Ulrika Olausson and Peter Berglez, professors in Media and Communication Science at the School of Education and Communication, have been granted three million SEK from the Swedish Research Council Formas for the project ”Nature Meets Network Society: Social Representations of Nature in Social Media”.
The project concerns how we as citizens describe nature in social media. Ulrika Olausson, who leads the project, explains why it is important to understand how we look at nature:
“We need knowledge about how people relate to nature to be able to deal with the environmental challenges that we are facing. Among other things, this knowledge is important for authorities and other organizations that communicate with the public around environmental issues, since it helps them to formulate their message in a constructive way.”
Earlier research has investigated how nature is depicted in media, movies, politics etc, but research on how common citizens communicate around it, especially in social media, is scarce.
“Since the media landscape is becoming increasingly digitalized and we get more and more information via the social media, it is important to find out how we talk about and visualize nature in these media. Also, a lot of the opinion forming around environmental issues takes place in this forum,” says Peter Berglez.
Social media is also a rich environment for studying representations of nature. There we can find a large number of groups, pages, videos, and so on, dealing with anything from climate change to eco-tourism and green energy.
To capture representations of nature the two researchers will study three different cases, which are often discussed in social media: renewable energy, hunting and fracking. Environmental issues often involve more or less conflict, since different people relate differently to nature. The three selected cases are examples of issues that involve a lot of conflict.
“The knowledge and understanding of how different opinions on environmental issues are created, negotiated and changed in social media are important for the efficient communication of these issues,” says Ulrika Olausson.
The grant from Formas is part of the research council’s yearly call for research and development projects with focus on sustainable development. From the 1,100 applications 220 have been granted funding of in total 654 million SEK.