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Climate change communication: what can we learn from communication theory?
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. Aarhus University, Herning, Denmark.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4291-2801
2016 (English)In: Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, ISSN 1757-7780, E-ISSN 1757-7799, Vol. 7, no 3, p. 329-344Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

 The literature on climate change communication addresses a range of issues relevant

to the communication of climate change and climate science to lay audiences

or publics. In doing so, it approaches this particular challenge from a

variety of different perspectives and theoretical frameworks. Analyzing the body

of scholarly literature on climate change communication, this article critically

reviews how communication is conceptualized in the literature and concludes

that the fi eld of climate change communication is characterized by diverging and

incompatible understandings of communication as a theoretical construct. In

some instances, communication theory appears reduced to an ‘ad hoc’  toolbox,

from which theories are randomly picked to provide studies with a fi tting framework.

Inspired by the paradigm shift from transmission to interaction within

communication theory, potential lessons from the fi eld of communication theory

are highlighted and discussed in the context of communicating climate change.

Rooted in the interaction paradigm, the article proposes a meta-theoretical

framework that conceptualizes communication as a constitutive process of producing

and reproducing shared meanings. Rather than operating in separate

ontological and epistemological perspectives, a meta-theoretical conceptualization

of communication would ensure a common platform that advances multiperspective

argumentation and discussion of the role of climate change

communication in society.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Wiley-Blackwell, 2016. Vol. 7, no 3, p. 329-344
Keywords [en]
Climate change communication
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-126416DOI: 10.1002/wcc.392ISI: 000374771500002OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-126416DiVA, id: diva2:914110
Projects
NCoE NORD-STAR
Funder
Nordic Council of Ministers, 36780
Note

Funding agencies: Nordic Top-Level Research Initiative through the Nordic Centre of Excellence for Strategic Adaptation Research (NORD-STAR)

Available from: 2016-03-23 Created: 2016-03-23 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)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-05-08 Created: 2018-05-08 Last updated: 2018-05-08Bibliographically approved

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Ballantyne, Anne Gammelgaard

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