In This Article Entertainment-Education

  • Introduction
  • Prolegomena
  • Books
  • Book Chapters
  • Theory-Based Studies
  • Dissertations
  • Online Resources
  • Entertainment-Education and Involvement Theories
  • Entertainment-Education and Media Ecology
  • Entertainment-Education Games
  • Entertainment-Education Ethics
  • Entertainment-Education Collaboration
  • Entertainment-Education Conferences

Communication Entertainment-Education
by
William J. Brown
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0180

Introduction

The use of entertainment as a strategy for social change is a practice that dates back to the beginnings of organized societies. Life-saving information, shared values and beliefs, and socially acceptable practices have been passed down from generation to generation through the art of storytelling, employing a sophisticated skill for integrating popular entertainment with learning. In the highly mediated cultures of the 21st century, media and arts’ practitioners actively use many forms of entertainment to educate their audiences. By the late 20th century, the strategic use of entertainment for social influence and educational purposes was commonly referred to as prosocial entertainment, entertainment with added value, pro-development entertainment, edutainment, infotainment, and enter-educate drama, among other terms. In 1999, several scholars studying the strategic use of entertainment for education and social change settled on the term the entertainment-education communication strategy, which is now a common description employed by communication scholars. Entertainment-education is defined as a communication strategy that intentionally seeks to reinforce or change attitudes, values, beliefs, or social practices by integrating educational content into entertainment productions. There are five essential elements to the entertainment-education communication strategy. First, it involves using entertainment for the purpose of educating or persuading an audience. All kinds of entertainment provide information and are influential. Entertainment-education, however, must be purposeful, so that the entertainment is created with a predetermined educational or persuasive effect in mind. Second, entertainment-education is theoretically grounded. The strategic nature of entertainment-education is based in communication theories or theories in closely related disciplines of study such as social psychology, sociology, and political science. The study of human communication is commonly considered an academic field of study that is multidisciplinary, drawing from many theoretical traditions. Thus the entertainment-education communication strategy draws from many different kinds of theories. Third, entertainment-education seeks to produce high-quality entertainment through which audiences learn. It requires the blending of entertainment values with educational content so that audiences learn while they are being entertained. Entertainment-education operates through all media and the arts, including film, theater, music, folk art, street drama, television programs, radio programs, live performances, and sports events. Whatever can be considered entertaining can also be educational, and thus the entertainment-education communication strategy encompasses all media, arts, and mediated events during which communication takes place. Fourth, entertainment-education is a research-based communication strategy. It involves formative research with potential audiences before a media or arts product or performance is created, and it involves summative research to measure the effects of entertainment-education messages on their intended audiences. Finally, entertainment-education requires collaboration between media practitioners and change agents such as health and development professionals and media scholars who create educational and social change goals. This collaboration can take on many forms but commonly involves a negotiation between creative artists and public officials or educators.

Prolegomena

The practice of entertainment-education spans centuries, but the study of entertainment-education as a communication strategy is fairly recent and emerged after the broadcast of radio dramas in Australia, the United Kingdom, and Jamaica during the 1950s and 1960s. Entertainment-education theory did not blossom until the 1970s, primarily through the efforts of Miguel Sabido, a creative writer, producer, and vice president of research for Televisa, Mexico’s national television network. Sabido created a theoretical framework for developing entertainment-education telenovelas and for studying their effects on television viewers. Heidi Nariman made Sabido’s telenovelas the subject of her graduate studies, drawing from experiences at Televisa when she worked with Sabido, leading to her book on social change soap operas, Nariman 1993. Sabido taught his methodology for creating entertainment-education television serials to writers and producers in India, leading to the creation and broadcast of Hum Log (We People) in 1985–1986, India’s first television soap opera series. Extensive study of Hum Log produced new theoretical insights and two doctoral dissertations, Brown 1988 and Singhal 1990, followed by several academic articles in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During the 1990s, study of the entertainment-education communication strategy accelerated as the strategy diffused throughout the world. European studies began in the Netherlands with the study of a hospital television drama, Medisch Centrum West, broadcast from 1988 to 1994. The series incorporated elements of the entertainment-education communication strategy and became the focus of Bouman 1999, a doctoral dissertation that was published in book form in the Netherlands. Singhal’s dissertation study (Singhal 1990) of Hum Log became the foundation of his book with Everett Rogers, Singhal and Rogers 1999, on entertainment-education and social change. By the early 2000s, the study of entertainment-education theory was firmly established, leading to a plethora of entertainment-education scholarship throughout the world in the early 21st century. These ground-breaking works are annotated here.

  • Bouman, Martine. 1999. The turtle and the peacock. Gouda, The Netherlands: Center for Media & Health.

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    The publication of Bouman’s doctoral dissertation in book form provides a description of some of the important theories used as a framework to study entertainment-education and presents research results from her study of entertainment-education television dramas in the Netherlands, highlighting the collaboration between television producers and health educators.

  • Brown, William J. 1988. Effects of Hum Log, a television soap opera, on prosocial beliefs in India. PhD diss., Univ. of Southern California.

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    The first of many studies of India’s first long-running television soap opera, designed to raise the status of women, examines three theoretical constructs predicted to mediate the effects of exposure to the program. Results show effects of entertainment-education programs can be complex and not simply a result of exposure to the program.

  • Nariman, Heidi Noel. 1993. Soap operas for social change: Toward a methodology for entertainment-education television. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

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    Seminal research of Miguel Sabido’s entertainment-education methodology in Mexico, documenting the theoretical foundation used to create eleven series of telenovelas designed to promote education and prosocial change. Discusses important theories used by Sabido, including William McGuire’s hierarchy of effects model, Albert Bandura’s social learning theory, Eric Bentley’s dramatic theory, and Paul Lazarsfeld’s two-step-flow model.

  • Singhal, Arvind. 1990. Entertainment-educational communication strategies for development. PhD diss., Univ. of Southern California.

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    Provides an extensive study of Hum Log in India and provides a comprehensive theoretical framework for applying the lessons from Hum Log’s effects to future entertainment-education productions.

  • Singhal, Arvind, and Everett M. Rogers. 1999. Entertainment-education: A communication strategy for social change. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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    Seminal book on the evolution of the entertainment-education communication strategy as it diffused throughout the world, drawing on radio programs from India, Jamaica, and Tanzania; music videos in Mexico and the Philippines; and television programs in Mexico and India. Highlights communication theory, research, and ethics.

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