Multimodal Framing: How Multimodal Elements Influence Framing Effects in the Debates of Plastic Pollution in the Bottled Water Industry

2020-04-16T17:16:33Z (GMT) by Yulong Hu
Environmental issues have been described as one of society’s wicked problems. In contrast to widespread technological responses to environmental issues, I spotlight social aspects as chief barriers to productive change. I posit that socially constructed frames can influence people’s perspectives, opinions, and behaviors regarding environmental issues. In this project, I explored organizational work and framing processes as a means to bridge the chasm between technological and social approaches to environmental issues. To date, researchers using framing theory have narrowed their focus to testing the effectiveness of different frames. By doing so, however, researchers remain limited to discursive explanations regarding how frames are constructed at a micro level. In contrast, I adopted a multimodal approach that accounts for both discursive and non-discursive modalities to investigate how organizations deploy visual, material, and textual approaches to shape environmental meaning through framing processes. Specifically, I focused on organizational campaigns to construct meaning around the contentious issue of bottled water. I adopted a qualitative approach, using a multimodal analysis, to explore advertisements and campaigns used by bottled water companies and environmental activist groups to shape perspectives, opinions and behaviors of plastic containers and bottled water usage. I found that visual, material, and textual modalities can be used as value-neutral tools to help stakeholders construct different frames and shape the public’s opinion of bottled water. Different multimodal elements serve different functions in constructing different frames. I also identified particular barriers for the framing construction process.