The Role of Social Institutions for Legitimizing and Stabilizing Re-Emerging Meaning in Crises
Crises – such as the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (2010) – are moments in which conventional interpretations break down. This paper analyzes the dynamics of the re-construction and stabilization of meaning in the public debate and assesses how BP’s strategic framing affected the emerging consensus. It extents research on framing in mass communication by applying institutional theory and Boltanski and Thévenot’s (2006) theory on justification in order to explain how the success and failure of proposed interpretations depend on the mobilization of accepted social institutions to justify constructed frames. In a semantic network analysis based on over 3700 news articles from the US and UK and BP’s press releases, we document continuities and disruptions in re-emerging meaning. The paper shows that frames’ diversified bases of legitimacy are instrumental to securing widespread acceptance and contributing to the stabilization of emergent meaning.
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The 63rd Annual International Communication Association Conference. ICA 2013