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Journal Article

The homogenized imagery of non-profit organizations on the Internet

01 May 2007-Visible Language (Sharon H. Poggenpohl. Available from: Rhode Island School of Design. 2 College Street, Providence, RI 02903. Tel: 401-454-6570; Fax: 401-454-6117; Web site: 41, Iss: 2, pp 3-43
TL;DR: In this article, the authors evaluate websites from 200 non-deviant and 200 "deviant" non-profit organizations to understand the relationship between the type of advocacy group and the visual imagery used for self-representation.
Abstract: This research evaluates websites from 200 'non-deviant' and 200 'deviant' non-profit organizations to better understand the relationship between the type of advocacy group and the visual imagery used for self-representation. Seventeen of 21 variables measured for this study found no difference between non-deviant and deviant non-profit organizations' visual representations on the Internet. These findings potentially complicate the notion of a diverse communicative sphere. As non-profits face the responsibility of representing themselves to potentially millions of viewers online, it is suggested that self-imposed 'normalizing' restrictions on visual constructions of organizational identity may be inevitable. The societal implications of homogenized imagery from non-profit organizations online are discussed. Non-profit groups have long charged that media misrepresent their purpose or polarize their issues.1 Their frustration has stemmed from the deeply held belief that those who control power within society also create the predominant mass ideology of citizen organizations.2 However, the arrival of the Internet has allowed for organizations to present their own ideology to a truly mass audience- without any mediation -for the first time in history. Certainly, organizations have long had access to print outlets in the past, but the cost of advertising could be particularly prohibitive to cash-strapped non-profit organizations and the audience reach of the Internet provided exponential promise. The Internet has permitted groups to define their own terms "within which reality is experienced, perceived, and interpreted."3 In creating their own visual ideology, non-profit organizations now control the implicit boundaries where particular information is included and excluded for potentially millions of people. Yet, it is possible that with the capability to reach the masses, non-profit organizations may have to pay greater attention to the powerful moderate 'mainstream'- the majority of those exposed to their message. While the inception of the Internet has been heralded as an advancement for diversity, democracy and a heterogeneity of voices, the actuality-in terms of self -representation- could actually be far more homogenous representations. This possibility has deeper implications for groups that deviate further from societal norms. Therefore, this research explores the generally overlooked intersection between non-profit organizations and visual constructions of organizational identity on the Internet. The Internet has been heralded as a democratizing and heterogeneous communication tool, particularly for non-profit citizen organizations. Yet, a thorough examination of visual content on the Web that substantiates this position has not followed. With remarkably little data exploring this facet of cyber -communication, this research asks whether nonprofit organizations that deviate more from accepted norms in society use equally deviant visual representations to get their message out. This area of overlooked research must be examined if scholars are to better understand the widely assumed heterogeneous forces of the Internet. ACTIVISM ON THE NET Non-profits are defined as "two or more individuals who organize in order to influence another public or publics through action that may include education, compromise, persuasion tactics or force"4 Their success depends in large part on their ability to access and to use political allies, media coverage, money and public awareness.5 For the most part, non-profit groups are, or begin as, marginal or powerless groups.6 Certainly, there are exceptions, such as the lobbying powerhouses of the National Rifle Association or the Sierra Club. However, the overwhelming majority of non-profit organizations remain largely powerless in society7 given that they fall outside of mainstream media's norms of inclusion8 and they are faced with tight budgetary constraints that hamper their ability for promotion otherwise. …
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TL;DR: The Clute Institute as mentioned in this paper provides immediate open access to their journals on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge, and provides a set of permissions for researchers to access their articles.
Abstract: This is the published version, made available with the permission of the Clute Institute. Per their conditions of use, the publisher "provides immediate open access to their journals on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, remix, tweak, build upon, print, search, or link the full text of the articles in this journal provided that appropriate credit is given."

4 citations