Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”: How a Best-Seller Diffused Online
by Shavlik, Melissa Ann, M.S., Portland State University, 2011, 152; 1506006
Abstract (Summary)

This study describes how information spread on the internet by examining diffusion, framing and source use surrounding coverage of the 2010 best-selling book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The book presented a rare opportunity to view how a story about science, discovery and race became a best-seller within weeks after its publication. Through a mixed-methods and case study approach, the author examines patterns of coverage using Google Alerts that traced the book's online coverage in the first six months of its release. The author found that online information clustered around several themes with the most prominent describing aspects of science and scientific discovery, followed by the book's characterization as a "best seller" or "good read." Another recurring theme centered on issues surrounding exploitation in human research. In addition, the study reveals that sources who "set the frame" for coverage were most likely to be media figures, including Oprah Winfrey, Alan Ball and HBO films, in addition to newspapers and individual journalists and science writers. By examining the relationship of online frames with sources, the author found that a diversity of frames is paired with key sources: that is, multiple themes co-occur with source mentions, although the themes may not have been generated by the sources themselves. Rather, sources are linked to narrative frames by others who generate online coverage. The author concludes that, while key sources initially set a message's frame, once diffused, the message may take on other qualities.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Coleman, Cynthia-Lou
Commitee: Becker, William, Ritchie, L. David
School: Portland State University
Department: Communication
School Location: United States -- Oregon
Source: MAI 50/04M, Masters Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Marketing, Multimedia Communications, Web Studies
Keywords: Diffusion, Framing, Google Alerts, Hela, Lacks, Henrietta, Skloot, Rebecca
Publication Number: 1506006
ISBN: 9781267158499
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