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The Instagram #climatechange Hashtag Community: Does It Impact Social Capital and Community Agency?


Abstract and Figures

Some scholars uphold social media platforms such as Instagram as potentially powerful technologies for social change, since they allow people to connect with each other independent of place and space and reach a broader population with their message. A picture is worth 1,000 data points, and Instagram images can have a compelling, persuasive impact that may inspire others to act on an important issue like climate change. Despite this, scholars remain concerned that online “slacktivism” begins and ends with posting online. We thus chose one hashtag community to examine the potential for meaningful action via the building of social capital and novel network formation on the issue of climate change. We conducted a mixed-method analysis of Instagram posts tagged with #climatechange, looking at sentiment through text analysis and complementing it with a network analysis of user mentions. We show how, even though Instagram affords a type of interaction that has the potential to encourage social capital and network formation to effect change, this potential is currently unrealized within the #climatechange community due to the mostly unidirectional nature of comments and posts and the homophilic nature of the media.
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The International Journal of
Environmental Studies
The Instagram #climatechange
Hashtag Community
Does It Impact Social Capital and Community Agency?
ISSN: 2329-1621 (Print)
ISSN: 2329-1559 (Online) (Journal)
First published by Common Ground Research Networks in 2018
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ISSN: 2329-1621 (Print), ISSN: 2329-1559 (Online) (Article)
The Instagram #climatechange Hashtag
Community: Does It Impact Social Capital and
Community Agency?
Jaigris Hodson,1 Royal Roads University, Canada
Ann Dale, Royal Roads University, Canada
Brigitte Petersen, Royal Roads University, Canada
Abstract: Some scholars uphold social media platforms such as Instagram as potentially powerful technologies for social
change, since they allow people to connect with each other independent of place and space and reach a broader
population with their message. A picture is worth 1,000 data points, and Instagram images can have a compelling,
persuasive impact that may inspire others to act on an important issue like climate change. Despite this, scholars remain
concerned that online “slacktivism” begins and ends with posting online. We thus chose one hashtag community to
examine the potential for meaningful action via the building of social capital and novel network formation on the issue of
climate change. We conducted a mixed-method analysis of Instagram posts tagged with #climatechange, looking at
sentiment through text analysis and complementing it with a network analysis of user mentions. We show how, even
though Instagram affords a type of interaction that has the potential to encourage social capital and network formation
to effect change, this potential is currently unrealized within the #climatechange community due to the mostly
unidirectional nature of comments and posts and the homophilic nature of the media.
Keywords: Social Media, Social Capital, Instagram, Climate Change, Agency, Sentiment, Network Analysis
limate change is a messy, complicated problem, and its solutions are beyond any one
sector, any one discipline, or any one level of government to solve (Dale 2001). Some
scholars even refer to it as a super wicked problem that requires unprecedented
collaboration between local communities and levels of government (Levin et al. 2012). Climate
change is ubiquitous; it does not respect human geographical boundaries, and local communities
are on the frontline of implementing climate innovation (Dale 2008; Dale 2015; Burch 2010;
Burch et al. 2014; Shaw et al. 2014). As such, modern communication channels such as social
media may be critical for knowledge mobilization and transfer, helping civil society to realize
potential solutions, highlight local innovations, and work toward social consensus on
implementation plans. The ability of social media channels to engage diverse audiences is
understudied in the academy.
The wide-scale social engagement necessitated by super wicked problems needs to involve
diverse and highly plural audiences of all ages, and voices that are not necessarily heardat
traditional decision-making tables. One example is online virtual, real-time e-dialogues and
recent conversations such as the Climate Imperative and Post-Cop 21 (Dale 2016). Tending to
level the communication playing field, social media platforms may also be useful for creating the
conditions necessary to engage communities in climate action, particularly since they are already
widely used and have, in their relatively short history, offered unprecedented reach for activism
and grassroots organization (Benkler 2006; Drache 2008). Even the science of climate change
can potentially benefit from digital and social communication, if researchers engage in using
more diverse channels than traditional peer-reviewed journal articles. For example, in previous
research, virtual communication was seen as a key element for creating distributed networks
1 Corresponding Author: Jaigris Hodson, 2005 Sooke Rd., College of Interdisciplinary Studies, Royal Roads University
Victoria, BC, V9B5Y2, Canada. email:
essential for climate change research communications and for building new practitioner/research
knowledge collaborations (Newell and Dale 2015).
Hashtag communitiesthat is, online communities formed when people use a specific
hashtag to share information on a topic or issuehave been highlighted as communication tools
that can involve the diverse audiences needed for meaningful dialogues on topics such as climate
change (Drache 2008; Shirky 2010; Rambukkanna 2015). However, more work needs to be done
to understand if the potential of these communities can be harnessed deliberately. More
specifically, if these communities are to become a productive space for dialogue on climate
change, they must go beyond merely dialogue, or what some term slacktivism(Morozov
2009), and begin to facilitate community engagement around concrete actions. They must be
designed to meet the necessary conditions for encouraging individual and collective agency and
novel network formations, so that people can both discuss the issue with others and also feel
empowered to act (Ling and Dale 2013).
While previous research has looked at climate change on such platforms as Twitter and
blogs (Alam and Shahriar 2013; Williams et al. 2015), the literature related to climate change
communities on the popular image-sharing platform Instagram is still quite limited. Thus, this
article builds on previous research related to platforms such as Twitter to explore the potential
role of Instagram in building dialogue, reveals points of consensus and conflict, and shows how
social capital network formation can potentially lead to citizen agency with respect to climate
change. To do so, we examine social capital and its relation to community and individual agency.
We then consider the potential of digital participatory technologies and the networks they create.
Next, we conduct both a sentiment analysis and a network analysis of the #climatechange
community on Instagram to determine what, if any, conditions for social change and collective
agency exist. We show that the #climatechange community on Instagram has the potential to
foster the kind of discussion that would build community capital appropriate to inspire action, but
additional measures must be taken to move the community from online slacktivism to real-world
Social Capital, Agency, and Change
Agency, or the feeling that one has about ones ability to effect change, is achieved in
communities through a combination of bonding, bridging, and linking social capitals, also known
as strongand weakties (Narayan-Parker 1999; Onyx and Bullen 2000; Putnam 2001;
Woolcock 2001). When applied to changes that must occur beyond the sphere of any one
individual, such as climate change, agency must not only be considered as an individual trait, but
also a communal one, since large problems require that a community of people can collaborate
and work together for the common good (Newman and Dale 2007). While there is a relationship
between individual agency and community agency (Ling and Dale 2013), social capital is the
grease, the lubricant that moves whole communities to action; however, the role that social media
in the digital age can play is a complicated concept to unpack.
At its basic level, bonding social capital refers to relationships between closely tied
individuals such as family members or close friends (Woolcock 2001). Bridging social capital
can connect weakly tied groups or individuals, providing greater access to diversity, innovation,
and resources (Granovetter 1973). Finally, linking social capital connects the community to
resources, ideas information, as well as formal institutions outside the community (Ling and Dale
2013). Social capital can serve both a positive and negative social purpose. While online social
networks initially bridge disparate communities (Wellman and Gulia 1999), social networks, as
they grow, demonstrate a tendency towards homophily, or the tendency of groups to form from
similar actors, and then become more similar with time. Thus, more research needs to be
conducted on social media channels to evaluate the degree of homophily of thought and like
congregating towards like,and, more importantly, strategies to offset this tendency.
There are still ongoing debates as to the effect that social media and networked digital
technologies have on social capital, and its corresponding link with community agency. In a
general sense, broadcast media has long been critiqued based on the assumption that it limits
community agency. For example, in their foundational work, Lazarsfeld and Merton (1971)
coined the term narcotizing dysfunctionto understand the ways that media in some ways create
passivity in the publics that consume them. This debate continues with new digital and social
media. While some scholars have argued that networked digital media create new conditions for
social capital across spatial and temporal boundaries (Rainie and Wellman 2012; Shirky 2010;
Drache 2008), others have argued that these technologies are part of a suite of developments that
have effectively robbed communities of their social capital (Putnam 2001; Postman 1992).
According to Ling and Dale (2013), not all forms of social capital are created equal, and some
are more closely related to agency than others. They identify bonding and bridging social capital
as being necessary for community agency, along with the presence or absence of connectors;
the degree of openness to new ideas and individuals; the structural resilience of networks; [and]
capacity to resolve power and conflict issues(Ling and Dale 2013, 6). Importantly, along with
these factors, they also note that a trigger, or some reason to act, must be present that mobilizes
the community. This means that in order to determine any online communitiespotential to effect
meaningful social change, we must examine those communities for evidence of the types of
social capital that can be mobilized in the presence of a trigger.
Communication and Climate: Networked Potentials
Networked digital communication technologies, such as social media, have been proposed as
ways to build social capital and mobilize often disparate communities. Since networked
individuals tend to reach out and form groups of like-minded people (Wellman and Gulia 1999;
Rainie and Wellman 2012; Castells 2012), social media is often seen to move people from an
individual orientation into communities of choice. As such, these technologies have been
strategically used and implemented in successful social movements (Castells 2012; Rainie and
Wellman 2012). Furthermore, these technologies are seen to level the playing field, giving
anyone with a computer and Internet connection equal footing in a world in which broadcast
power becomes less relevant.
Politically, social media channels such as Twitter, blogs, and Facebook have been studied
extensively to show what influence these communication tools might have over public opinion.
In fact, recent measures indicate that young people, sometimes known as millennials, get the
majority of their news from social media rather than broadcast television, radio, or newspapers
(Mitchell and Holcomb 2016). Blogs in general, and microblogs such as Twitter in particular, can
be important places for people to discuss their opinions on a range of topics. As such, activity on
these platforms can be mined to understand or predict trends in public opinion (Auer, Zhang, and
Lee 2014; Asur and Huberman 2010).
When people self-organize virtually, there are both positive and negative benefits from their
digital connection to a wide range of similarly minded, but weakly tied individuals (Benkler
2006; Granovetter 1973; Wellman and Gulia 1999). Weak social ties are part of every network,
and can be highly beneficial to accelerate innovation by bringing more diverse people with
different experience together based on a shared interest. Conversely, individuals that are too
similar, or communication networks in which one or two influencers dominate the conversation,
may not provide the benefits of weakly tied networked individuals. Instead, we may see the
presence of filter bubbles or online echo chambers (Benkler 2006)a critique that has been
leveled at Twitter in particular in the past (Williams et al. 2015). Other scholars have referred to
this as homophily. This phenomenon may limit the success of networks, as a diverse set of
bridging ties within a group increases a groups agency, and diverse group membership is an
important element of any social movement (Newman and Dale 2007).
Slacktivism and Social Media
Despite the potential of social media for allowing online bottom-up organization of communities
and information sharing within global communities of choice, online social and political
movements are critiqued for being ineffective at creating real and meaningful change in the
world. The tendency of social media platforms is to encourage posting about an issue, but doing
little more is often derisively referred to as slacktivism(Morozov 2009; Sherer 2015; Boulton
2017). It is characterized as a sort of lazy and phony form of activism that appears on social
media in the form of likes, shares, or follows…[which is] an inevitable obstacle that activists
attempting to use these technologies must overcome(Sherer 2015). Importantly, some feel that
slacktivism not only distracts from meaningful action such as real-life protests, strikes, or
community engagement, it also replaces it. In a sense, it gives those who participate in
slacktivist campaigns an illusion of having a meaningful impact on the world without
demanding anything more than joining a Facebook group (Morozov 2009). In other words,
when people join a social media community or post an angry comment about an issue, they feel
they have done an action to help mitigate that issue, even if they do nothing else.
Other scholars take issue with this black and white, all or nothing view of online action and
online activist communities. For example, Shirky (2010) suggests that posting online is a
gateway that can lead to many different types of online and offline action. Similarly, Boulton
(2017), researching the #KONY2012 campaignmuch maligned for its degree of online-only
engagementsuggested that even if the campaign only succeeded in making the issue of human
rights coolamong a group of young people, it still can be considered to have a positive impact
not captured by the idea of slacktivism, making it a case study in social issue communication
across different social media platforms that included the micro-blogging services Twitter and
Microblogs: Twitter and Instagram
Originally described as a form of blogging that lets you write brief text updates of less than 200
characters(Java et al. 2007, 56), microblogs are now also understood to include short video (as
in the case of the platform Vine), image posts (as in the case of Instagram), and also short text or
mixed text/images/video (as in Tumblr or Twitter) (Boothe-Perry 2013; Thirumuruganathan et al.
2016). Microblogs have gained increased attention within the scholarly community in recent
years. For example, they have been examined for ways in which they facilitate information
sharing during natural disasters (Vieweg et al. 2010), public relations and marketing (Ratkiewicz
et al. 2010), finance (Oh and Sheng 2011), and education (Holotescu and Grosseck 2010), just to
name a few applications. Other scholars have examined how networks form and are maintained
(Newman and Dale 2007; Java et al. 2007), how hashtags help to transmit and categorize
information (Efron 2010), and the ways microblog posts can be mined for marketing purposes,
intelligence, and disaster mitigation (Ikawa, Enoki, and Michiaki 2012; Shen et al. 2009; Li and
Li 2013).
Unlike other microblogs, Instagram is primarily image-focused, offering users the
opportunity to take a picture or a short video and share these with a network of friends as well as
the general public of Instagram users (Hu, Manikonda, and Kambhampati 2014). Instagram is
mainly accessed through mobile devices, though images can be viewed via a traditional web
browser. In part, researchers note that Instagrams popularity has been fueled by the growth of
mobile applications and the uptake of mobile devices over the last half decade or so (Saloman
2013). This mobile-first affordance of the platform, along with the tendency of hashtags to
connect disparate communities of networked individuals (Shirky 2010), have made Instagram an
invaluable tool during such protests as the #ByeFelipe campaign against sexual harassment
(Shaw 2016).
There is still more work to be done related to understanding how people are using hashtags
on short or microblog-style social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram to engage with
climate change-related communities, and whether these communities demonstrate the criteria
needed to inspire collective agency. In an important article on networks of climate change
communication on Twitter, Williams et al. (2015) reviewed several climate-related hashtags to
show evidence of online filter bubbles and echo chambers related to climate change discourses
taking place. This finding built on such work as Sharman (2014), who examined online climate
change skeptic blogs, Gallois, Ogay, and Giles (2005), who studied Twitter community ingroups
and outgroups, and Postmes, Spears, and Lea (2000), who studied email discussion. Each
indicated that in political or polarizing discussions, people tend to self-organize into networks of
like-minded people. Unfortunately, a network of people with similar views will not do very much
to convey the facts,share research information, or stimulate a broader conversation. Further,
they tend to reinforce the backdrop of influential traditional media sources that suggest
uncertainty in the climate change argument, even when it is not present in the scientific
community (Bailey, Giangola, and Boykoff 2014). Furthermore, online influencers often show a
disproportionate ability to shape and encourage online discussion of issues (Bergie and Hodson
2015), a phenomenon that, with respect to climate change, has been termed the DiCaprio effect
as a result of the outsized influence that actor Leonardo DiCaprio has shown in the climate
change space (Leas et al. 2016).The presence of such influencers may or may not help the
problem, as they can also act as bridges between communities to combat the polarization that
otherwise occurs (Ling and Dale 2013).
Communicating through Imagery
According to Moser (2010), the act of communicating climate change to public audiences faces
numerous human nature disconnecting challenges, including lack of visibility of causes, far
proximity of impacts, a lack of immediacy, and indirect experience with impacts. These
challenges lead to a need for climate change communicators to employ clearer, simpler
metaphors, imagery, and mental modelscoupled with compelling and consistent storytelling to
reach lay audiences (Moser 2010, 36). Similarly, in an in-depth, qualitative study on how the
public engages with global warming, Smith and Joffe (2013) found that visual information was
particularly important for communicating about global warming since it renders the issue
concrete. While visualization of climate change is important to concretize the issue, Ballantyne,
Wibeck, and Neset (2016) concluded that images symbolizing human suffering and loss due to
climate change also symbolized a sense of helplessness that could lead to public disengagement
about the issue, suggesting that images can both foster engagement and lead to decreases in
feelings of agency if they are not used carefully.
Compared to the research on Twitter and blogs, there is much less research related to
Instagram and climate change. Most articles discuss the potential for Instagram as a persuasive
communication tool; for example, Ballew, Omoto, and Winter (2015) argue that Instagram offers
the benefit of experiential contentin addition to providing a social networking function. Other
work has shown the ways that Instagram and other social media can be used as tools to
disseminate scientifically accurate information about climate change to a broad public (Bowman
et al. 2015). As described above, images of climate crisis can indeed be persuasive and there is a
need to see if they achieve their intended effect. However, unlike Twitter, researchers have not
yet looked at how certain concepts, like climate change, travel across networks of users in
Instagram or whether the communities of people sharing content on Instagram demonstrate the
characteristics of bridging and linking social capital that could be used to inspire community
action in the presence of an event or trigger.
Hashtags are a type of categorization that arises democratically from user posts. Originating on
Twitter, but also prevalent on other platforms such as Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook,
hashtags allow users to identify posts on a similar subject and self-organize into online
communities of practice. Hashtags thus follow a power law distribution insofar as the most
popular hashtags, such as #climatechange, are used by a large majority of people interested in
discussing the topic online (Gruzd and Haythornthwaite 2013; Small 2011). Data was collected
using the hashtag #climatechange, since a search of Instagram showed this to be the most popular
hashtag related to climate change. While #climate is also used, its ambiguity as a term meant that
it also captured posts that were not as relevant to the climate change community.
Following Williams et al. (2015) and Gruzd and Haythornthwaite (2013), we conducted a
network analysis in order to understand whether Instagram is already useful or has the potential
to get the message of climate science out to an audience beyond the echo chamber of agreement
found in Williams et al.’s study of Twitter. We used Netlytic ( to scrape Instagram
for #climatechange beginning June 30, 2016 and ending July 30, 2016. Netlytic is an open source
tool developed in Canada at Ryerson Universitys Social Media Lab, using funds from the Social
Science and Humanities Council of Canada. This method has been previously employed by
Gruzd and Haythornthwaite (2013), among others, for understanding social network activity.
Netlytic scrapes up to 10,000 public Instagram posts per hour using the
/tags/tag_name/media/recent Instagram API tags (Gruzd 2016). In this case, we used
#climatechange and scraped for any public post tagged with the hashtag during our time period.
Our search returned a total of 8,342 posts by 4,394 unique users.
Once the data was collected, we used the frequencies of positive and negative adjectives to
group posts according to sentiment in order to conduct a search for posts demonstrating the
conditions for bonding and bridging capital. Next, we used a common community-detection
algorithm called FastGreedy to sort the posts into community networks based on how the
information was shared (see detailed explanation in Orman, Labatut, and Cherifi 2012). The first
network, a name network, shows who mentions whom. In Instagram, this corresponds to
@mentions in a post. The second network, a chain network that illustrates who replies to whom,
can provide evidence of a conversation occurring and how often that conversation stretches
beyond a specific affinity network or online community of practice. Name and chain networks
were visualized using a distributed recursive layout (DrL) in order to minimize noise and
highlight affinities in the large dataset (Martin, Gruzd, and Howard 2013). The FastGreedy
algorithm allowed us to understand how users were self-sorting into communities through
discussion related to the hashtag (Orman, Labatut, and Cherifi 2012). This algorithm groups
communities based on a bottom-up approach and according to user posting behavior (i.e.
mentions). Finally, we exported our scraped data to Gephi in order to identify users with the
highest number of connections to it. For this, we examined two centrality measuresdegree
centrality and betweenness centralityto determine the flow of conversation and identify high
centers in the data set.
Interactions on Instagram were mapped on network-using nodes, which varied in size based
on the levels of connection to other users. The levels of connection were determined by how
many other users either mentioned each user, or were mentioned by them. In this way, we
excluded any user who may be connected to a large number of people, but is not actively
participating in discussion using the hashtag. We excluded these users because we were primarily
concerned with the message of climate change and how it spreads across networks. We used
various measures, described below, to understand the properties of each community within our
climate change network. These characteristics help to show message flow and how homogenous
our networks may be.
Network Characteristics
Networks exhibit several characteristics that can be used to understand how messages may travel
across them. Centralization is a measure of network density; in other words, it shows how easily
information flows between participants. In a highly centralized network, a few influencers
dominate the conversation. In contrast, a network with a low centralization will have many
participants communicating with one another more freely (Sinclair 2009). There are many
different ways to measure centralization. In our case, we were interested in two centrality
measures: 1) degree centralization, which is the number of links a person has to and from them
(Valente et al. 2008), or for the purposes of our main analysis, how many times Instagram users
mention each other; and 2) betweenness centrality, which is a measure of the extent to which a
vertex lies on the paths between others,” and can be considered a measure of how influential a
node is within the network (Newman 2005, 40).
Density shows how close participants are in a network. A dense or close-knit community
will exhibit many connections or many participants talking with many others. In contrast, a less
dense network will show fewer connections (Arie and Mesch 2016; Gruzd 2016).
Reciprocity shows two-way communication. It illustrates the amount of possible discussion
in the network. A low reciprocity suggests that a few people are dominating the conversation, in
contrast to a high reciprocity, which suggests a more even playing field (Takhteyev, Gruzd, and
Wellman 2012).
Modularity shows how much or how little individual communities in the network are
connected to each other. It is this measure that can show the presence of echo chambers or filter
bubbles. A high level of modularity suggests that individual network communities do not
intersect, meaning there is very little collaboration or conversation across communities. In
contrast, a low level of modularity suggests that individual network communities can bridge the
gaps between themselves and other communities, which suggests less of an echo-chamber effect
(Nematzadeh et al. 2014). In our case, we follow Newman’s (2006, 2) definition of modularity
which isthe number of edges falling within groups minus the expected number in an equivalent
network with edges placed at random.”
Keyword Analysis
Our analysis began with sentiment-based keyword extraction. To this end, we categorized the
comments in each post using an algorithm that used word lists to sort based on positive or
negative adjectives to identify sentiment. Following de Voogd, Chelala, and Schwarzer (2012),
we used computer identification of negative and positive words, augmented by human coding to
conduct a sentiment analysis of our data set. We drew our word lists from Zozanga (2011) (see
the Appendix), and focused on identifying positive versus negative adjectives (which we labeled
feelings-good and feelings-bad). Since bonding social capital requires the building of community
and trust, we were looking for evidence of posts with positive sentiment, in which users were
engaging in pro-social behavior or community supporting behavior, and whether the pro-social
commenting was greater than, less than, or equal to the negative sentiment, or anti-social posting.
Once the posts had been categorized according to word use, we found that posts with
adjectives indicating positive feelings (1,148 posts with positive adjectives were found) greatly
outnumbered posts using adjectives indicating negative feelings (288 posts with negative
adjectives were found). In posts with positive sentiment, we found evidence of language use in
service of bonding or maintaining a community. Words like greatand goodare most
prevalent and are mainly used to show support for what someone else has posted; for example,
great photo!or good shot.” This, along with the prevalence of other adjectives indicating
positive feelings (i.e. fantastic photoorthis pic is wonderful”), when examined in more detail,
generally show evidence that some users at least are using the comments in a pro-social way.
This type of posting behavior is expected on Instagram, which is built around the idea of
community through image-sharing (Ballew, Omoto, and Winter 2015). Positive comments can
also be understood as one type of behavior that supports bonding and bridging capital in online
social networks (Liu and Brown 2014).
The feelings-bad category mostly captures negative adjectives that people are using because
they are concerned about the consequences of climate change. It also contains forty-nine posts
suggesting that climate change might be a lieand eighteen posts in which a small community
of people post that climate change is a hoax. These relatively few posts that belong to the climate
skeptic community show that even a hashtag community like #climatechange can include
dissenting viewpoints.
Networked Communication
Does the #climatechange network on Instagram enhance enabling conditions that increase
community agency in such a way that it contributes to social change? Our sentiment analysis of
the comments suggests that there is evidence of posting behavior that could serve to reinforce
community through bonding and bridging social capital. As Ling and Dale (2013) have written,
however, social action and agency also require the presence of connectors, a resilient network,
and the capacity to resolve power and conflict issues. To determine if these conditions might
exist in our network, following Williams et al. (2015) and Gruzd (2009), we conducted a network
analysis of the #climatechange network on Instagram. We identified who was replying to whom
in order to find connectors in the network and see if the network formation contributes to
deliberative discussion, since deliberative discussion would be more useful for resolving issues
of power and conflict (Small 2011; Bergie and Hodson 2015).
The #climatechange Instagram posts were examined for name and chain networks. A name
network in this case refers to Instagram posts that mention other users. For example, a user could
be tagged in a post, or mentioned in the post caption. A chain network refers to Instagram post
comments. Anyone who posts a comment on another post will be recorded in the chain network
diagram. The name network had 1,670 nodes, and 2,621 edges, with 5,899 total names found.
The chain network had 3,503 nodes, and 3,594 edges, with 3,503 total names found. This
indicates that there are more people tagged or mentioned in Instagram posts than there are people
commenting on Instagram posts. However, we were primarily interested here in finding evidence
of dialogue, since more sustainable communities are those that engage in dialogue about their
meaning (Etzioni 2000). In order to understand conversation in our analysis of community
networks, we focused on the chain network, as this shows response to each Instagram post and
gives a better idea of how messages may or may not spread across the #climatechange
community. The properties of both networks are detailed in Table 1.
Table 1: Network Properties: #climatechange Name and Chain Networks on Instagram
Network Property
Value (Name Network)
Value (Chain Network)
Degree Centralization
Hodson 2017
A network analysis of both the name and chain networks shows evidence of a number of
distributed online communities which, though they may have similar messages, are mostly
isolated from one another. In fact, the network as a whole shows a very low density, low
reciprocity, and high modularity (see Table 1). Like Williams et al.’s (2015) Twitter analysis, our
network analysis of both the name network, or who mentions whom, and the chain network, or
who replies to whom, shows a high degree of modularity, indicating a strong community
structure with little interaction between different clusters or communities. Our analysis also
showed a very low density, which indicates that users are generally only replying to one or two
other users. A low reciprocity supports this finding, showing very little dialogue in the Instagram
discourse, with most posts being one-way only. Finally, a degree centralization value closer to 0
than 1 shows that in contrast to previous research on Twitter (Small 2011; Bergie and Hodson
2015), influence in the Instagram network is relatively distributed, with information flowing
freely between participants. An analysis of user clustering behavior relative to the
#climatechange hashtag supports this. FastGreedy enabled us to identify five main communities
within the #climatechange network. As seen in Figure 1, these communities have only a few
connectors between them, and while they are relatively distributed, for most participants,
betweenness centrality measures do suggest the presence of a small number of Instagram
Figure 1: Five Distinct Communities were Identified via Network Analysis
with a Few Connectors between Them 2017
Finally, we used Gephi to identify the top ten nodes in the network relative to betweenness
and degree centrality. These nodes or users in the network have the largest number of other nodes
connecting either to or from them, and sometimes serve as connectors between communities. In
the case of understanding our #climatechange networks, the presence of nodes with a high degree
of betweenness centrality can indicate the presence of influencers. When considered with in-
degree (or posts mentioning the user) and out-degree (or posts in which the user mentions others)
centrality measures, we can get a good idea of whether dialogue is occurring and which users
serve as connectors within each network. In the chain network of 3,503 nodes in the
#climatechange community on Instagram, there were only ninety-three nodes that registered any
measure of betweenness centrality at all. Table 2 shows the top twenty-five of these in
descending order. If a user is a public figure or organization, their name is repeated verbatim. If
not, in the interest of user privacy and confidentiality, we have used the placeholder [user] to
indicate a user who is not a public figure.
Table 2: Most Influential Posters as Measured by Betweenness Centrality
Betweenness Centrality
In Degree
Out Degree
Hodson 2017
As shown in Table 2, the users most likely to demonstrate centrality in terms of betweenness
or degree are users who already have a public profile or are of celebrity status. Furthermore, the
public users tend to have much higher in-degree centrality measures, whereas non-public figure
users tend to have higher out-degree centrality measures. While this finding supports the
presence of connectors in the network, it also suggests a broadcast, rather than dialogic,
orientation within the network. The low number of betweenness centrality and degree connected
individuals also supports the findings in Table 1 regarding network modularity, centralization,
and reciprocity. In other words, few individuals are mentioning each other, and those who are
mentioned tend to be celebrities or public figures and receive more mentions than they give,
somewhat weakening the potential of Instagram for social capital and agency.
Instagram Sentiment
Our textual analysis of the Instagram posts shows some promising trends which, in some ways,
support the work by Ballew et al. (2016) and Leas et al. (2015). Posts and comments demonstrate
pro-social and community building behavior among a mostly non-hierarchical group of
participants as a whole, which could support both bonding and linking social capital. The hashtag
community as a whole also shows five distinct smaller communities that are for the most part
connected by at least a few connectors. While the positive sentiment is promising insofar as it
shows efforts at community building textual behaviors, negative sentiment analysis is also
promising, since it shows the presence of climate skeptics/people who believe climate change is a
hoax. This shows that the hashtag has the possibility to reach beyond an immediate community
of people who already believe that climate change is a problem.
Social Capital and Network Formation on Instagram
In their study of climate change networks on Twitter, Williams et al. (2015) reported a large
degree of embeddedness within communities of like-minded users and the relative lack of
communication across different communities, even when the communities are sharing similar
messages. Quite simply, the majority of Instagram users who use the hashtag #climatechange are
not engaging in dialogue, but rather positional ideologies. Furthermore, the betweenness
centrality and degree centrality measures indicate mostly one-sided mentions dominated by
influencers. While text comments include pro-social or community building posts, these tend to
occur much more often for high-profile influential users than they do for lower-profile,
community users. Thus, our network analysis shows high out-degree outward hub-and-spoke
formation, which has more in common with a dominant group of radio stations in a large system
of receivers than it does with the multi-point to multi-point view of social media discussed by
proponents of an online public sphere.
Community, Agency, and Social Capital
In order for a community to be able to act in the presence of an initiating event or trigger, it is
necessary for social network formation that has openness to new ideas and individuals;
structural resilience; [and] capacity to resolve power and conflict issues(Ling and Dale 2013,
6). Our textual analysis shows efforts to build bonds with others and to set up an environment in
which conflict resolution can occur; however, these currently occur in a mostly uni-directional
way from lower influence to higher influence users. The presence of alternative viewpoints in the
#climatechange community gives evidence to support an openness to ideas and individuals that
may be an affordance of Instagram as a platform. The #climatechange network hosts influential
users, as determined by betweenness centrality measures, and these users could potentially serve
as connectors under the right circumstances. Despite this, the low network density does not
suggest that this network is resilient. Network resilience is characterized by the level of
connectivity, or density of links within a network (Janssen et al. 2006). Our #climatechange
network has a density close to 0, indicating a network in which few people speak with one
another. As no initiating event or trigger occurred during our sampling time frame, we could not
measure the impact of such an event on the community in real time.
Degree centralization is impacted by the presence of a few very influential accounts,
meaning that in the absence of influencers, the community would be less centralized and
information would flow freely between participants. This may explain why any social platform in
early days is more effective at leveling the communication playing field for people looking to
organize. Once influential users dominate the conversation, the communities take on a more
broadcast than dialogic character. However, this does not mean that engaging with the
#climatechange community on Instagram is merely slacktivism. Like with #KONY2012, it may
be most useful to think of platforms like Instagram as one tool in the social activists toolkit. It
can help build awareness of an issue or campaign among a broad variety of users, particularly
when celebrity voices are part of the discussion. Unlike traditional broadcast media, there are
several opportunities to build social agency and community through the platform, particularly if
large and influential accounts are encouraged to increase their out-degree posting behavior to
inspire dialogue among the many people who follow them. Therefore, anyone who is interested
in using a tool like Instagram to mobilize a community and build the agency needed for action on
an issue like climate change needs to pay particular attention to how influencers can be used to
mobilize the community and create additional conditions for change.
Limitations and Future Directions
This exploratory study represented a pilot, taking the case study of #climatechange on Instagram
and inquiring whether the criteria for community agency might exist on this platform. The
findings show both promise as well as challenges that could be explored further in future
research. This study is currently limited by the fact that we examined one (albeit the most
popular) hashtag on one particular social network. Thus, to ensure the findings remain consistent
across social networks and climate or activist-related hashtags, future studies could examine this
issue in greater scope. For example, researchers could look at the discussions of #climatechange
on Facebook to see whether this social platforms contains more or fewer opportunities for
community agency. Similarly, social networks could be compared for a single hashtag, or
multiple hashtags could be compared across a single social network. We also recommend that
this study be conducted in languages other than English in order to locate global communities
and to see if these trends persist outside of English-speaking social media users. Finally, we
deliberately chose to examine our hashtag during a month when we knew no major climate
change news or events had occurred. Future work could compare a month like this one to a
month in which climate change events were prevalent, or a month following a climate-related
weather event, to see if the presence of an event helped to drive #climatechange conversations
Given the anarchy and spatial outreach of Information Communications Technologies (ICTs), it
is surprising to see the degree of traditional broadcast-style interactions occurring in the medium
and the same degree of homophily as in traditional face-to-face meetings. One would think that it
would be boundary-spanning in many diverse ways, but it still favors the domination of
celebrityvoices in a way that suggests that networks may not remain resilient in the absence of
influencers, or some sort of interpersonal mediation. There has been critique of the
environmental movements failure to communicate in a positive way to empower people to act or
to present solutions or actions that individuals can take (Dale 2016). Similarly, ICTs can be
hostage to vested interests and, without mediation, they can dominate due to their access to
resources individuals do not have.
When people neither see that solutions are possible nor themselves as part of the solution to
climate change, they disengage (Ling and Dale 2013). This is especially problematic when the
climate challenge is so ubiquitous, when we cannot see the collective impacts of our day-to-
day decisions until we reach threshold effects, which may be too late. As noted above, while
images can and do inspire emotion and response, Instagram is currently best used as a tool to
communicate climate change messaging, and much more research needs to be done to see if this
links to increased action on the ground, both individually and collectively. While not quite
slacktivism, this means that very deliberate and strategic community building that makes use of
influencers is needed if this medium is to reach its full potential for increasing collective action
on climate change. In other words, the platform itself currently supports some, but not all of the
conditions necessary for building individual agency and social capital, specifically new network
formation for social change, which leads a community to engage in collective change. It is our
conclusion that if social media is to be optimized for social change, there needs to be a human
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Dr. Jaigris Hodson, PhD: Associate Professor, College of Interdisciplinary Studies, Royal
Roads University, Victoria, BC, Canada
Dr. Ann Dale, PhD: Author Professor, School of Environmental and Sustainability, Royal Roads
University, Victoria, BC, Canada
Brigitte Petersen: Research Assistant, College of Interdisciplinary Studies, Royal Roads
University, Victoria, BC, Canada
Zozanga 2011
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... Several papers have conducted sentiment analysis or opinion mining that are employed to effectively test how positive are changes in the environment (for instance, Scharl et al. 2015;Weichselbraun, Scharl, and Gindl 2016) and climate change (for example, Fernandez et al. 2016;Hodson, Dale, and Petersen 2018). The majority of these studies focused on examining communications ranging from patterns to its causes and consequences. ...
... Our research fits within the literature that investigates environmental and climate change issues using sentiment analysis (see inter alia, Codyetal2015; Hodson, Dale, and Petersen 2018;Scharl et al. 2015;Sluban et al. 2014Sluban et al. , 2015Weichselbraun, Scharl, and Gindl 2016). Our contribution consists of testing the impacts of sentiments derived from the social network content (in particular, Twitter 2 ) related to COVID-19 on the S&P 500 Environmental and Socially Responsible Index under different time-horizons (short-, medium-and long-run). ...
The excessive volatility generated by the COVID-19 pandemic highlights that environmental and social issues are potential elements that businesses and governments must manage effectively and swiftly. This study seeks to test whether the rising anxiety over this pandemic has affected the attitudes and choices towards environmentally and socially responsible investing. To this end, we first use machine learning tools to examine tweets related to this unprecedented and wild shock. Second, we compare the impact of these sentiments on the stock performance of companies from the S&P500 that meet environmental and social sustainability criteria for three COVID-19 phases with varying levels of anxiety, which we label incubation, fever and the increasing risk of second wave pandemic (in the absence of vaccine). Our findings reveal that the increasing uncertainty and worries over COVID-19 and its consequences has not distracted investors' attention away from environmental and social issues, but companies with responsible strategies on environmental issues that specifically address climate responsibility are likely to be more responsive to sentiments at the current situation of emergency.
... Several papers have conducted sentiment analysis or opinion mining that are employed to effectively test how positive are changes in the environment (for instance, Scharl et al. 2015;Weichselbraun, Scharl, and Gindl 2016) and climate change (for example, Fernandez et al. 2016;Hodson, Dale, and Petersen 2018). The majority of these studies focused on examining communications ranging from patterns to its causes and consequences. ...
... Our research fits within the literature that investigates environmental and climate change issues using sentiment analysis (see inter alia, Codyetal2015; Hodson, Dale, and Petersen 2018;Scharl et al. 2015;Sluban et al. 2014Sluban et al. , 2015Weichselbraun, Scharl, and Gindl 2016). Our contribution consists of testing the impacts of sentiments derived from the social network content (in particular, Twitter 2 ) related to COVID-19 on the S&P 500 Environmental and Socially Responsible Index under different time-horizons (short-, medium-and long-run). ...
The excessive volatility generated by the COVID-19 pandemic highlights that environmental and social issues are potential elements that businesses and governments must manage effectively and swiftly. This study seeks to test whether the rising anxiety over this pandemic has affected the attitudes and choices towards environmentally and socially responsible investing. To this end, we first use machine learning tools to examine tweets related to this unprecedented and wild shock. Second, we compare the impact of these sentiments on the stock performance of companies from the S&P500 that meet environmental and social sustainability criteria for three COVID-19 phases with varying levels of anxiety, which we label incubation, fever and the increasing risk of second wave pandemic (in the absence of vaccine). Our findings reveal that the increasing uncertainty and worries over COVID-19 and its consequences has not distracted investors’ attention away from environmental and social issues, but companies with responsible strategies on environmental issues that specifically address climate responsibility are likely to be more responsive to sentiments at the current situation of emergency.
... Several papers have conducted sentiment analysis or opinion mining that are employed to effectively test how positive are changes in the environment (for instance, Scharl et al. 2015;Weichselbraun, Scharl, and Gindl 2016) and climate change (for example, Fernandez et al. 2016;Hodson, Dale, and Petersen 2018). The majority of these studies focused on examining communications ranging from patterns to its causes and consequences. ...
... Our research fits within the literature that investigates environmental and climate change issues using sentiment analysis (see inter alia, Codyetal2015; Hodson, Dale, and Petersen 2018;Scharl et al. 2015;Sluban et al. 2014Sluban et al. , 2015Weichselbraun, Scharl, and Gindl 2016). Our contribution consists of testing the impacts of sentiments derived from the social network content (in particular, Twitter 2 ) related to COVID-19 on the S&P 500 Environmental and Socially Responsible Index under different time-horizons (short-, medium-and long-run). ...
... We found that when young people interact with negative news stories about climate change on social media, they are more exposed to negative mental health effects. Hodson, Dale and Peterson [20] found that negative reporting of climate change can lead to hopelessness and decreased feelings of agency. Conversely, the current study found that constructively framed news stories on climate action had a positive effect on young people's social and mental health wellbeing. ...
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(1) Background: In Australia, young people are one of the most vulnerable populations to the mental health impacts of climate change. The aim of this article was to explore mental health promotion issues related to climate change for young people in Australia. (2) Methods: An exploratory mixed-method approach, co-led by young people, was used to engage young people living in Australia aged 18–24 years in semi-structured interviews (n = 14) and an online survey (n = 46). Data were analysed thematically and with descriptive statistics. (3) Results: Findings indicated that negative impacts included worry, eco-anxiety, stress, hopelessness/powerlessness and feelings of not having a voice. Several mediating factors, in particular social media engagement, highlighted the duality of mental health impacts for young people’s mental health. Positive impacts of climate action included feeling optimistic and in control. (4) Conclusions: This exploratory study contributes to an emerging field of public health research on young people’s mental health in a climate-impacted Australia. Climate change is a significant concern for young people, and it can negatively affect their mental health. The findings can inform the design of public health interventions that raise awareness of climate change-related mental health issues among young people and promote their participation in nature-based interventions, climate action and empowering social media engagement.
... A hashtag is a word or a series of words that can be used to signify a brand, concept, event, location, emotion, or phrase. They serve as content markers that allow users to tag their message as belonging to a current discussion or issue, affecting both the searchability and visibility of posts (Hodson et al., 2018;Page, 2012;Stathopoulou et al., 2017). Prior research found that hashtags are frequently used to publicize products, invite discussion, label opinions and events, mobilize action, and signify relationships (e.g., group membership, shared lifestyle interests) (Jeffares, 2014). ...
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This study used semantic network analysis to investigate the themes of JUUL electronic cigarette-related messages on Instagram posted by three account types (commercial, vape community, and organic users) and explore the function of hashtags in the JUUL-related discourse across these groups. Posts were collected from 1 March 2018 to 15 May 2018. We conducted network analyses for each user group, with separate analyses to examine texts with and without inclusion of hashtags. Network statistics determined which words occurred most frequently, which words co-occurred or clustered together, and what communication function hashtags perform. Analyses of message content with hashtags included revealed that the largest cluster of terms by account type was brand promotion (commercial), brand engagement (community), and youth social use of JUUL and other substances, such as marijuana (organic users). On removal of hashtags, the largest cluster for each group was online and offline retailer promotion (commercial), JUUL promotion or shares of existing promotional content (community), and youth social use (organic users). Commercial accounts used hashtags to increase brand visibility and engage with vape communities present on Instagram. Community accounts served as discursive intermediaries between commercial accounts and organic users, fostering organic user engagement with brands. Social media serve as an extension of real-life peer groups among youth and young adults. Community accounts, which likely have greater credibility among users compared to commercial accounts, may help enhance the effects of targeted promotion and normalize vaping comprehensive regulation of commercial digital tobacco marketing is necessary to reduce the amount of commercial content youth and other consumers are exposed to through overt commercial and influential community accounts.
... At the same time, such online engagement sometimes results in an illusion that "likes" have a meaningful impact on the problem and leads instead to a couch potato activism. Hodson et al. (2017) describe this process as "slacktivism": the tendency of social media to encourage virtual posting about an issue, without a proper action in real life. ...
... Climate change is a messy, wicked problem (Hodson, Traynor, Wilkes, Dale, & Petersen, 2018). Addressing it effectively requires coordinated government, community and individual efforts not yet seen on a global scale. ...
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Climate change is a problem that will require cooperation across different levels of government, society, community and individual action. For this reason, communicating about climate change represents a distinct challenge for marketers. This review paper proposes an ecological solution to this challenge. Using the ecological model to guide climate communication efforts could increase marketing effectiveness. This paper proposes a series of questions that marketers can use to create messages, and it shows how the ecological model incorporates the best practices from the climate communication and public health literature on behavior and attitude change.
... As this social media platform has over 1 billion users, it is an ideal space for disseminating curated research outcomes as it can offer unprecedented reach to large audiences in a short period of time. For example, the use of images to communicate climate change research can be persuasive when coupled with storytelling (Hodson, Dale, & Peterson, 2018) and can reach the many networks of users through strategic hashtag use. However, there is a gap in research on how images and artworks can best serve as visual representations of research outcomes. ...
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In our post-truth society, mobilizing “facts” and “evidence” has never been more important. We live in an age that is paradoxically information rich due to the proliferation of Internet Communication Technologies (ICTs) and information poor due to the spread of misinformation. Academic research outcomes are traditionally disseminated via peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations, and in the classroom; however, this research is not often effectively communicated to both decision makers and the general public(s). There is no perfect way of disseminating research outcomes; however, there are lessons to be learned from curatorial and communication frameworks developed in museums as these institutions have a long history educating and engaging the public. This article explores the new concept of “research curation,” or rather the enhanced dissemination of curated research outcomes to reach diverse audiences. Closing the “gap” between academia and the public is essential for increasing civic literacy around issues that threaten sustainability. By adapting curatorial and communication methods developed in museums along with ICT models, the practice of “research curation” can be an effective framework for improved dissemination of academic knowledge.
Research examining online social capital has grown since the introduction of information communication technologies (ICTs) into our everyday lives. This paper discusses recent trends in the research that examines how people are using ICTs to accumulate, increase, and utilize their offline and online social capital resources. These trends include the blurring gap between offline and online social capital, examining the use of new platforms to obtain online social capital, increased specificity concerning the types of online social capital that can be sought, how taking advantage of online social capital resources affects personal well-being, and how researchers are moving beyond the college-aged population in their online social capital studies
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This article examines the Instagram page for Bye Felipe, a feminist campaign where people submit screenshots of examples of harassment and sexual entitlement from men on online dating sites such as OKCupid and apps such as Tinder. I frame the campaign as an example of feminist discursive activism. The site owners collect contributions and aggregate examples of particular discursive patterns in hook up apps, in order to make collective political claims, a strategy that Tomlinson calls “intensification.” I address the existing literature on cyber-misogyny and online harassment, and also research on previous similar campaigns such as Fedoras of OKCupid to discuss shaming as a political practice. I then draw out the patterns and concepts invoked in interventions and resultant discussions on Bye Felipe, examining the themes of rejection, silence and who has the right to silence, rape culture, and gendered sexual entitlement. I identify the political claims being made through the rhetorical strategies described in the first part of the article. Drawing on the work of McCosker on trolling as provocation, I discuss the role of repetition and rehearsal in the practice of discursive politics. Finally, through a discursive analysis of responses to the posts on Instagram and Facebook over time, I explore the ongoing and difficult boundary work around what constitutes appropriate examples for the site, and the articulation of feminist claims and discourses.
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Data visualizations can serve as an integral component of online climate change research dissemination strategies, as they are effective and efficient ways for attracting diverse public audiences and delivering research information in a timely fashion. However, these visualizations can be highly varied in terms of form and ways of interaction, and this raises questions about the particular qualities of such media that influence their ability to connect with and inform diverse audiences. This study addresses these questions by building visualizations of secondary energy production and consumption trends in Canada and evaluating their impact through focus group methodology. Two visualizations were built that held contrasting features: an abstract, static visualization built in the form of a time-series graph and a dynamic, interactive visualization with a ‘picturesque’ design. The results indicate that the interactive visualization held higher potential for drawing in and maintaining audience intere...
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The strategies that experts have used to share information about social causes have historically been top-down, meaning the most influential messages are believed to come from planned events and campaigns. However, more people are independently engaging with social causes today than ever before, in part because online platforms allow them to instantaneously seek, create, and share information. In some cases this “organic advocacy” may rival or even eclipse top-down strategies. Big data analytics make it possible to rapidly detect public engagement with social causes by analyzing the same platforms from which organic advocacy spreads. To demonstrate this claim we evaluated how Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2016 Oscar acceptance speech citing climate change motivated global English language news (Bloomberg Terminal news archives), social media (Twitter postings) and information seeking (Google searches) about climate change. Despite an insignificant increase in traditional news coverage (54%; 95%CI: -144 to 247), tweets including the terms “climate change” or “global warming” reached record highs, increasing 636% (95%CI: 573–699) with more than 250,000 tweets the day DiCaprio spoke. In practical terms the “DiCaprio effect” surpassed the daily average effect of the 2015 Conference of the Parties (COP) and the Earth Day effect by a factor of 3.2 and 5.3, respectively. At the same time, Google searches for “climate change” or “global warming” increased 261% (95%CI, 186–335) and 210% (95%CI 149–272) the day DiCaprio spoke and remained higher for 4 more days, representing 104,190 and 216,490 searches. This increase was 3.8 and 4.3 times larger than the increases observed during COP’s daily average or on Earth Day. Searches were closely linked to content from Dicaprio’s speech (e.g., “hottest year”), as unmentioned content did not have search increases (e.g., “electric car”). Because these data are freely available in real time our analytical strategy provides substantial lead time for experts to detect and participate in organic advocacy while an issue is salient. Our study demonstrates new opportunities to detect and aid agents of change and advances our understanding of communication in the 21st century media landscape.
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In the past few years, the use of social media has gradually become an important part of our daily lives. While some might see this as a threat to our productivity or as a source of procrastination, social media as a whole have unquestionably changed the way in which information and knowledge disseminate in our society. Social media guide This article is meant to serve as a guide for scientists who would like to establish their online presence and includes an outline of the benefits of using social media as well as strategies for establishing and improving your presence in social media. Environmental scientists in particular can benefit enormously from this approach, since this field of science deals with topics that directly impact our daily lives. Case study To highlight these approaches for our fellow scientists in the field of environmental science and toxicology and in order to better engage with our own peers, we describe the outreach methods used by the student advisory councils of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) and how we have worked towards an improved social media presence. In this article we present our initiatives to increase social media usage and engagement within SETAC. This includes joint social media accounts organized by the SETAC student advisory councils from various SETAC geographical units. We also led a course on social media usage at the SETAC Nashville meeting in 2013 and are currently developing other outreach platforms, including high school student-oriented science education blogs. The Students of SETAC will continue to increase communication with and among SETAC students on a global level and promote the use of social media to communicate science to a wide variety of audiences.
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Climate change can be difficult for laypeople to make sense of, because of its complexity, the uncertainties involved and its distant impacts. Research has identified the potentials of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for visualizing and communicating climate change to lay audiences and thus addressing these communication challenges. However, little research has focused on how ICT-based visualization affects audiences’ understandings of climate change. Employing a semiotic framework and through a combination of focus group interviews and mindmap exercises, we investigated how Swedish students make sense of climate messages presented through an ICT-based visualisation medium; a dome theatre movie. The paper concludes that visualization in immersive environments works well to concretize aspects of climate change and provide a starting point for reflection, but we argue that the potential to add interactive elements should be further explored, as interaction has the potential to influence meaning-making processes. In addition, audiences’ preconceptions of climate change influence their interpretations of climate messages, which may function as a constraint to climate communication.
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Research from a variety of disciplines suggests that online technologies (i.e., Web 2.0 and social media) have considerable potential for spurring proenvironmental action; however, relatively little work examines how to effectively capitalize on these communication and organization tools. This review paper describes the Technologies for Proenvironmental Action Model (TPAM), a conceptual framework that explicates how different functions of Web 2.0 and social media (i.e., informational, relational, and experiential) can generate and/or facilitate personal, social, and contextual pathways to environmentally responsible behaviors. As derived from the TPAM, the likelihood of achieving practical goals of increasing proenvironmental behaviors is enhanced when technological functions are matched to the different pathways to proenvironmental action. For example, the relational function of technologies, as exemplified by Social Networking Sites (SNSs), should be particularly effective in communicating social norms supportive of environmentally responsible behaviors. The TPAM is intended as a guide to develop novel approaches, research questions, and methodologies in leveraging Web 2.0 and social media technologies to promote proenvironmental action. Results will contribute to basic theory development and work in applied settings (e.g., local environmental organizations) in order to effectively communicate and organize with different segments of the population to increase sustainable behaviors.
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Action to tackle the complex and divisive issue of climate change will be strongly influenced by public perception. Online social media and associated social networks are an increasingly important forum for public debate and are known to influence individual attitudes and behaviours – yet online discussions and social networks related to climate change are not well understood. Here we construct several forms of social network for users communicating about climate change on the popular microblogging platform Twitter. We classify user attitudes to climate change based on message content and find that social networks are characterised by strong attitude-based homophily and segregation into polarised “sceptic” and “activist” groups. Most users interact only with like-minded others, in communities dominated by a single view. However, we also find mixed-attitude communities in which sceptics and activists frequently interact. Messages between like-minded users typically carry positive sentiment, while messages between sceptics and activists carry negative sentiment. We identify a number of general patterns in user behaviours relating to engagement with alternative views. Users who express negative sentiment are themselves the target of negativity. Users in mixed-attitude communities are less likely to hold a strongly polarised view, but more likely to express negative sentiment towards other users with differing views. Overall, social media discussions of climate change often occur within polarising “echo chambers”, but also within “open forums”, mixed-attitude communities that reduce polarisation and stimulate debate. Our results have implications for public engagement with this important global challenge.
Following the increasing adoption of mobile communication, scholars have shown interest in the role of place on the structure of mobile social networks. The purpose of this study is to investigate the association between spatial distance and the closure and diversity of businesses mobile social networks. We used a database that aggregates actual mobile communication patterns of business users of a large Israeli cell phone company (n = 16,199). Our findings, among a large sample of businesses, provide support for the place and mobile communication perspective. The results reveal a negative association between spatial distance and mobile business communication networks. As spatial distance between business network members increases, business social ties through mobile communication decreases. Furthermore, the results also revealed a negative association between spatial distance and mobile network density. As the spatial distance between business users increases, the density of the mobile communication network diminishes. Physical proximity promotes the development of dense business networks. The implications of the findings are discussed.
The proliferation of social media brings new opportunities to discover the ways in which we receive, process, and disseminate information even information that seems confined to our imaginations. Mental imagery those images we create in our imaginations as we read a text or watch a film is not well understood. Netlytic, a Web-based system for automated text analysis, permitted the capture and analysis of online discussions relating to mental images of J.R.R. Tolkien's and Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings as text and as film adaptation, giving insight to our understanding of mental imagery as a form of human cognition and information processing. Furthermore, this study serves as a starting point for further development of academic research using Web-based text analysis systems and online communities. © 2013, First Monday. © 2013, Jennifer M. Grek Martin, Anatoliy Gruzd, and Vivian Howard.