Information Complexity, Presentation Rhetoric and Message Impact: The Case of The American HealthCare Reform Debate
Confronted by an explosive information landscape, today’s media consumer wrestles with making vital decisions about enormously complex issues. In having so much data available, consumers are at risk of suffering from chronic “information overload,” or the difficulty a person can have comprehending an issue and making decisions that can be caused by too much, and, possibly conflicting information. In a landscape of information overload, it becomes an equally challenging task for the message designer to construct a message that can be digested as knowledge by the receivers. To focus on just the content of a message, or its aesthetic appeal, is insufficient. Designers now must seek a more holistic approach to their art, one that combines behavioral science with salient communication strategy and considers the rhetorical aspects of a message.
Abstract: This study explores how presentation rhetoric affects message impact on a complex issue that is difficult to comprehend for the general public and becomes a debatable issue at large, such as the current American healthcare reform initiatives. The paper reports the results from an experimental study that compared the differential impacton viewers of two rhetorically contrasting videos on the current American healthcare debate. Both the videos shared almost identical narratives by the same presenter. Video-One simulated realistic, face-to-face communication while Video-Two was ‘infotainment’-oriented and presented the discussion using entirely computer-generated multimedia. The data yielded by this study suggests that perceivably objective messages that include a combination of text, imagery and sound tend to arouse and involve its viewers more and, thereby, may garner a greater impact on its viewers and enhance their understanding of a complex issue than presentations that lack these qualities.
Keywords: Persuasive technology, information complexity, communication design, infotainment, message impact, audience arousal, involvement, American healthcare reform
Video One: Health Care Overhaul Summarized via Massive Pig
Video-One was an episode of the vLog Brothers and features a live John Greene. The format of the video was a back-and-forth correspondence between two brothers.
The video, styled by quick-cut, shot-to-shot camera techniques, is entirely composed of real-life images and lacks any supplementing text or background noise. Green’s voice is the video’s single major source of audio and for the majority of its duration he is visually present while he speaks.
Video Two: John Green's Thought Bubble: Health Care Overhaul
Video-Two is a motion infographic produced by the Canadian non-profit design studio ThoughtBubble. In this video, John Green’s narrative from Video One is lifted and applied to a motion graphic animation featuring entirely computer-generated illustrations, images, text, and music. In this adaptation by ThoughtBubble, the narrator is not visually present and no real-life images appear.
The use of John Green’s audio narrative is of major significance, for it is almost an exact copy, arranged in the same manner, of his original vLog Brothers post.
Full Paper: Bordoloi, M.; Powell, A.; and Bordoloi, B. (2016). ”Information Complexity, Presentation Rhetoric and Message Impact: The Case of American Healthcare Reform Debate," Journal of the Midwest Association for Information Systems Vol. 2016: Iss. 1, Article 2.
Note: A prior version of this article received the Midwest Association for Information Systems (MWAIS) Best Paper Award at the MWAIS 2015 conference in Pittsburg, Kansas. The article has been expanded and subject to a second round of peer reviews.