Understanding the Resource Curse with the Crisis Opportunity Model

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 12:30
Oral Presentation
Joshua MCCARTY, L & M Strategic Solutions, USA
Kaylee LAAKSO, L & M Strategic Solutions, USA
Numerous communication theories, such as uncertainty reduction, crisis communication, and media effects theories, provide an opportunity to understand how a crisis can be leveraged for change. The crisis opportunity model demonstrates how an event that produces uncertainty and spurs corresponding information seeking behaviors (to alleviate stress associated with the unknown) can bring about change. Uncertainty produces a vulnerability that shortcuts people’s cognitive filters that allows one’s reality to be defined for them. The crisis opportunity model explains the phenomenon of opportunities during uncertainty based on vulnerabilities of people’s information seeking tendencies that are necessary to meet cognitive and emotional demands.

Uncertainty provides an opportunity to define and frame the reality people engage with. A story that frames reality must merely provide a perception of coherence that alleviates the stress of uncertainty for a person or group of people. A story alleviates cognitive and emotional demands by framing reality consistent with previous memory cues and information sources. The propositions of this model are straightforward. An event causes uncertainty which leads people to reduce uncertainty through information seeking behaviors. If a social structure or person is looked to for information during this time, then an opportunity to frame reality exists.

Numerous Sub-Saharan African countries have abundant natural resources, but succumb to the resource curse which can be explained by the crisis opportunity model. Prior grievances spur conflict when revenue disbursements fluctuate with the market. These fluctuations are then highlighted by out of power groups to display past tensions as though the in-power group is withholding distributions and perpetuating historical conflicts. This phenomenon in Nigeria resulted in additional costs during oil revenue decreases to increase security of oil pipelines, further limiting available wealth for distribution, thus providing another event to emphasize the out of power group’s narrative.