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Discussing climate change online. Topics and perceptions in online climate change communication in different online public arenas

18/05/2017

“How users discuss climate change online is one of the crucial questions (science) communication scholars address nowadays.” In their new paper “Discussing climate change online. Topics and perceptions in online climate change communication in different online public arenas”, Ines Lörcher (University of Hamburg) and Monika Taddicken (University of Braunschweig) contribute to approaching this issue by presenting the outcomes of a quantitative content analysis of German journalistic articles, their reader comments as well as scientific expert blogs.

Climate change is a major topic in online discourses. According to the authors, based on their literature review, “One of the major challenges so far is that many studies focus on single online platforms, e.g. Twitter. (…) Moreover, theory-based studies are difficult to come by.” Using the theoretical concept of online public arenas by J.H. Schmidt, the authors formulate five hypotheses on the assumptions that the internet allows more plurality of topics and opinions, and that this leads to a fragmentation of the public sphere.

Focusing on articles from Spiegel.de and Welt.de and their user comments as mass-media-induced discussion arenas, and two scientific expert blogs as expert arenas (Klimazwiebel and Klimalounge), the authors analyze a number of variables. As a result, one of the authors’ conclusions is that “There is a greater diversity of topics in the mass-media-induced discussion arena. (…) Laypeople have their own way of “down-scaling” the scientific issue climate change to their lives. Thus, public discourse is provoked by journalists, but follows different patterns of perception.”