CODI: Cornucopia of Disability Information

Chapter V: Information Channels & Dissemination Strategies


Using Knowledge and Technology to Improve the Quality of Life of People who have Disabilities: A Prosumer Approach by Laura A. Edwards

Chapter V: Information Channels & Dissemination Strategies


The effectiveness of a given dissemination strategy depends on factors such as the characteristics of the innovation, the target audience, and the information channel. The strategy that works well for transmitting general information to the masses may be inappropriate for communicating specific research findings to policy makers. The strategy that works well for diffusing technological innovations among organizations may not be compatible with dissemination strategies linked to the development of third world countries. Strategies designed for reaching one minority group may not fit well with another minority group. Getting the proper fit among the innovation, information channel, purpose, and target audience is important. While the prosumer approach will help facilitate the dissemination process in ways not possible under the old paradigm, understanding channels for communication and how these are changing is essential to effective utilization efforts under either paradigm.


The information channels around which to strategize range from mass media to mass mailings, from print media to electronic media, from telephone contacts to face-to-face contacts. Purposes include informing, educating, and selling. The ultimate purpose may be to change attitudes and behaviors. Target audiences may be policymakers, service providers, consumers, organizations, or communities. Target audiences may include varied ethnic or minority groups. On the other hand, targeted audiences may include a given socio-economic level, educational level, or special interest category. No one channel assures success of the innovation (Pelz, 1983:22-23). The usefulness of each channel varies for differing innovations, for differing stages in the inno vation process, and for soft vs. hard technology transfer.


Creating the proper fit begins with understanding the effectiveness areas of each media. Creating the proper fit also includes recognizing that no one channel is always sufficient (Reardon & Rogers, 1988). Sometimes the interplay among the varied channels generate awareness and interest simultaneously or sequentially. People may hear of an innovation via mass media but pursue it themselves only after a friend or acquaintance has introduced them to it in a comfortable setting. Reardon and Rogers (1988:286-287) caution against dichotomous separation of dissemination strategies into mass media and interpersonal. Each contributes to the other over time through the various stages of adoption proposed by Rogers (1983): knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation, and confirmation.


This section presents the features of the information channels in terms of their perceived or validated effective ness areas. The channels highlighted include mass media (e.g., radio, television, teletext, videotext, newspapers, magazines, comics), personal contacts (e.g., informal: family, friends, neighbors, druggists, mail carrier; formal: change agents, consultants), information service systems (e.g., libraries, online databases), training and educational programs (e.g., professional preparation, workshops, computer-assisted), and other (e.g., billboards, posters).


Characteristics of communication channels worthy of note, according to Rogers (1986:21), are: message flow, source knowledge of the audience, segmentation, degree of interactivity, feedback, asynchronocity, socioemotional vs. task-related content, nonverbal, control of the communication flow, and privacy afforded. He charted these characteristics across face-to-face interpersonal communication, interactive (machine-assisted interpersonal) communication, and mass media.


I. Mass media


Mass communication includes electronic and print media. Electronic media includes radio, television, teletext, videotext, and satellite telecommunications. Print media encompasses books, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and comics. Historically, as each new media entered the scene, owners of existing forms of mass communication reassessed the futures of their respective media. The advantages and disadvantages of each form of mass communication provides guidance for selecting the best medium to fit the intended audience and the dissemination purpose.


A. Effectiveness areas of electronic media




Radios with their great flexibility and adaptability wake us up, inform us, and entertain us. Hiebert and others (1988:173) say that radio has become more individualized and personalized. Talk show hosts communicate directly to each listener and caller. No longer is radio the medium that unites family members at night. Each family member now listens to differing stations at differing locations and at differing times of the day. Individualization of the radio is in keeping with the megatrends identified by Naisbitt and Aburdene.


Of the 8300 radio stations, according to Hiebert and others (1988:167), more of us listen to FM stations on the VHF broadcast frequency than to AM stations on the UHF frequency. The public can hear Class C stations up to 60 miles away and Class A stations up to 15 miles away. Black populations can find up to 300 stations targeted to them. Hispanic populations also can find a significant number of stations targeted to them.


Many other stations devote a significant portion of their schedules to ethnic programming--primarily foreign language--including more than 20 stations that broadcast exclusively to American Indians and Eskimos.


The content of radio stations revolve around music, news, and talk. The program director designates each hour of programming for the disc jockeys, radio announcers, and others to follow (Ibid, 168). Classifications of radio programming which are based on format broadcasting targeted for audience segments are: (1) adult contemporary, (2) contemporary hit radio, (3) album-oriented rock, (4) easy listening, (5) country, (6) news/talk, (7) urban contemporary, (8) oldies/nostalgia, (9) ethnic, (10) religious, (11) classical (Ibid, 175-6). Efforts to disseminate knowledge via radio need to be linked to that station's specific audience and structure. The radio structure includes the local station, network, and program suppliers.




To reach the most numbers of people with general information, television is the logical, though most expensive, choice. Television is in more than 98 percent of the American homes. It appeals to more than one of the five senses and has become the dominant leisure activity. Television "is society's mass entertainer, mass informer, mass persuader, and mass educator" (Ibid, 215).


In 1976 the average household viewed television almost seven hours a day (Ibid; Comstock et al, 1978 in Roberts & Maccoby, 1985). The increases in viewing between 1963 and 1976 correlated with an increase in the amount of available leisure time (Peterson, 1981; Sahin and Robinson, 1981; in Roberts and Maccoby, 1985). Television-use patterns have not changed significantly since then. In general women, children, and retirees view television more than men, adolescents and working adults. Viewing has been negatively related to education, income, and occupational status (Roberts & Maccoby, 1985). The differences between groups, however, has reduced over time on indexes such as educational level, income, occupational status, and gender. Comparisons of men and women in the paid labor force resulted in men watching much more television than women. Sahin and Robinson (1981 in Roberts & Maccoby, 1985) "characterize the trend in television use over the 1970's as moving in the direction of levelling of past differences and convergence towards truly mass viewing."


Blacks and Spanish surname groups reportedly view more television than do whites. Allen and Bielby indicate that there are wide variations in media behavior amoung blacks and warn against thinking of them as homogenous or as exhibiting behaviors similar to whites (1979 reported in Roberts and Maccoby, 1985). Younger black adults and better educated black people view television more than older black people or less educated ones (Comstock, et al, 1978 reported in Roberts and Maccoby, 1985).


The networks--NBC, ABC, and CBS--share 71 percent of the viewing audience (Heibert et al, 1988:212). Independents and cable television share the rest. Programming and schedules on the networks are put together one to two years in advance (Ibid, 213). Channels 2-13 on VHF have the greatest geographical span (Ibid, 212). Stations in major market areas get most of the national advertising dollar; stations in smaller markets depend heavily on local advertising (Ibid, 212). "The future of television rests on the ability of audiences to control and use it for their own purposes" (Ibid, 215). Knowledge utilization proponents could contribute to that shaping.


Teletext & Videotext


(Hiebert et al, 1988:200-201; Rogers, 1986:45-50) Teletext permits individuals to select textual and graphic information available through standard broadcasting signals. They access this information by using keypads or decoders connected to television sets. The information providers insert digital data into lines of television referred to as vertical blanking intervals. Users select pages of information from up to 400 potential frames of information and wait from ten to twenty-five seconds for the desired frame to appear. Because advertising supports teletext, the service is virtually free to anyone who buys a decoder.


Videotext, on the other hand, is a more highly interactive and speedier information service. Because videotext uses telephone lines or cable connectors between the data bank and television rather than on-air-broadcasting to transmit information, telephone charges, per frame charges, and special receivers ($600-900 purchase or $20-40 rental costs per month) make videotext more expensive. European forms are more sophisticated and prosperous thus far than American forms of videotext and teletext. Early companies sponsoring these newer technologies in America such as Knight-Ridder and Times Mirror, have failed because of the expense of the technology, difficulty in use, and the lack of understanding of what consumers want (Heibert et al, 1988:201). Attempts in America to provide news services on television i.e., teletext, did not sell as well as anticipated.


Agritex, according to Pat MacDonald and Jim Marisi (1984), is a Canadian commercial videotex service targeted to Saskatchewan's large rural community. "Originally, Agritex was conceived only as a telephone/television videotex service, but SaskTel incorporated into the system American standard code for information interchange (ASCII) databases, making the service available to consumers whose home computers do not have videotex graphics capabilities" (Ibid, 28). Because many rural audiences use multiparty lines, Sasktel devised special arrangements for using Agritex. A party line emergency device, which connects the home computer and the telephone line, emits a tone indicates a neighbor needs to use the phone for an emergency call. The Agritex user, thereby, knows to log off immediately.


Now farmers have access to telebanking, teleshopping, news & weather services, distance educational courses, agricultural, farm management, and lifestyle databases. Agritex thus links information brokers and rural families. It provides direct access to information and reduces the need for county agents to visit farmers to demonstrate the latest innovations. Heikkinen and Reese (1986) studied information need and information channel orientation as predictors of videotex adoption. They developed a model that assumed functional equivalency between newspapers and videotex and that people with high information need would desire both media as compared with individuals having low information needs. They cited several studies (Reese et al, 1984; Butler & Kent, 1983; Dozier & Hellweg, 1984; and Ettema, 1983) who point to young people having more favorable attitudes toward new communications media than their parents (Heikkinen & Reese, 1986:22-23). They identified three kinds of newspaper readers--loyalists, shifters, and adders--, each having a higher level of probability of changing media for meeting information needs. Their study of 369 (randomly selected telephone directory listed) persons in Gainesville, Florida, measured information need in terms of newspaper subscriptions, time spent with newspaper, hard news motivation, education and family income. They measured channel orientation in terms of age, adoption of home computers, videocassette recorders, and perceived utility of various electronic services.


Findings suggest that while one-third of the respondents would shift to videotex if it were available more would add it to newspapers. "Adders included the well-documented, information rich group of early innovation adopters, characterized by high information need. The other group, the shifters--who indicated they would replace newspapers with videotex--....are characterized by a relatively low need for information and a 'modern' orientation toward new technologies" (Ibid). The authors recognized that their study did not address institutional, technological, or market developments surrounding the new technology.




Videocassette recorders (VCRs) have become integral to home entertainment. More than 40 percent of all American households have VCRs. Users average six hours a week for recording and more for playing (Heibert et al, 1988:202). Videodiscs are also becoming more prominent and are marketed much like records or books. Corporate videos are emerging as a major communication medium (Ibid, 215).


In the educational arena interactive video has come more and more to the forefront. Interactive video provides a way to be with knowledge as well as provides knowledge itself. It encourages individual autonomy and shows respect for individual pacing of knowledge acquisition. This instructional mode of information giving further individualizes information access and use.


B. Effectiveness areas of print media




Although newspapers are no longer the fastest medium for carrying the bulletins and headlines of the day, they still provide the best display and indepth coverage of events and news (Ibid, 70-72). Hiebert and others (1988) say there has been an increase in readers at the same time there has been a decrease in the number of newspapers. Roberts & Maccoby (1985), on the other hand, cite studies that indicate a decrease in readership especially among younger adults who do not have the newspaper-reading habit and are less likely to develop it as they grow older. They even offer references and explanations for why there is a decrease. Factors they cite include decline in home ownership, increase in single-person households, increase of women in the labor force, fractionation of the city, and changes in amounts of available time. They also highlight Stamm and Fortini-Campbell's 1977 study that shows strong, positive correlations between people's sense of belonging to a community and newspaper relationship.


Hiebert ascribes the decrease in the number of newspapers in part to the fact that more newspapers are now owned by chain newspaper companies "making the business more efficient and profitable" (Ibid, 71). Among the top papers are the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post, & USA Today (Ibid, 54-55). Among the newspaper chains are Gannett Co., Inc., Knight-Ridder Newspapers, Newhouse Newspapers, Tribune Co., Dow Jones & Co. Inc., Times Mirror Co., News America Pub. Corp., and the NY Times Co. (Ibid, 64).


Small weekly newspapers and specialized weekly newspapers serve the local community or distinct ethnic, cultural, or professional groups (Ibid, 57-8). Some papers provide an English version of foreign ones for specific ethnic populations (e.g., company in Colorado publishes the Soviet newspaper PRAVDA in English) (Ibid, 58-59). More and more big city newspapers such as the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Miami Herald, Baltimore Sun, Los Angeles Times, and the Cincinnati Enquirer are using zoned inserts to suburban communities (Ibid, 16-17).


Two hundred twenty (220) of 3,000 black newspapers founded in the United States still exist. They are financially strong and circulate to approximately 4 million (Ibid, 62). The National Newspaper Publishers Association is a black press organization begun in 1940. After World War II, black press began declining as "blacks became increasingly assimilated into white culture" (Ibid). James D. Williams in his book, The black press and the first amendment, suggested the decline was in part due to more people turning to television, the indifference of major advertisers to black media, and the quality and quantity of reporting in some instances (Ibid).


The newspaper audience includes 138 million Americans of whom 2 out of 3 read a newspaper daily, 9 out of 10 adults read at least 1 newspaper weekly and 2.2 people read each newspaper delivered to a household (Ibid, 67). The average reader is likely to be male, mature, college graduate, higher income, white, and stable vs. mobile. Six out of ten readers read the comics daily, 100 million people read the Sunday comics section (supplied mostly by 25 syndicates and led by King Features with 65 of the 300 strips) (Ibid, 67).


A study on dissemination of information about cancer in rural communities in South Carolina found the newspaper generally more effective than television or radio for almost all subpopulations studied (Cantor et al, 1979). Cantor cautioned against accepting too readily "the belief that housewives, economically deprived persons, rural dwellers, and the aged have unique patterns of media utilization for acquiring health educational material" (Ibid, 1234). He found only two subpopulations (small town and blacks) where newspapers were not superior. "In those cases the sample sizes were small and the observed results could be attributable to chance" (Ibid).


Magazines and Journals


Unlike newspapers with daily deadlines, magazines have time to look more closely at issues for analysis and interpretation. They can follow the flow of events over time through a series on a given topic in subsequent editions of the magazine. "Surveys of magazine readers' actions suggest that readers tend to take more action as a result of their reading than is taken by consumers of other media" (Hiebert et al, 1988:92).


Four thousand of the more than 11,320 magazines published in the continental United States in 1986 were monthlies (Ibid, 88). The 11,320 does not include the private, institutional, or in-house publications (Ibid). New York based publishers produce one-third of the magazines published; the rest are scattered among the fifty states (Ibid, 89). More people buy magazines on a single-copy basis rather than subscriptions, partly due to the rising costs of postage (Ibid, 87).


Magazine publishers are increasingly using computers and demographic data to segment audiences for their advertisements and content. Readers preselect categories of interest and the magazine publishers assure that each issue has at least one appealing article for each segment. Neighbors, therefore, may get one differing article in their copy of the same magazine in a given month (Ibid, 87).


Unlike past practices where editors waited for freelance contributions for their editorial content, they now most often use staff-developed and staff-written materials. "Schedules are too demanding and story development is too complicated to allow the editors to depend on volunteer contributions" (Ibid, 93). This means dissemination of information must whet the appetite of staff to write the story on selected research discoveries.


Consumer magazines fall into 13 or more categories: Women's, men's, sophisticated, quality, romance, news, sports, travel, exploration, humor, shelter, class, and city. Specialized magazines consist of juvenile, comic, little literary (Prairie Schooner), literary (Paris Review), scholarly (Journalism Quarterly), educational (College & University Journal), business (Nation's Business), religious (Christianity Today), industrial or company (Western Electric World), farm (Farm Journal), transportation (Railway Age), science (Scientific American), and discussion (New Republic)(Ibid, 94-95).


Most magazines keep subscription costs down by using advertisements. Only a few such as MS. magazine attempt to control the content of their periodicals by eliminating all advertisements and the content controls associated with those ads. Advertisers in many cases must be taken into account when promoting articles on recent research findings.




Newsletters, generally free of ads, provide a more personal mode of communication. These more timely, modest styled, vehicles of communication appeal to all strata of society and varied forms of literacy. There are more than 4,000 commercial newsletters and thousands of subsidized newsletters published. The latter may be used to promote or persuade, or provide communication within an organization or a group. Congressional members use newsletters to keep in touch with their constituencies. Professional associations, church groups, factory workers, fraternal organizations, alumni, labor units, etc. also use newsletters to communicate with their members (Ibid, 100). While the newsletter is inexpensive and simple to produce, its longevity depends on its content appeal to its targeted audience. "Many newsletters have short lifetimes and make only a fleeting impression" (Ibid, 100). A typical newsletter publishing company is Phillips Publishing of Washington, D.C. They now publish 20 newsletters.


The Kiplinger Washington Letters, begun in 1923, is a subject of imitation. Unlike the normal journalistic restrictions of objectivity and attribution to sources, Kiplinger made analyses and predictions for his readers, taking them into his confidence (Ibid, 98). He created a warm, personal, and intimate form of communication with his readers using a letter format beginning with dear reader and ending with his signature in blue ink (even though it was more costly) (Ibid, 99).




Books are more permanent but less timely than other print media. They are more personal and more respected. They have a higher rate of reusability (Ibid, 38-39). While books at one point in history were written for a more literate or elite audience, today's books, especially the "how-to" ones appeal to the less literate. No longer does a person need to be a "reader" to appreciate and use a book's contents. As a tool for disseminating information about new research or technology, books contribute to the enlightenment models of utilization or the spread effect. Production schedules, display practices, and marketability factor into decisions on whether to communicate new research via books.




Comic strips and comic books are still other print vehicles for communicating. While not the typical research dissemination mode, their potential may have been under-assessed. More than 100 comicbook companies publish 300 titles and sell in excess of 250 million copies annually (Ibid, 98).


Five classes of comics serve mass communication functions:


1.The single-picture (panel) newspaper feature, such as Grin and Bear It, The Family Circus, and the cartoons in the New Yorker, Playboy and other magazines.


2. The black-and-white multipanel, daily-newspaper comic strip, such as Dick Tracy, B.C., and Mary Worth.


3. The multicolor Sunday supplement, which is a collection of strips that either continue the daily newspaper feature's story line or tell a separate story.


4. The multipage color narrative in magazine form, which is issued monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly and is called a comic book (Action Comics).


5. The anti-Establishment, social-political-economic commentary comic, or underground comic book, which is usually published irregularly in black and white (Zap, Despair, and the like) (Ibid, 95-96). While the amount of information that can be given in a comic strip is limited, people do read, cut out, display, and share comic strips. Many of the doors in the hallway by this author's office door have comic strips or scenes available for educators and students to smile over. This is an untapped mine for informing the public. A creative researcher or change agent might want to explore more fully its potential and even suggest a series that a comic writer might want to explore.


C. Information selection process in mass media


Disseminating information by mass media is contingent upon having that information accepted by the selected media. Factors influencing the information selection process include individual personalities or biases mediated by professionalism, organizations, government, and audience demand. Professionalism stimulates individuals in media settings to adhere to standards of objectivity and nonprejudicial practices. Organizations with their policies and procedures, roles and cultures provide the framework and the expectancy levels for performance of reporters and editors. Owners suggest or dictate directions to follow. For instance, new ownership at News American in Baltimore, Maryland, turned the paper into a pilot environment for U.S.A. Today. Content changed, formats changed, and subsequently personnel changed. National wire services and national networks impact information content. Even television producers who reign over reporters, writers, and directors are only "middle men" when it comes to the network level of the media hierarchy (Hirsch, 1977:277). Decisions by local editors or program directors to use an item of information versus the many competing items for limited space has been found to coincide with the selections at the national level through syndicated services (White, 1950 in Hirsch, 1977:274).


The government laws and regulations influence content. Postal rates, mergers, copyrights, taxes, antitrusts, VHF and UHF broadcast spectrums, television programming, and cable television policies contribute to decisions about content. Audience demand also enters into the information content selection arena. People with disabilities can help influence content individually and collectively directly and indirectly. To do so they must do their homework and identify the multiple influences on a given form of media.


There are guides to accessing the media that many skilled public relations directors know about. These guides, such as the Writer's Digest and the Writer's Market, describe how to query mass media about an idea for a column, a story, an oped piece, etc.


D. Systematic approach to mass media


One media specialist, Robert Bomboy, won a state award and a national award in 1990 for creating and documenting the effects of the Geisinger Medical News Service. The Service received the Meritorious Achievement Award of the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania Public Relations and Marketing Society and the Touch Tone Award of the American Society for Health Care, Marketing, and Public Relations (part of the American Hospital Association). Those associations recognized the Geisinger Medical News Service for its replicable, cost-effective, and systematic approach to accessing the mass media to reach its consumers. More importantly, the approach "developed and buttressed the media's reliance on Geisinger, and the Geisinger name, as a source of medical and scientific expertise" (Bomboy, 1990:1). The news service provides a variety of public relations products to newspapers, magazines, television, radio outlets, and 1,000 freelance writers and columnists. It does not charge for its services. For radio stations in Pennsylvania, the service distributes weekly radio actualities (20-second cuts) that include physicians' comments on health news topics. Studies of the media's responsiveness report: "An average of 40 stations per week accept the radio feed when a secretary from the service phones it to them. A phone survey by Mass Communication Department interns from Bloomsburg University found two-thirds of the stations reporting that they used between three-quarters and all of the radio actualities the service sent. All said they used some of the actualities" (Ibid, 3). For 12 Pennsylvania television stations, the service develops six 90-second video news releases annually. Bomboy reports:


Each video news release includes B Roll, natural sound and narration on a separate sound channel so that the TV station can repackage it, if necessary, according to the station's own news format. The cost of producing, duplicating and distributing each video news release is less than $1,000, compared to an average cost of between $12,000 and $20,000 for video news releases nationally. We supply TV stations with return-mail user cards: the average number of uses, according to those cards, is five per video news release, or 41.6 percent. During the year's time, 30 video news releases appeared on Pennsylvania TV stations (Ibid).


For the national magazines, Geisinger Medical News Service provides monthly Geisinger Media Lead Sheets. The service also stays abreast of the target audiences of national magazines and schedules visits to New York magazine editors. Bomboy, the creator of the service, not only provides material for staff to use in writing articles but also suggests a point of view for the articles that is likely to appeal to readers of a given magazine. For the news media, the Geisinger Medical News Service goes beyond traditional hospital related news to offer 400-word monthly features on medical topics resulting from national media analysis. In nine months time the Burrelle Clipping Service identified 136 feature releases among Pennsylvania newspapers (Ibid, 4). The total annual budget for this ongoing 12-month multimedia approach to mass media is $32,260. That includes videography and secretarial support for mailing out the columns and sending the radio actualities. It does not include salaries of public relations staff.


E. Mass media campaigns


For a shorter-term approach to information dissemination through the mass media, consider some of the findings on health behavior communication campaigns (Backer, 1990). Backer and Rogers developed an analytic framework for mass media campaigns on health behavior. The framework consists of six areas: media components, collaborators, contexts, structure of campaigns, principles for what works, and effects (1990:322). From a review of mass communications literature, Backer extracted ten principles for effective campaigns (1988a). The abbreviated version of these are:


a. Use multiple media

b. Combine media and interpersonal/community strategies

c. Segment the intended audience

d. Use celebrities to get attention and entertainment

programs to sustain attention

e. Provide simple, clear, and repeated messages

f. Emphasize positive behavior more than negative consequences of current behavior

g. Emphasize current rewards, not distant negative consequences

h. Involve key power figures and organizations

i. Take advantage of timing

j. Use formative evaluation (Backer, 1988:322).


Among the media components suggested were: public service announcements, news programs, information programs, entertainment programs, celebrity personal appearances, fund-raising events, print media, posters, feature films, radio interview/discussion, educational films/video, and special events--contest, awards. Collaborators included mass media product developers, government, health care prevention, community/advocacy, media experts and expert organizations, and media trade/professional organizations.


In 1985 the Corporation for Public Broadcasting supported the creation of a national outreach program (CPB, 1989). The Public Television Outreach Alliance (PTOA), headquartered at WQED in Pittsburg with four regional headquarters, sponsors two projects per year. The PTOA collaborated with Capital Cities/ABC and launched a highly successful literacy campaign (PLUS) using prime time documentaries and showcasing successful community programs. PTOA worked through broadcast outlets, coordinated available local information about literacy projects, task forces, and agencies. Each year the PLUS campaign added another focus such as literacy in the workforce, literacy and youth, and now literacy in the family. Among the campaign accomplishments are 366 local PLUS task forces in all 50 states with strong local PBS and Capital Cities/ABC station participation; local and statewide hotlines, 410 business breakfasts with a national one hosted by the First Lady, a 13% increase in enrollment in adult education programs, i.e., 500,000 students and a 44 percent increase in the number of volunteer tutors in federally funded education programs. In another outreach project PTOA's efforts generated 11,200 town meetings resulting in 8,000 permanent community task forces which are still in place four years later.


F. Potential effects of mass media


Mass media can help acculturate or polarize its audiences (Heibert et al, 1988:696-7). Mass media helps speed the process of acculturation by making available to diverse audiences the opportunities for simultaneous exposure to a given event, story, or kind of information. It polarizes through its channels and emphases on cultural or specialty interests. Research on the effects of mass media have offered three models: direct effects, limited effects, and powerful effects under limiting conditions (Roberts & Maccoby, 1985). Each model has been influenced by the theories prevalent in the social sciences for a given time period. For instance, the stimulus-response theory influenced the simplistic, direct cause and effect model. The limited effects model indicated that generally mass communication does not "serve as a necessary and sufficient cause of audience effects" but rather only a means of reinforcing existing values and attitudes (Ibid). This model stemmed from assumptions and subsequent fears that the mass audience was at the mercy of the mass media (Bauer & Bauer, 1960; DeFleur and Ball-Rokeach, 1982 in Roberts & Maccoby, 1985). The third model built on new theories of social-learning and advances in political science studies of the media. It posits powerful media effects conditioned by a variety of contingent and/or contributory third variables.


Roberts & Maccoby (1985:552), building on work by McGuire (1969, 1973), developed a matrix to depict the variables conditioning the effects of mass communication. Those variables included exposure, attention, comprehension, acceptance, retention, and behavior on the first plane, person-, stimulus-, or environment-related on a second plane, and exposure to specific content before, during, or after in the third plane. These conditioning variables are important to understanding effects of mass media. Chaffee and Schleuder (1986:104) warn against use of research results comparing media when researchers utilize only exposure as the measure of media use. While reading of newspapers often includes exposure and attention, Chaffee and Schleuder believe television may be viewed without engaging the mind in any serious sense. They suggest the use of only exposure may account for findings that one media is more effective than another.


Research on effects of mass media also needs to consider, according to Rogers (1983), the amount of time within the exposure as well as between exposure and decision or action. It includes the duration of the consequence and the differing rates of change associated with differing consequences. Assessments of consequences involve attitudes, cognition, and/or behaviors. Consequences may include total change, reinforcement of existing responses, or crystallization of existing responses. Change may be minor, dramatic conversions, or nonexistent.


From a television viewing motivational perspective, Finn and Gorr (1988) have explored predictors of viewing that in this author's opinion also enter into the perceived effects picture. They suggest from a student sample of 290 two distinct sources of needs that subsequently lead to viewing: social compensation (including companionship, pass time, habit, and escape) and mood management (includes relaxation, entertainment, arousal, and information). "To the extent that individuals enjoy high levels of social support, they seem to utilize television in a more assertive and selective fashion, not so much to remedy social deficits as to satisfy relaxation, entertainment, arousal, and information needs" (Ibid, 153).


G. Portrayals of people with disabilities in the media


The way the media portrays people with disabilities affects how it is likely to portray research findings about disability and rehabilitation. The media helps influence societal attitudes towards people with disabilities. To help change attitudes, the media could create positive images of people with disabilities, funnel information on research findings needed by people with disabilities, clarify issues related to integration of people with disabilities into society, and model people with disabilities in diverse career roles (Edwards, 1989).


Many organizations are concerned about how the media portrays people with disabilities. Some have developed guidelines for portrayal in the media. The President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities has sponsored awards for advertisers who depict people with disabilities in a more favorable image. Since those awards began, the public has seen a youth wearing Levi's doing a wheelie (i.e., raising the front wheels of his wheelchair and spinning around), two teenagers who are deaf signing "let's go get a Big Mac," a man getting his wheelchair out of his Bronco at the fishing lake, the award winning deaf actress communicating with her cat as she opens the can of cat food, special olympics participants practicing walking the beam, and many more depictions in normal every day settings. Media Access in California has helped promote the use of actors and actresses with disabilities in television entertainment. Two shows--L.A. Law and Family Life-- in particular have illustrated the abilities of people with mental retardation. They are shown in every day life situations rather than as heroes or superhuman and in Family Life the actor is retarded.


John Clogston studied portrayals of this population in the media. He distinguishes between the traditional and progressive ways to portray people with disabilities in the media. Traditional stories present persons with disabilities "primarily as malfunctioning in a medical or economic way. The source of these individuals' problems is perceived as lying within the individual. Society's role is to either cure or maintain the individual medically or economically" (Clogston, 1990:1).


Progressive stories, on the other hand, "reflect the view that the major disabling aspect of a person lies in society's inability to adapt its physical, social or occupational environment and its attitudes toward full inclusion of all individuals, both with and without disabilities" (Clogston, 1990: 2).


After conducting a content analysis of perceptions of disability in the New York Times, Clogston determined that there is a trend away from portraying individuals with disabilities as charity recipients and toward a more minority/civil rights view of disability.




Where do citizens go for information? Williams, Dordick, and Hostmann (1977) sought answers to that question among citizens in three Los Angeles communities: Watts, Boyle Heights, and Reseda. Watts at the time of the study was almost totally black and low-income; Boyle Heights was predominantly Mexican-American; Reseda was predominantly white middle-income. They found marked differences in the patterns of information seeking among the communities. Watts residents preferred interpersonal networks of family and friends, as information sources. Boyle Heights residents preferred institutions or agencies and Reseda residents preferred mass media (print, television, radio) and the telephone. The communities also differed in choice of newspaper or station to watch or hear.


The Human Resources Center (1990) surveyed information seeking and using among people with disabilities (some of whom were Hispanic and some rural). Preliminary findings were:


--most used sources of information include friends and social service programs


--of all sources accessed, users are most satisfied with friends and least satisfied with service programs


--the primary reason for preferring an information source is its low cost


--almost all respondents were users of formal sources of information, such as libraries, social service programs, newsletters, hotlines, etc. --most people sought information at least once a month --health information and information specific to disability were the most sought after --the most prevalent ways of contacting a source were in person or by telephone --people do not want to spend much money for information as they do not believe they can afford it


Several studies have looked at information giving practices, especially in the patient-doctor relationship. Waitzkin found that doctors spent very little time giving information to their patients--"a little more than a minute on the average in encounters lasting about 20 minutes" (1984:2442). Studies of sex and information giving by doctors point to women receiving more time and more total and multilevel explanations (Ibid, 2442); women asked more questions (Ibid, 2442; Pendleton and Bochner, 1980:671). Similar findings applied to social class with the upper or upper middle class receiving more time and explanations (Waitzkin, 1984:2442; Pendleton and Bochner, 1980:671). "Lower-class patients tend to be diffident, that is, they usually ask fewer questions" (Korsch et al, 1968 & 1969 cited in Waitzkin, 1984:2442). Information-giving tended to increase when the doctor was less certain of the diagnosis and prognosis (Waitzkin, 1984:2443). "Patients with an unfavorable prognosis tended to get more doctor time, more total explanations, more multi-level explanations, and more nondiscrepant responses" (Ibid, 2443).


Information giving and patients satisfaction have been linked to timing, amount , frequency, honesty, and completeness. Sample findings are:


Patients express the desire to receive as much information as possible about their illness (Cartwright, 1967 & 1977 cited in Penderton and Bochner, 1980:672).


Details alone will not do, however, since many patients find medical information confusing or hard to remember (Ley, 1972 and Houghton 1968 cited in Penderton and Bochner, 1980:672).


In being given the diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, patients expected the physician to be straightforward, honest but not premature, sensitive to patients' readiness for information, and to convey some degree of hope (Beisecker, Cobb, & Ziegler, 1988:553).


The vast majority of patients with seizures and parents of children with seizures wanted to be informed about all benefits and risks associated with medication, including rare side effects. On the other hand, a very small proportion of neurologists responded in a questionnaire that they routinely discuss each benefit and risk of medication (Faden, Becker, and Lewis, 1981 cited in Waitzkin, 1984:2442).


Patients wanted to know almost everything and thought that the information would be helpful, but doctors underestimated the patients' desire for information and, when compared with the patients, underrated the clinical usefulness of information giving. In 65% of the encounters, doctors underestimated their patients' desire for information; in 6%, they overestimated; and in 29%, they estimated correctly (Waitzkin, 1984:2442).


Information giving can be a form of permission giving for seeking remedial action such as in the case of doctors acknowledging the battered status of an abused woman (Chez, 1988). It can also be a form of uncertainty reduction for patients and physician power reduction. "Doctors may wish, therefore, not to give information and so to maintain an imbalance of power" (Waitzkin and Stoeckle, 1976 cited in Penderton and Bochner, 1980:672). However, the changes occurring in the doctor-patient relationship point to potentially more equal participation in the recovery process and "hence the paucity of threatening compliance-gaining tactics" (Lane, 19??:791). Patients are becoming consumers of health care rather than passive recipients (Reeder, 1980 cited in Lane, 19??:791). "Patients are recognized as having the ability to participate in their own recovery, as being decision makers and as being more demanding than in the past" (Mechanic, 1976; Stimson, 1974 cited in Lane, 19??:791). Professional practice is changing through integration of clients' rights and control. Some professionals view this as "have to" let them have more control; others view it as "it's good for the patient." Still others assume treating patients equally is part of good professional practice on a par with "do no harm."




Change agents link research sources with organizations and societies interested in change. Change agents may also be known as research utilization specialists, organization developers, consultants, or integrators. They facilitate communication about research results and the needs and problems of a specific group. As an example, Area Extension Personnel served as change agents for local and regional community changes (Goudy and Wepprecht, 1977).


They provided summaries of a large community-based research study through the media, via mail, and presentations in town meetings. They helped structure planning and implementation programs to bring about changes identified by residents in designated rural communities.


Rogers, in generalizing from the many studies he has reviewed, says that success of change agents is positively related to: (l) the extent of change agent effort in contacting clients; (2) a client orientation; (3) the degree to which the diffusion program is compatible with clients' needs; (4) empathy with clients; (5) higher social status among clients; (6) greater social participation among clients; (7) higher education among clients; (8) cosmopoliteness among clients; (9) homophily with clients; (10) credibility in the clients' eyes; (11) the extent that he or she works through opinion leaders; (12) increasing clients' ability to evaluate innovations (Rogers, 1983:317-322).


Aides may function in a change agent role to help influence innovation decisions. While they lack the credentials or 'competence credibility,' they provide the advantage of 'safety credibility,' "due to his or her social homophily with the client system" (Rogers, 1983:343). Organization developers assist leaders in producing change. Their role is "to enhance cultural elements that are viewed as critical to maintaining identity and to promote the 'unlearning' of cultural elements that are viewed as increasingly dysfunctional" (Argyris, Putnam, & Smith, 1985; Argyris & Schon, 1978; Beckhard & Harris, 1987; Hanna, 1988; Lippitt, 1982; Walton, 1987 cited in Schein, 1990:117). Such cultural change efforts, Schein says, may involve tapping subcultures that have grown amid complacent and ill adapting organizations in the midlife of their life cycle. Or change may involve replacing the group that carries the old culture and putting in new people able to develop a new culture. Schein sees an analogous process between organizational development and individual psycho-therapy (Schein, 1990:117).


Patton (1986) highlights the importance of the right people assuming responsibility for getting information to the right people.


The specifics vary from case to case, but the pattern is markedly clear: Where the personal factor emerges, where some individual takes direct, personal responsibility for getting the information to the right people, evaluations have an impact. Where the personal factor is absent, there is a marked absence of impact. Use is not simply determined by some configuration of abstract factors; it is determined in large part by real, live, caring human beings (Ibid, 49). But our data on the personal factor suggest that increased contact


with the wrong persons (i.e., people who are not oriented toward the use of evaluative information) is likely to accomplish little (Ibid, 50). The prosumer approach seeks to instill in consumers as well as current producers of research that element of caring about knowledge and its advancement. By becoming active, committed partners in knowledge production and use, researchers, practitioners, clients, etc. can improve the quality and usefulness of knowledge. The prosumer approach, however, once adopted points to changes in current roles. The partners, including change agents, will have new and different expectations of themselves in this collaborative effort.


IV. Information service systems


Information service systems include libraries, clearinghouses, online retrieval services, information and referral services, and centers whose primary role is information storage, retrieval, and dissemination or laboratories whose primary role is repackaging of information. Information service systems vary in how users access and use them (i.e., by phone, by mail, by computer modem, or in person) as well as in the nature of their collections of information. Some systems are highly specialized (e.g., National Library of Medicine) while others are fairly general (e.g., public library). Some systems are electronically accessed and may represent collections from other smaller systems (e.g., DIALOG, BRS, NEXIS).


A. Libraries


Libraries are becoming more technologically sophisticated. Computers are replacing card catalogs. Now users touch computer screens to access reference information and touch one key to print out the selected references. Users access entire books, documents, or references on CD-ROM disks or microfiche/film. Users are borrowing videotapes, records, and works of art as well as print materials. Specialized libraries offer curriculum, audiovisual aids, assistive devices, and other teaching resources. Librarians are becoming not only specialized in information sources, classification, storage, and retrieval but also in one or more disciplines.


Individuals responsible for library instruction in school systems are turning away from source and pathfinder approaches to instructing students in library use. Those approaches have been simplistic, specific to a given library, and answer oriented. Instead they are exploring instructional strategies that promote thinking about and managing information for lifelong learning and problem solving. They are building on the research findings of cognitive and developmental psychologists in their curricula (Kuhlthau, 1987:27). "Marland, a British educator and curriculum specialist, has been concerned that schools are not teaching students to be effective library and information users" (Cleaver, 1987:30).


His proposed curriculum would emphasize such concepts as selection, rejection, evaluation, organization, topic definition, and question definition. The student who masters these would be prepared to examine information critically, look for relationships, and put bits of information together in new ways that could result in new insights or knowledge (Ibid, 30).


Smith echoes a similar sentiment:


It is not sufficient merely to teach students how to locate and retrieve information; we must also help them develop skill in manipulating that information by questioning, challenging, analyzing, comparing, contrasting, evaluating, summarizing, and synthesizing it. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of students presently leave school with these skills (Smith, 1987: 38).


People who could benefit from the use of libraries may fail to take advantage of it unless they learn in youth or in special instructional programs how to find and use information. Chatman (1987) explored the information needs and information seeking behaviors of janitorial workers at a large southern university. He found that respondents did not use the available library though they had health, career, and relationship needs which library resources could help address.


B. Online databases


Four electronic databases lead the market in knowledge storage and retrieval systems: DIALOG, Bibliographic Retrieval System (BRS), NEXIS, and ORBIT. Glossbrenner views the relationship of BRS and DIALOG as somewhat analogous with Apple and IBM in personal computers (1987). BRS has fewer databases, a User Advisory Board, and "at times suffers from a lack of focus and a lack of follow-through in its online offerings" (Ibid, 201-2). DIALOG, on the other hand, according to Glossbrenner "is quite simply the world's premier electronic information system. No one else offers such a wide selection of databases. And no one else can match the breadth, depth, and quality of its training, search aids, and customer support" (Ibid, 165). Unlike BRS and DIALOG, NEXIS is a full-text database and has been from its 1979 start. NEXIS represented an expansion of the LEXIS database system for lawyers that began before personal computers were in wide use. NEXIS includes the full text of The New York Times, full-text magazines, wire services, industry newsletters, banking firm reports, and the Encyclopedia Britannica.


ORBIT began as an information retrieval system for the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense. This search service, according to Glossbrenner, is exclusive and highly technical with more scientific and technical databases than any other kind. Permission for access is required for several of the databases within the ORBIT Search Service (Ibid, 227).


Online databases facilitate and deter access to knowledge. Such databases require access to telecommunications and finances to cover costs of use. Those who can afford it can gain a wealth of knowledge that can lead to more financial wealth. CD-ROM offers access to knowledge sources for less money and can enable Third World countries to gain more readily the knowledge they need for growth and renewal (Brito, 1987).


C. Information and referral centers

 While traditionally information and referral centers have been sources of information on community resources and governmental services, these could be expanded to reference information service systems that channel individuals to the desired research information.




Training and educational programs have been a significant dissemination strategy. These include pre-service and inservice. Pre-service educational programs are also referred to as professional preparation programs. Inservice refers to education provided on the job in the form of induction training, apprenticeships, and short-term workshops or courses. Both offer vehicles for getting new knowledge into practice.


A. Professional preparation programs


Professional preparation programs are a major vehicle over time for knowledge dissemination. Such programs include, but are not limited to, lectures, labs, discussions, and practicums. Garkovich (1985), speaking from an applied sociologist's perspective, suggests that the practicum experience can become a means for mutually satisfying information exchange and knowledge development for sociology students and the rural information-poor agencies.


B. Workshops/seminars/conferences (face-to-face)


Takayama (1986) says that conferences and conference proceedings are more timely means of information transfer than publications. Conferences generally precede the publication. They supplement preservice and inservice educational efforts. Informal, as well as formal, information exchange marks this dissemination strategy. The decision seminar, according to Bolland and Muth (1984:75-88), can serve as a conduit for information not readily and timely accessed by decisionmakers. The decision seminar is an ongoing nucleus of people who meet regularly for an extended period of time to explore problems and the social, technical, and political implications of alternative solutions. The seminar can be especially useful in urban policy planning because it facilitates collective problem solving. It also can provide a more thorough analysis of issues. The authors reference Lasswell's five problem-solving tasks of the decision seminar: goal clarification, trend description, analysis of conditions, projection of developments, and invention, evaluation, and selection of alternatives. The authors describe examples of such seminars and cautions for groups structuring the decision seminar. The seminar itself can become a tool for teaching urban policymakers how to make better informed decisions.


C. Computer conferencing/electronic networking


Levin, Riel, Miyake, and Cohen (1987) demonstrated the use of electronic networking to interconnect students and teachers in the United States, Mexico, Japan, and Israel. These authors describe the water project conducted by the InterCultural Network as a case study in problem solving. "By addressing a problem shared across the different locations, students learned to transfer solutions used elsewhere to their own problems" (Ibid, 254). Fulk, Steinfield, Schmitz, and Power (1987) describe the involving aspects of computer-mediated communication and the influence of peers and group membership on that process.


A number of studies of computer-mediated communication, for example, have demonstrated that highly emotional and interpersonally involving applications such as conflict and negotiation are more frequent than would be expected in what is typically considered to be a low-social-presence medium (Hiltz & Turoff, 1978; Kiesler, Siegel, & McGuire, 1984; Phillips, 1983; Rice & Love, 1987; Steinfield, 1985)....Hiltz (1984, p.90) notes that "being a member of one group (or subculture) rather than another seems to shape the experiences of the members and the quality of their (electronic) life." The extent to which relevant co-workers also used an electronic mail system was the primary predictor of task-related uses in a study by Steinfield (1986a cited in Fulk, Steinfield, Schmitz, Power, 1987: 534).




Bagenstos (1989) has pointed to the fact that people are individuals who often are also members of groups, organizations, and communities. Dissemination needs to recognize both aspects. Glaser (et al, 1983) highlighted studies on 'cosmopoliteness,' 'role accumulators,' and 'professionalism' which reinforce the need for multiplicity of avenues for reaching potential users. Studies on this aspect cited by Glaser and others (1983:70-71) included, but are not limited to, Katz (1961), Rogers (1962a), Coleman, Katz, and Menzel (1966a, 1966b), Hemphill, Griffiths, and Fredericksen (1962), Zaltman and Wallendorf (1979), Rogers (1967), Evan and Black (1967), Havelock (1969a), Aiken and Hage (1968), and Beyer and Trice (1978).


Fessenden-Raden, Fitchen and Heath (1987) identified factors related to getting risk information (such as contaminated drinking water) to communities and getting them to act on it. They conducted more than 12 case studies in New York and Maine to determine factors influencing what is heard and what is accepted by receivers of risk information. They identified as factors the mixing of official and unofficial messages and/or messengers; use of untrained vs. trained messengers; simplification and over-simplification of messages; individual experiences versus collective attitudes toward the messengers or the associated institutions. In discussing messages and messengers they pointed to potential conflicts for receivers when they hear experts, the media, and nonexperts saying different things as well as hear words such as 'don't worry' and then see technicians dressed in 'moonsuits' gathering soil samples from an area where children usually play (Fessenden-Raden et al, 1987:100). Consistency of message giving across multi-channels is indeed important.


VII. Other


Other dissemination strategies have been underutilized or understudied by researchers or change agents not in the fields of communication or marketing. These include the use of pretaped telephone messages such as Tele-Med, billboards, signs in and outside of stores, yellow pages, directories, welcome wagons, direct mail strategies, technical assistance, self-ratings, surveys. Instead researchers have relied mostly on abstracts, annotated bibliographies, executive summaries, manuals, handbooks, directories, and state-of-the-art reviews. All of the latter are outside of the daily experience stream of most citizens. Some innovative individuals are sharing information about local services and resources on C-Span or cable. Why not add research results or where to go to learn more about the latest research on a disability or rehabilitation topic.



Chapter 5 has explored the many dissemination strategies and information channels for getting research into practice. It identified the effectiveness areas for each in terms of the advances in information technology. It even suggested channels that have not as yet been researched by knowledge utilization researchers and writers. What's more important, it reinforced the trend towards individualization in the mass media. Greater specialization and targeting of audiences is occurring. This is consistent with the thrust of the prosumer approach and current rehabilitation philosophy.



Chapter 6 overviews the models of knowledge utilization that illustrate how factors work together. The models range from simple to complex, from linear to curvilinear, from product-centered to user-centered. They have components suggesting the importance of a prosumer model of knowledge utilization for the rehabilitation field.

Chapter 4                     Chapter 6