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Learning Activities
Media as Medium for Change


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"The fragmentation of human society is a pervasive fact in human affairs and always has been. It persists and increases in our own time as part of an ironic, painful, and dangerous paradox: the more global our science and technology, the more tribal our politics; the more universal our system of communications, the less we know what to communicate; the closer we get to other planets, the less able we become to lead a tolerable existence in our own; the more it becomes apparent that human beings cannot decently survive with their separatenesses, the more separate they become."
- (C. Rosado, 1998, p.1 Online).

"You must become the change you wish to see in the world."
- (M. Ghandi)

As most people are aware, mass media can be used as a vehicle for both social change AND for maintaining the status quo. Mass media is any method of communication that reaches large groups of people quickly and effectively, thus many means of communication can be considered “mass media”. Television, radio, print media (magazines, newspapers, journals, pamphlets, flyers, books, letters, etc.), the world wide web, email, chat rooms, advertising, marketing, publicity, photography, documentaries, video, – even theatre, movies, songs, dance, art, storytelling, and so on can all be categorized as media that can be used as a medium for social change. The central criteria is that any of these mediums can be used to get messages out to thousands, even millions of people.

One of the key distinctions of mass media is that it can affect people's perceptions of social norms. The media play a significant role in forming and influencing people's attitudes and behaviour. Media has a central role in mediating information and forming public opinion. The media casts an eye on events that few people directly experience and renders remote happenings observable and meaningful.

The recent advent of social media has supported media use in activism, advocacy, lobbying, coalitions and leading societal change in phenomenal ways. Campaign toolkits are easily created using various social media tools that can literally reach millions of people in inexpensive and far-reaching ways. Nurses can learn to use these tools to disseminate their concerns and support, and to educate the general populace and elicit public sanction.

Ends in View

This learning activity is intended to give the learner the opportunity to:

1. Understand the multiple societal changes inherent in the advancement of technology and computers.

2. Recognize the societal changes that have occurred since the information age began.

3. Explore strategies to guide clients and others to adapt to the changes created by technological advances.

4. Realize the need to become an informed user of computer applications and to remain current with continual change in technology and computer advances.

1. Describe how various media mediums can contribute to a social change program.

2. Recognize how planned change is the foundation for social marketing initiatives.

3. Apply systematic processes to plan potential media campaign ideas for change.

In Preparation

  1. READ: Greenpeace International (2010). An answer to critics of online activism.

  2. EXPLORE: The Truth about Nursing The Truth About Nursing, Inc.

  3. READ: Groundwire. (n.d.). Action Alerts: Best Practices. Groundwire: You are Connected.

  4. VIEW: Dutta, A. (2015). Participatory Communication for Social Change. PowerPoint. Dehli, India.

  5. EXPLORE: Population Media. Let's Talk about the Science: PMC's Theory of Change.

  6. EXPLORE: the Youtube channel of Media that Matters https://www.youtube.com/c/mediathatmatters/videos

  7. EXPLORE: FAIR: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. FAIR's Media Activist Kit.

  8. EXPLORE: the following Videos.

Rosemary Kennedy, The Backbone of the Healthcare System: Nurses' Critical Role in HIT

The Purpose of Reflective Practice

Imagine a World without Nurses

Charlotte Weaver and the importance of technology for Cohesive Care


The 7 Activist Uses of Digital Tech

Internet Activism: Affecting Change from Home

In Practice

1. The FAIR initiative provides resources to help people to monitor the media and how coverage is given to particular issues, groups, and news coverage. How can nurses use these sorts of tools in their change agent roles?

2. The Truth about Nursing emphasizes the role of nursing and how it is portrayed in the media. What is the mandate of this organization? How does it aspire to help all nurses from around the globe? What modes of mass media could be used to further the mandate of this group?

3. Since the early 1990s, the web and email have become useful tools for lobbying, coalition building and active use of mass media to spur social change initiatives. Groundwire provides some useful tips for organizing email and web action alerts. Following the guidelines provided in this article, in small groups, draw up an action alert plan (in point form) for a selected issue that requires public participation and support. How does this sort of alert differ from planning another form of media campaign such as a television or newspaper presentation?

4. Community Media also offers guidelines for mass media usage for social change, but the media emphasized is radio. Radio is one of the oldest forms of mass media used today. What unique strengths and weaknesses does this media offer to nurses? How could radio be used to champion the action alert that you worked on in #2 above?

5. The Communication for Social Change PowerPoint and the Media resource sites also offer more general rules of thumb for planning a media campaign for change, with a focus on print and “news” stories. This can be summarized as:

In a nutshell, what you want to achieve by getting your message up in the media is to:

  • set an agenda
  • get people thinking
  • stimulate debate & interest
  • soften the ground
  • provoke interest
  • put decision makers 'on notice'

Are these steps that can be taken by a single nurse? Could this be as effective as a campaign spearheaded by a group or organization of nurses? Why? Give some examples of issues that a single nurse could successfully draw news media attention to. What issues would be best represented by provincial or even national nursing organizations? Why?

6. Form into small groups and choose one of the mass media mediums addressed in the readings. Write up a one page plan to initiate a media campaign to address one of the following issues:

  • aboriginal health issues
  • crystal meth usage
  • nursing shortage
  • nursing image
  • homelessness
  • female genital mutilation
  • sexual assault
  • fetal alcohol syndrome
  • surgical bed waiting lists
  • nurse practitioner or registered midwife roles
  • primary health care adoption
  • emergency room overloads
  • LPN – RN Relationships
  • oil tankers in BC waters
  • Genetically modified foods
  • Climate change

In Reflection

1. Reflect on the paradox of computers and society. Consider how computers can be both:

a) An advancement that creates the need for change and adaptation in people.

b) Tools that can help people keep up with societal changes and the global community.

2. Make a list of the various aspects of people’s lives that can be beneficially influenced by the use of computers and the Internet. What might be lost?

3. How does the lack of access to computer equipment and Internet connectivity impact on the lives of certain groups of people, such as lower socioeconomic populations, rural communities, third world nations, and so on? What can be done?

4. What skills and abilities would you need to develop to feel comfortable using various media mediums for addressing social change initiatives?

5. Which media mediums interest you the most? Why?


Agre, P. (1999). Designing effection Action Alerts for the Internet. Department of Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles.

Canadian Health Services Research Foundation (2005). Mythbusters and Evidence Boost.

Community – Media.com: Services and Resources for Community Organizations. Getting on the Air.

Fogg, B.J. (1997). Levels of Analysis for Persuasive Computers. Captology: Stanford University. http://www-pcd.stanford.edu/captology/moreinfo/levels.html

Health Canada. (n.d.) Seven Steps to a Marketing Plan.

Murray, B. (1995). Society, Cyberspace and the Future: How can new interactive communication technologies enhance harmonious and functional communities at all scales worldwide? Exploratory Aspen Workshop Report, California Institute of Technology.

Social Change Media. (n.d.) Using the Media. Social Change Media.

Whiteman, D. (2001). Using Grassroots documentary films for political change: Outreach tips for nonprofits and activist organizations. Media Rights: Media that Matters.

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Nursing Informatics Integration for the BSN and BSN-AE Nursing Programs at Kwantlen Polytechnic University
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