Privacy Frames: How the Media Write, Discuss, and Afford Privacy
thesisposted on 2016-11-05, 00:00 authored by Federica Fornaciari
This dissertation explores the conceptual maps that emerge from mainstream media discourses of privacy during different peaks of technological development of the 20th and 21th century. Following the assumptions of frame theory, this dissertation holds that media frames may influence the development of cultural frames of privacy, contribute to the organization of individual schemata, and promote particular agendas. This project utilized content analysis and discourse analysis techniques to analyze editorials published in five American news outlets including the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek, and Time magazine. Findings revealed that – despite societal changes – American media often recycled preexisting narratives to discuss privacy through familiar frames. Across time, recurring narratives resumed the unsolved debate between public good and privacy rights; they renewed the moral conundrum in reaction to progress; they returned to the inevitable powerlessness of users; and they reestablished the death of privacy. In general, editorials adopted different rhetorical strategies to render different dimensions of privacy – typically using framing devices and episodic framing to discuss spatial, informational, and boundary management aspects of privacy. Longitudinally, findings revealed a shift in the definition of privacy. Early coverage addressed privacy in structuralistic terms, focusing upon its intrinsic importance, its right-based dimension, and its society-oriented nature. More recently, the media discussed privacy in individualistc terms, emphasizing its instrumental value and its interest-based nature. Overall, this dissertation revealed how the shape of privacy was rendered and contextualized in media narratives across time. It thereby contributed to understanding how the culture of the concept “privacy” historically evolved, suggesting whether and how different events triggered its redefinitions in media discourse. While the results answered important questions, they also opened up crucial directions for future research.