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In communication theory, and sociology, framing is a process of selective control over the individual's perception of media, public, or private communication, in particular the meanings attributed to words or phrases. Framing defines how an element of rhetoric is packaged so as to allow certain interpretations and rule out others. Media frames can be created by the mass media or by specific political or social movements or organizations. The concept is generally attributed to the work of Erving Goffman, especially his 1974 book, Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience.
As used by linguists
In politics, linguists point to an example of framing in the phrase "tax relief." The use of the word "relief" implies a notion that the prevailing level of taxes put strain on the citizen.
Terms which frame debate seek to limit the possibilities of discourse by setting the vocabulary and metaphors by which an issue can be discussed. In this view, framing cannot be avoided—it is an inherent part not just of political discourse, but of literally all cognition, both conscious and unconscious—but the effort should be made to do it consciously.
According to Klandermans, a sociologist, the "social construction of collective action frames," involves "public discourse, that is, the interface of media discourse and interpersonal interaction; persuasive communication during mobilization campaigns by movement organizations, their opponents and countermovement organizations; and consciousness raising during episodes of collective action." (1997: p. 45)
Cultural anthropologist Jeffrey Feldman, writing about framing and politics in his Framing the Debate suggests that frames are cognitive, cultural and historical. Feldman demonstrates that for framing to be effective as strategic politics, it must be rooted in rhetorical tradition. Feldman makes his case by drawing on historic speeches (e.g., Presidential addresses) to understand and define contemporary debate challenges.
Other possible examples
- The word "progressive" to describe left-wing politics. The word "progressive" implies an improvement, or a step forward, and therefore suggests that right-wing politics are a regression or a step back. The use of the word progressive is sometimes used as a substitute for the word liberal (which itself was effectively framed by various opponents into a negative word, and is now being reclaimed as an honorable appellation).
- Phrases such as "Pro-Life" (which implies its opponents are "anti-life" or "pro-death"), "Pro-Choice" (which implies its opponents are "anti-choice" or "pro-compulsion"), and "anti-immigrant" (which implies the people this term is applied to are against individual immigrants as opposed to being against immigration or illegal immigrants.).
- Terms such as Faith-based community (which implies that its opponents are without faith), and "Reality-based community" (which implies that its opponents are unrealistic).
- Program names which may only describe the intended effects of a program but can also imply their effectiveness. These include "Foreign Aid" (which implies that the result will be to aid, rather than harm foreigners), "Social Security" (which implies that the program can be relied on to provide security for a society), "Stabilisation policy" (which implies that the effects of a policy will be stabilizing).
- Recent popularization of the term "escalation" to describe an increase in troop levels in Iraq. This implies that the United States is deliberately increasing the scope of conflict in a provocative manner.
- Communication theory
- Code word (figure of speech)
- Figure of speech
- Frame analysis
- Framing effect
- Language and thought
- Political frame
- Power word
- Argumentation Theory
- Goffman, Erving. 1974. Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. London: Harper and Row.
- Fairhurst, Gail T. and Sarr, Robert A. 1996. The Art of Framing: Managing the Language of Leadership. USA: Jossey-Bass, Inc.
- Klandermans, Bert. 1997. The Social Psychology of Protest. Oxford: Blackwell.
- Cutting, Hunter and Makani Themba Nixon. 2003. Talking the Walk: A Communications Guide for Racial Justice." San Francisco: We Interrupt This Message:
- Feldman, Jeffrey. 2007. Framing the Debate: Famous Presidential Speeches and How Progressives Can Use Them to Control the Conversation (and Win Elections). Brooklyn, NY: Ig Publishing.
- Scheufele, Dietram A. 1999. Framing as a theory of media effects. Journal of Communication, 49(1), 103-122.
- Willard,Charles Arthur Liberalism and the Social Grounds of Knowledge Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
- Curry, Tom. 2005. "Frist chills talk of judges deal (Page 2)." The question in the poll was not framed as a matter of whether nominee ought to get an up-or-down vote. And that framing of the issue, Republican strategists believe, is the most advantageous one... MSNBC.com.
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