Climate blogging in a post-truth era: opportunities for action and interaction. Mainstream scientist-produced climate blogs as a climate science communication niche
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This thesis is concerned with the meaning of using blogs to convey knowledge about a consequential but contentious issue and the qualities that render blogs a useful tool for the communication of science. More precisely, the study concentrates on a group of twelve mainstream scientist-produced climate blogs (weblogs), exploring their character and role in the communication of climate science and climate change. During a period when terms such as “fake news” and “post-truth” are prevalent in public discourses, many of which revolve around how such notions may be associated with a declining public trust in science, the importance of direct communication between scientists and a broader audience is stressed, especially with reference to scientific areas such as climate science and climate change, that is, areas that people are interested in or concerned about. At the same time, the communicative capacity of the internet has been emphasized, while there seems to be an increasing scholarly interest in the opportunities that blogs provide to users in different sociocultural settings of communication, including the communication of science. The main argument of my thesis is that what could be described as mainstream climate blogging (climate blogging undertaken by mainstream scientists) has largely come in because of the communicational inefficiency existing in the media environment where climate-related information has been ordinarily communicated. Following a qualitative multiple-case study research method, which involves in-depth interviewing of the bloggers and readers of the blogs, as well as the examination of the blogs’ content and essential technological characteristics, this thesis looks at the history of climate blogging and, primarily, at the bloggers’ and readers’ perceptions and experiences of using the blogs. The analysis shows that the main purpose that the mainstream scientist-produced climate blogs appear to have in common consists in filling the information gap existing in the communication of climate change and addressing the mis/disinformation disseminated through the mainstream media and the internet. The scientist-bloggers do so not merely by providing some additional information, but rather, by contributing their science-based knowledge and perspectives. The blogs can be characterized by their expert-oriented, authoritative, and trustworthy nature, while the knowledge communicated through them has an intermediate character, between the media’s arguably superficial, even biased, covering of climate-related topics, on the one hand, and the specialized technical analysis of climate science provided by the peer-reviewed articles, on the other. What was generally described by the interviewed readers as the blogs’ proximity to science appears to be a distinguishing characteristic of mainstream climate blogging. Additionally, the way that the affordances of the blogs (the possibilities for action and interaction offered by the blog technology) are appropriated by the users of the climate blogs contributes to their scientific quality, rendering the specific type of climate blogging a legitimate process of climate science communication. This thesis constitutes the first, to my knowledge, holistic and in-depth analysis of climate blogging undertaken by mainstream scientists, describing the mainstream scientist-produced climate blogs as a distinct, expert-oriented and authoritative, niche of climate science communication which appeals to the interested public; a niche characterized by the way that the blogs are situated within a broader environment of climate communication.
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