Particularly in media studies, it has become commonplace to treat the choice of frames as a more or less deliberate process. For Entman, [t]o frame is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation. (Entman 1993: 52) Notice the shift towards active selection of frames, a conception that has become dominant in media studies.While indeed not agreeing with Entman on much else, D'Angelo (2002: 873) likewise treats frames as consciously pitched powerful discursive cues.How can this skeptical approach to framing at its onset be reconciled with its current success?
On a very banal level, frames structure, which parts of reality become noticed.
For example, a group of persons lined up in an orderly fashion at the side of a road might evoke the frame "bus queue" in a passer-by.
In his initial and widely quoted definition, Goffman characterized frames as follows: I assume that definitions of a situation are built up in accordance with principals of organization which govern events [ ] and our subjective involvement in them; frame is the word I use to refer to such of these basic elements as I am able to identify (Goffman 1974: 10f) In other words, frames are basic cognitive structures which guide the perception and representation of reality.
On the whole, frames are not consciously manufactured but are unconsciously adopted in the course of communicative processes.
If a cab stops at the curbside in front of the line, chances are, the bus queue frame will become rejected and replaced by the "waiting for a taxi" frame.
Todd Gitlin has summarized these frame elements most eloquently in his widely quoted (e.g., Miller 1997: 367; Miller and Riechert 2001: 115) elaboration of the frame concept: While it is hard to improve theoretically on this definition, the trouble starts, when it comes to the identification and measurement of frames.
At the same time, it deflects attention from clothing style, body shape, or communications among the presumed prospective bus passengers.
The adoption of frames is not immune to real world events.
This particular frame structures perception in the way that attention is paid to the orderly arrangement of people in a line, which is one indicator of the "bus queue frame" and might have actually triggered it.
The frame also directs attention to other latent frame elements, such as a bus stop sign.