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Images of climate change: A pilot study of young people’s perceptions of ICT-based climate visualization
Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research. Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Tema Environmental Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Department of Business Development and Technology, Aarhus University, Denmark.
Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research. Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Tema Environmental Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Tema Environmental Change. Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
2016 (English)In: Climatic Change, ISSN 0165-0009, E-ISSN 1573-1480, Vol. 134, no 1, p. 73-85Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Climate change can be difficult for laypeople to make sense of, because of its complexity, the uncertainties involved and its distant impacts. Research has identified the potentials of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for visualizing and communicating climate change to lay audiences and thus addressing these communication challenges.However, little research has focused on how ICT-based visualization affects audiences’ understandings of climate change. Employing a semiotic framework and through a combination of focus group interviews and mindmap exercises, we investigated how Swedish students make sense of climate messages presented through an ICT-based visualisation medium; a dome theatre movie. The paper concludes that visualization in immersive environments works well to concretize aspects of climate change and provide a starting point for reflection, but we argue that the potential to add interactive elements should be further explored, as interaction has the potential to influence meaning-making processes. In addition, audiences’ preconceptions of climate change influence their interpretations of climate messages, which may function as a constraint to climate communication.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer, 2016. Vol. 134, no 1, p. 73-85
Keywords [en]
Climate change communication, meaning, semiotics, ICT-based visualization, lay audience, dome theatre
National Category
Communication Studies Human Aspects of ICT Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-122796DOI: 10.1007/s10584-015-1533-9ISI: 000367198900006OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-122796DiVA, id: diva2:873221
Projects
Nordic Top-level Research Initiative through the Nordic Centre of Excellence for Strategic Adaptation Research (NORD-STAR)Vetenskapsrådet / Swedish Research Council project no. 2008-1723
Funder
Nordic Council of MinistersSwedish Research Council, 2008-1723
Note

Funding agencies: Swedish Research Council [2008-1723]; Nordic Top-level Research Initiative through the Nordic Centre of Excellence for Strategic Adaptation Research (NORD-STAR)

Available from: 2015-11-23 Created: 2015-11-23 Last updated: 2018-05-08
In thesis
1. Exploring the Role of Visualization in Climate Change Communication – an Audience Perspective
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring the Role of Visualization in Climate Change Communication – an Audience Perspective
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Visualiseringens roller i klimatkommunikation – ett mottagarperspektiv
Abstract [en]

Climate change communication is a topical and relevant issue, and it is widely acknowledged that public communication about causes, impacts and action alternatives is integral to addressing the challenges of the changing climate. Climate visualization concerns the communication of climate information and data through the use of different information technologies and different modes of visual representation. In the context of climate change communication, climate visualization is highlighted as a potential way of increasing public engagement with climate change. In particular, developments within information technology have provided significant advancements that are claimed to be transformative in engaging lay audiences with issues relating to the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. Nevertheless, there is a lack of research exploring climate visualization from an audience perspective. This thesis addresses this gap. The overarching aim is thus to explore the role of climate visualization in climate change communication from an audience perspective, focusing specifically on how lay audiences make meaning of climate change as represented in two examples of climate visualization. In addition, the thesis discusses the potential contributions and/or limitations of climate visualization from a communication perspective.

Based on a social semiotic theoretical framework, this thesis employs focus group interviews to study participants’ meaning-making related to two cases of climate visualization: a dome theatre movie developed for Swedish high school students with the aim of encouraging reflection on climate change causes, impacts and mitigation alternatives, and a web-based tool for climate change adaptation developed to assist Nordic homeowners in adapting to the local impacts of climate change.

The results of this thesis show that climate visualization can help audiences concretize otherwise abstract aspects of climate change, and that the localized focus can make climate change appear more personally relevant and interesting for targeted audiences. Nevertheless, despite these communicative qualities, the analyses also show that participants’ interpretations are shaped by their preconceptions of climate change as a global and distant issue to be solved by other actors, such as national governments, or through international policy negotiations. Although climate visualization can enhance a sense of proximity with climate change, the localization of climate risk can also lead to participants downplaying the significance of climate impacts. In addition, despite the intentions of inducing a sense of agency in both cases of climate visualization, participants critically negotiated messages concerning their roles as individuals in mitigating or adapting to climate change, and assigned this responsibility onto other actors. These findings show that although climate visualization presents certain communicative qualities, it is not a panacea for engaging lay audiences with climate change. This also underlines the importance of considering cultural and social aspects of the communicative event when studying and developing climate visualization tools as a means of communication.

Abstract [sv]

Kommunikation kring klimatförändringar är ett aktuellt och relevant ämne, och många bedömare anser att kommunikation kring orsaker, effekter och åtgärdsalternativ är en viktig del i arbetet med att möta klimatutmaningarna. Klimatvisualisering är en process för att åskådliggöra klimatinformation och klimatdata med hjälp av olika tekniker och metoder för visuell framställning. I forskningslitteraturen om klimatkommunikation lyfts visualisering fram som ett möjligt sätt att öka allmänhetens engagemang i klimatfrågan. I synnerhet har utvecklingen inom informationsteknik lett till betydande framsteg som kan ses som omvälvande när det gäller att engagera lekmän i frågor som rör utsläppsminskningar och klimatanpassning. Det råder dock brist på forskning om klimatvisualisering ur ett mottagarperspektiv. Denna avhandling adresserar denna kunskapslucka. Det övergripande syftet är således att utforska visualiseringens roller i klimatkommunikation ur ett mottagarperspektiv, med särskilt fokus på hur lekmän tolkar innebörden av klimatförändringar så som de representeras i två exempel på klimatvisualisering. Avhandlingen behandlar även klimatvisualiseringens möjliga bidrag och/eller begränsningar ur ett kommunikationsperspektiv.

Med utgångspunkt i ett teoretiskt ramverk som inspirerats av socialsemiotiska teorier genomfördes fokusgruppsstudier för att studera deltagarnas meningsskapande i relation till två exempel på klimatvisualisering: en film som visas i en domteater, framtagen för svenska gymnasieelever med målsättningen att uppmuntra till reflektion kring klimatförändringarnas orsaker, effekter och alternativ för utsläppsminskning, samt ett webbaserat verktyg för klimatanpassning, som utvecklats för att stödja husägare i Norden att anpassa sig till klimatförändringarnas lokala effekter.

Resultaten av denna avhandling visar att klimatvisualisering kan stödja mottagarna att konkretisera annars abstrakta aspekter av klimatförändringar och att ett lokalt fokus kan få klimatförändringarna att framstå som mer personligt relevanta och intressanta för målgruppen. Dock visar analyserna även, trots dessa kommunikativa kvaliteter, att deltagarnas tolkningar formas av deras förförståelse om klimatförändringar som ett globalt och avlägset problem som ska lösas av andra aktörer, såsom nationella regeringar, eller genom internationella politiska förhandlingar. Även om klimatvisualisering kan förstärka känslan av närhet till klimatförändringar, kan lokaliseringen av klimatriskerna även leda till att deltagare tonar ned de lokala klimatriskernas betydelse. Dessutom, trots att båda fallen av klimatvisualisering avsåg att skapa en känsla av att kunna påverka, blev ansvaret för klimatåtgärder föremål för kritisk förhandling från deltagarnas sida – de förlade ansvaret för att hantera klimatutmaningarna till andra aktörer. Dessa resultat visar att klimatvisualisering visserligen har vissa kommunikativa kvaliteter, men inte är någon patentlösning för klimatkommunikation. Detta understryker även vikten av att ta hänsyn till kulturella och sociala aspekter av den kommunikativa händelsen när man studerar och utvecklar verktyg för klimatvisualisering.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2018. p. 115
Series
Linköping Studies in Arts and Sciences, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 744
Keywords
Climate visualization; Climate change communication; Meaning; Lay audiences; Focus group interviews; Social semiotics, Klimatvisualisering; Klimatkommunikation; Meningsskapande; Allmänheten; Fokusgruppsstudier
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-147726 (URN)9789176852798 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-06-08, Temcas, Hus T, Campus Valla, Linköping, 13:15 (English)
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Supervisors
Available from: 2018-05-08 Created: 2018-05-08 Last updated: 2018-05-08Bibliographically approved

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Wibeck, VictoriaNeset, Tina-Simone

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