Title

Risk Communication as Interacting Arguments: Viewing the L'aquila Earthquake Disaster Through the Message Convergence Framework

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2-2-2017

Department

Communication Studies

Abstract

The risk assessment period prior to a crisis is often replete with interacting arguments from various stakeholders asserting their interpretation of the risk. As the debate unfolds, stakeholders' messages converge and diverge. Converging points, whereby various stakeholders' messages overlap, allow the public to better comprehend the risk. This study examines the 2009 earthquake disaster in L'Aquila, Italy that killed 309 people, injured 1,500 people, and temporarily displaced 65,000 civilians. The failed risk communication of six scientists and one public official prior to the earthquake resulted in their being sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter. This study applies the Message Convergence Framework, based on Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca's New Rhetoric, to analyze the risk communication prior to the earthquake. The analysis reveals that the convergence expressed by the scientists was not shared with the public. Instead messages of congruence and mutual exclusivity created a false sense of confidence prior to the disaster.

Publication Title

Argumentation and Advocacy

Issue

2

First Page

73

Last Page

86

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