Citizens’ views on climate change and the role of a diverse media environment (Prof. Dr. Helena Bilandzic)

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Citizens’ views on climate change and the role of a diverse media environment: Dynamic processes of media effects

Prof. Dr. Helena Bilandzic
Lehrstuhl für Kommunikationswissenschaft mit Schwerpunkt Rezept
ion und Wirkung

Climate change is considered as one of the most urgent issues facing humankind today. While much of mitigation policy is negotiated at an institutional, structural and international level, individuals’ views and actions still play a decisive role in supporting or destabilizing overall efforts to cope with a changing climate. Media are crucial for shaping the public’s beliefs and attitudes about climate change, as first-hand scientific information is difficult or impossible to attain for the average citizen. Professionally produced, factual mass media content is placed back to back with an abundance of online resources such as blogs, wikis, social networks, streams, or podcasts, and an equally varied supply of fictional content in books and films. For the audience, the borders between reliable and unreliable content, truth and speculation, objective and ideological argument are blurred. Often, single media exposures will work against each other.

Conflicting information, different opinions, or counterarguments are available to the audience. In fictional and factual discourse, explanations of climate change will have different levels of complexity, emotional appeal and credibility. In this situation, the scholarly approach to media effects needs to be critically reassessed. The goal of this research program is to develop a theoretically and empirically grounded taxonomy of dynamic media effects, which accounts for (1) interactions between exposures that may differ in tone and valence from each other, and (2) considers media effects as a process that happens over time.