Erfurt 2008

Graduate Student Workshop: Narratives in Health Communication, Persuasion, and Cultivation

July 26th and 27th, 2008 University of Erfurt, Germany

Creating and understanding narratives is a basic human quality. Humans have an understanding of time that is organized in stories, which separates them from other species, and, according to Walter Fisher, even constitutes a specific model of man - the human as a story-telling animal. Narratives have always been attributed a strong potential to affect an audience's thinking and acting. Folk tales or religious books like the bible are used to convey values and norms; modern examples include entertainment-education programs in television. Phenomenological experiences of readers and viewers, such as the feeling of being psychologically transported into the story or identifying with story characters, motivate the audience to consume stories and, at the same time, enhance a narrative's power to teach and persuade. In the past years, scholars have investigated mechanisms and conditions of narrative influence. New fields of application are beginning to emerge: Health-related issues may be conveyed in story format more effectively; also, non-educational stories - fictional films, series, books, audio plays - influence audience perceptions of social reality, as posited by a cultivation perspective. Both of these fields represent fruitful applications, but pose theoretical and empirical challenges.

This workshop addresses the role and effect of narratives in health communication, persuasion and cultivation. It is designed for graduate students who work in the field and who wish to discuss their theses or other current empirical studies with experts in narrative persuasion and media effects, but is also open to non-student scholars interested in the topic. Our invited speakers, Melanie C. Green (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA), Rick W. Busselle (Washington State University, USA) and Patrick Rössler (University of Erfurt, Germany) will give key notes about their fields, provide feedback on student presentations, as well as discuss specific questions with students in individual coaching sessions. Additionally, the experts will give short introductions into academic careers in Germany and the US.

Organisation: Helena Bilandzic, University of Erfurt

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