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Best Laid PlansCultural Entropy and the Unraveling of Aids Media Campaigns$
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Terence E. McDonnell

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226382012

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226382296.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Best Laid Plans

Terence E. McDonnell

University of Chicago Press

To achieve their goals, organizations need to communicate to the public and persuade them to align their beliefs and behaviors with the organizations’ interests. Organizations are taking an increasingly instrumental approach to this work. Like other modern interventions, communication campaigns have become increasingly routinized, based on standardized procedures based on success cases. These best practices of design have their history in attempts to control populations through propaganda. These attempts usually engender limited media effects. The chapter introduces the case of HIV/AIDS media campaigns in Ghana that likewise attempt to shape behavior. It suggests AIDS campaigns haven’t been successful, often disrupted by the misinterpretation and misuse of campaign objects because the instrumental views of culture organizations rely on can’t account for the dynamics of everyday life. Seen this way, cultural entropy also offers a new explanation for the failure of AIDS campaigns specifically and modern interventions broadly. This explanation accounts for why campaigns fail even when there isn’t active resistance from the population.

Keywords:   modern interventions, unintended consequences, instrumental rationality, limited media effects, HIV, media campaigns, cultural entropy, AIDS, epidemic

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