, we may actually be able to speed up the rate of change in cultural opinion and social norms. The StoryCorp video had 3 links to other online mediums that carry their message and content. This ability to spread good ideas has never been as accessible as it is now and we’re already starting to see the results of expedited change all around us.

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