In my PhD project, I study how a variety of actors — political institutions, parties, civil society organisations, and the media — debate climate change. In the PhD project, the focus lies on the role of conflict (e.g. about economic interests or scientific findings), and its effects on the public debate and civic engagement with the issue.
As a first step, the project will shed light on who says what when about climate change. Combining content and discourse analysis-inspired methods with social network analysis, a first study will draw “maps” of mediated political communication about the issue in two or more countries. These maps will then be used to analyse whether there are strong differences between actors and actor-groups, both in relation to the content they cover, and the conflict they present.
The second focus lies on online social networks and patterns of engagement with climate change-related content by citizens. Combining research about selective exposure to digital content and the insights gained from the discourse/network analysis, the aim is to investigate which types of conflict-content combinations lead to higher or lower forms of engagement by different social groups.
Finally, using an online experiment, the project draws attention to the psychological explanation of why certain types of messages are associated with higher or lower levels of engagement. Overall, the project draws on a variety of methods, ranging from computational social-science driven text analysis, over social network analysis, to experiments with the ultimate aim to develop a deeper understanding of why some countries and segments of the public act more decisively on the issue of climate change than others.