Critical Literature on Media and Climate Change

‘Four cultures: new synergies for engaging society on climate change’
Authors: Matthew C Nisbet, Mark A Hixon, Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael Nelson
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Ecological Society of America (8.6, 2010), pp. 329-221
https://www.jstor.org/stable/25741227

Points:

  • A shift in societal attitudes towards climate change requires a multidisciplinary approach and cannot be managed only by scientists and the scientific community
  • Current state of matters:
    • Scientists tend to bring more and more technical information in response to slow societal reaction to climate change news
    • Top-down approaches tend to ‘fuel polarisation and public disengagement’ (329)
  • Four cultures of environmental sciences, philosophy and religion, social sciences and the creative arts – all required to work in synergy to convince the public to care about climate change
  • Communication research demonstrates that much of the public have no ability or motivation to be informed about the details of climatology, choosing to rely on social identity, cultural traditions, personal experience, localised knowledge and/or popular media to comprehend climate issues
    • Thus the most effective method to rouse action is when it is framed in terms of community values or a subject they are familiar and concerned with
  • One of the proposals was that a digital news community be formed, with the suggestion that social media tools are used to match up members from different disciplines to discover complementary expertise, and to plan and coordinate a diversity of communication and public outreach initiatives

‘Climate Change as Meme’
Author: Samir Nazareth
Economic and Political Weekly (46.2, 2011), pp. 17-19, 21
https://www.jstor.org/stable/27918007

Points:

  • According to Richard Dawkins, memes are ‘cultural ideas which include symbols and practices that can be transmitted through various forms of communication’ (17)
  • Three main memes examined: renewable energy meme, energy efficient meme, and transformation of the pollution meme
  • Memes do not only propagate ideas but act as ways to comprehend complex phenomenon and encourage climate change action

‘Climate change oppression: media production as the practice of freedom’
Author: Grady Walker
Consilience (9, 2013), pp. 97-106
https://www.jstor.org/stable/26476128

Points:

  • Use of participatory media as an effective tool for climate change education
  • Media scholar Henry Jenkins: ‘We are moving away from a world in which some produce and many consume media toward one in which everyone has a more active stake in the culture that is produced’
  • Paper argues that adaptation is as necessary as mitigation to combat climate change, using participatory video distributed online on social media platforms as the main example

Climate Change and Participatory Arts

I have been searching for more secondary sources on climate change and social media, and found this fascinating piece exploring several examples of case studies done in the global south.

Most of our research so far has been strongly London-based and emphasises climate change’s effectiveness on the northern hemisphere and Western countries, but considering its cross-continental effects on the global south with a focus on Asia-Pacific is something worth thinking about too. Perhaps not for our presentation’s central point, but as an issue we can acknowledge – knowing that the effects on the global south, and the differences in social media usage and distribution of technology, will also create a divide in how people approach climate change and the urgency with which they do so.

I found it particularly interesting how social media is used as a tool for participatory arts practices and disaster documentation and archiving, as seen in the following source:

‘Screen Cultures in the Asia-Pacific’
Authors: Larissa Hjorth, Sarah Pink, Kristen Sharp and Linda Williams
Book: Screen Ecologies: Art, Media, and the Environment in the Asia-Pacific Region (MIT Press, 2016),  pp. 57-88
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1c2crsq.8

Points:

  • Social media (particularly mobile media and its platforms) allows users to become active members in the experience, management and aftermath of environmental disasters
    • Example: in Japan, in the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster in March 2011, mobile phones were used extensively to capture and disseminate images around the globe. For many people, Twitter messages and still and moving images taken with camera phones not only embodied the effect and affect of the disaster but also became the repository for various forms of personal and communal grief and bereavement (Hjorth and Kim 2011)
    • Note that national Japanese broadcaster NHK had deliberately withheld information from the public on the government’s orders
    • Social and mobile media act as both witness and alibi
  • In contrast, those without access to mobile phones had less opportunity to mobilise and take agency in the dissemination of information and media about environmental disasters
    • Example: in the Philippines an initial lack of images surrounding Haiyan was due to the fact that many affected people shared one mobile phone among a family, and most of these phones did not have cameras. Instead the images that emerged from the disaster were by professional photojournalists. They were well conceived in terms of the conventions of photojournalism, with attention to composition, and could be interpreted as being highly contrived. These were not the highly personal, intimate, DIY images associated with mobile media.
  • New media artists e.g. New Zealander Janine Randerson
    • In 2008, Randerson monitored the effects of climate change on animal and bird migration, then combined scientific data visualisation with found amateur footage from YouTube to create her video installation Cascade
  • Camera phone apps and images can be used for documenting, sharing, communicating, and critically commenting on environmental disasters to everyday experiences of the environment, but themselves contribute to the perpetuation of the consumer society that is a factor in climate change
    • Digital platforms break down parameters between the amateur and the professional, leading to a democratisation of media usage and dissemination
    • Camera phone as a critical part of the environment being an embodied and affective experience of place
    • Note that accessibility expansion via social media must be understood in relation to ways in which the technologies are part of globally distributed corporate and institutional power relations supported by national agendas and consumer cultures
  • Mobile media nevertheless still plays a significant role in the making of critical and participatory arts practice in relation to climate change
    • How can environmentally responsible uses of digital media engage in the mitigation of climate change through arts practice?