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Documentary for social change: Analysing rhetorical elements in marine life Documentaries

Binti Mat, Nurul Hidayah 2019. Documentary for social change: Analysing rhetorical elements in marine life Documentaries. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis investigates the effectiveness of various rhetorical elements in marine life documentaries (known in this study as blue documentaries) that influence attitudes towards environmental conservation. It examines two documentaries, one produced outside Malaysia and the other a Malaysian production. Both films strive to raise public awareness of marine life conservation. In this thesis I also identify three groups of respondent responses (which included coastal, rural and urban areas) in terms of their education, emotion and change of attitude towards marine life conservation. Six focus-group discussions and 72 semistructured interviews were conducted at three geographical locations within Malaysia in order to research their documentary viewing experiences. Key concepts from rhetorical theory were employed to formulate the conceptual framework. The rhetorical concepts focus on ethical appeal (ethos), emotional appeal (pathos) and rational appeal (logos). The study found that emotional appeal was the strongest element in raising awareness of proconservation and encouraging social change. This finding demonstrated the effectiveness of this rhetorical tool for understanding perceptions of conservation, which not only lead to short-term educational, emotional and attitudinal changes but, months later, demonstrated a change of attitude towards marine life pro-conservation. This thesis also argues that the locality of the issue represented is the most compelling component for the respondents in the study, not only for appealing to their emotions but also in eliciting a high moral responsibility to protect the environment and lessen marine life consumption, particularly for endangered species. The rhetoric of emotion also raised feelings of responsibility to protect the country’s iconic species. As well as the importance of the appeal of the rhetorical elements of emotion, both ethical and rational appeal were important in raising awareness of the natural world. These tools encourage the social and political change which, it is hoped, will pave the way for marine life sustainability, by exposing the general public to information about the detrimental effects of human behaviour on marine life. The study highlights how blue documentaries can encourage pro-conservation awareness and positive perceptions of outreach programmes, not only among urban populations but also villagers and islanders of Malaysia.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 14 May 2020
Date of Acceptance: 14 May 2020
Last Modified: 14 May 2020 15:42

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