Is the message the medium? : effect of the medium of communication in the context of Holocaust testimony / by Cheryl Feigenson.
This study explored in what ways and to what extent different means of communication of an identical theme affect a viewees/reader's experience of the narrative. It has been proposed that Holocaust testimony is a unique genre which shares features of both oral and written modes of discourse regardless of its means of delivery (oral or written). Others have suggested that the nature of testimony per se does not structure the viewer's/reader's experience, but rather it is the means of expression which profoundly affects the phenomenology. The purpose of this study was to empirically examine these differing conjectures. Three different modes of presentation of Holocaust testimony were compared: videotaped oral testimony; the written transcript of the oral testimony; and the survivor's literary chronicle of the experience recounted in the videotape. One hundred subjects were randomly assigned to one of the three conditions and completed a 61-item questionnaire which was designed to assess the effect of the mode of presentation on three dimensions: cognitive/intellectual; emotional; and imaginal planes. The factor analysis of subjects' responses to the questionnaire generated eight different factors: three factors concerning the perceived primary effect of the communication; three factors appraising subjects' emotional reaction to the communication; and two factors assessing subjects' visualization of the events described in the communication. Results of the multivariate analysis of variance on the eight factors indicated that subjects' overall experience of the communication did not differ significantly across the distinct media. However, the analyses of variances conducted on each factor evidenced a significant effect for medium of communication on two factors. Subjects who viewed the videotaped reported the communication to be clearer and more believable than subjects who read the transcript. Additionally, viewers of the videotape reported greater vividness of imagery of those scenes in which the narrator was present than did readers of the transcript or readers of the literary chronicle. It is speculated that these findings may be a function of a different focus of attention; whereas the reader may be absorbed in the content of the narration, the viewer is captured by the narrator, himself.
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