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Visual Climate Change Communication: The Role of Images in Teaching Media
Jönköping University, School of Education and Communication, HLK, Media and communication science.
Jönköping University, School of Education and Communication, HLK, Media and communication science.
2014 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Visual Climate Change Communication: The Role of Images in Teaching Media

The field of climate change communication has long been dominated by text analyses, where the visual representations accompanying the textual have been more or less neglected. However, in recent years scholarly work on visual environmental communication has made progress. Hansen & Machin (2013) lists research encompassing a variety of media and communicative contexts, including television news, newspapers, news and other magazines, advertising, environmental campaigns, and films.

 

Previous research on media representations of climate change has shown a tendency, in some countries, to “nationalize” the global problem of a climate change – to turn mitigation and adaptation responses into a national responsibility (Berglez, Höijer & Olausson 2009). These processes of nationalization are evident not least in the visual communication of television news by means of, for instance, pictures of maps of the topical country recurrently fading in and out between images of volumes of water. In newspapers, visual nationalization occurs through, for instance, photomontages of the national capital desolated by severe flooding. There are, however, also visual signs of “europeanization” by means of images such as those of the EU flag flying (Olausson 2010).

 

Research indicates that visual representations of environmental issues and climate change tend to be decontextualized and aestheticized (Linder 2006, Doyle 2007), resulting in symbolic and routinized images whose semiotic openness allows new flexible significations and usage across different genres of communication. The same images meet news organizations need for familiar frames of reference to make issues more easily recognizable to audiences, and the need in advertising and marketing for products and services charged with a moral sense of connecting with nature and the environment. According to Hansen & Machin (2008), commercial image suppliers have significant influence over the visual representation of climate change by providing media with cheap and attractive images.

 

One genre of communication, not listed above, is teaching media. In order to enter this obviously under-researched area as regards visual environmental communication, this study examines teaching media used in primary and secondary school: Which visual representations are used in order to provide young generations with climate change knowledge? Do we see similar patterns as in news and advertising, or may pupils meet alternative representations that are not primarily characterized by nationalization, decontextualization, aesthetization, and routinization?

 

In order to avoid a decontextualized analysis, we regard image and text as interacting sign systems and the visual images are analyzed in their textual context. The analytical framework of the study is visual rhetoric, inspired by Kjeldsen (2009) whose analytical concepts have been developed from analyses of Scandinavian political advertising, a genre that is both persuasive and pedagogical. Kjeldsens theoretical point of departure is that images are visual signs that communicate with various rhetorical means.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014.
Keyword [en]
Climate change communication, visual rhetorics, europeanization
National Category
Media and Communications
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hj:diva-25100OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hj-25100DiVA: diva2:760729
Conference
ECREA 5th European Communication Conference Lisboa 12-15 November
Available from: 2014-11-04 Created: 2014-11-04 Last updated: 2014-11-04

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