Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Communication

Major Professor

Frederick Steier

Keywords

Ethnography, Health Promotion, Museums, Persuasion, Rhetoric, Science Centers

Abstract

This is a study of the communication environment at The Amazing You, an exhibition about health and wellness with over 400 different exhibits at the Tampa Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). The purpose of this study is to describe a multi-media, multi-vocal health communication environment which incorporates forms of intervention from various medical communities of practice into a narrative about human life stages. Describing communication at a science center as circular, complex and multi-directional allows for notions of feedback to be considered in an otherwise unilinear and unidirectional process from message to receiver. This research is about science center communication as an integrative, wrap-around process, from medical experts, to exhibit designers, to visitors, and back. In this study I have interviewed MOSI executives to find out about the purposes of the exhibition and the process of consultation, design and implementation. I have also conducted 72 surveys and 22 in-depth interviews with MOSI visitors to elicit feedback about the exhibition.

This ethnographic inquiry into a health communication environment shows how visitors are urged to identify with health promotion messages which interpellate them as disease candidates. Using theoretical concepts from frame analysis, classical rhetoric and speech act theory opens up new lines of inquiry for exhibit designers, museum administrators, visitor researchers and critical communication researchers interested in multimedia health promotion.

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