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Depolarizing Public Debates: Developing Tools for Transformative Communication

How can we depolarize public debates on socio-ecological transformations?

Depolarizing Public Debates: Developing Tools for Transformative Communication

How can we depolarize public debates on socio-ecological transformations?

ABOUT

Radical socio-ecological transformations of our societies require an open and inclusive public debate. Such a debate will involve conflicts as part of the democratic process, but under certain conditions, controversies run the risk of falling victim to an untamed process of polarization. Polarization means the splitting of society into groups who disagree on the most basic questions and no longer regard each other as legitimate participants in a common debate. Polarization is neither a universal nor natural phenomenon, which raises questions about the factors that drive it. In this project, we focus on digital media networks and news coverage as key drivers of polarization by, among other things, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of polarizing societies.

The existential and normative question of how society should transform to tackle global ecological challenges is an utterly relevant case to study how polarization unfolds in communication.

We will study polarization in the content of news media, in digital media networks and in unmediated political communication – looking at how these different arenas influence each other.

In phase one, we will develop a polarization barometer (Spring and Summer 2023), a combination of qualitative and automated tools to measure polarization through content and network analysis. With this in place, we will identify factors of depolarization (Fall 2023). In the third phase, we aim to develop a toolbox for depolarization, engaging both with the science of polarization and practitioners from the spheres of journalism, digital platforms and civil society (Winter and Spring 2024).

PROGRAM CHAIR
PROGRAM CHAIR

Michael Brüggemann
University of Hamburg


Michael is Professor of Communication Research, Climate and Science Communication at University of Hamburg. He co-chairs the project Social Constructions of Climate Futures at the cluster of excellence Climate, Climatic Change and Society (CLICCS). In his current research, he focuses on climate communication and the communicative dimension of socio-ecological transformations: exploring how journalism, digital media networks and different social actors coproduce and shape public debates about global ecological challenges. Recently, he has explored both the neglect of climate coverage in the news as well as emerging practices of transformative journalism and tendencies towards discursive polarization.

GET INVOLVED
Art
Art

Robert Heinecken, "Untitled Newswomen (Joan Lunden, Connie Chung, Jane Pauley, Diane Sawyer)" (1987). Inkjet on paper.

Robert Heinecken's art challenges conventional notions of photography and visual representation. He was a pioneer of postmodernism and employed innovative techniques such as photograms, collage, and appropriation to deconstruct the language of mass media and consumer culture. He taped photographic paper to a television set in a dark room, resulting in a pixelated and blurred image that critiques the predictable conventions of television news. In his portrayal of newscaster Connie Chung, Heinecken used unconventional techniques such as photograms and appropriation to deconstruct mass media and consumer culture. Through playful experimentation and provocative imagery, Heinecken prompts viewers to reconsider the authenticity of photographic representation and the influence of media on perception.

Art

PROGRAMS 2023/24

  • Governing the Planetary Commons

    How are the planetary commons to be governed in an ecologically responsible, just, democratic, and resilient way?
    The program "Governing the Planetary Commons: a Focus on the Amazon" examines how to responsibly and sustainably govern crucial Earth systems, using the Amazon Rainforest as an example, and explores different governance models that could work in an ecologically sound, democratic, and resilient way.

    Learn more about the Program

  • Conceptions of Human Flourishing

    How does a non-materialist conception of human flourishing inform the reformulation of the SDGs in 2030?
    The program „Conceptions of Human Flourishing” explores how different cultures conceive of human flourishing, how the current materialist approach may limit it, and how to redesign the SDGs with a broader, more inclusive view of what human flourishing means.

    Learn more about the Program

  • Black Feminism and the Polycrisis

    How can we use the unique insights and intersectional methods of Black feminism to respond to the complexities of the contemporary polycrisis?
    The program "Black Feminism and the Polycrisis" aims to offer a novel solution space to interlocking global crises by drawing on intersectional theory and praxis, developing critical arguments about its relationship to Europatriarchal systems of domination, and offering imaginative visions for a better future.

    Learn more about the Program

  • Reclaiming Common Wealth

    What are pathways, processes and institutional designs for the generation and governance of land commons?
    The program "Reclaiming Common Wealth" explores pathways, processes, and institutional designs for the generation and governance of land commons, aiming to address discontents arising from institutional investments in land, assess theories and concepts of property and value, and establish a repository of the law and institutional design of land commons, with a focus on Commons Public Partnerships.

    Learn more about the Program

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