Reflexivity on contradictions

Author: Franzisca Weder – University of Queensland, School of Communication and Arts, Australia

Larissa Krainer – Alpen-Adria University of Klagenfurt

With our presentation, we discuss how and how much “sustainability communication” challenges so far debated concepts of science communication. We put journalists, bloggers and communication strategists on the stage and ask for the potential as well as barriers of communicating sustainability in the media.

The state of art in science communication as well sustainability science right now includes remarkable breadth (Krcmar et al., 2016). However, this creates complicated challenges for those interested in sustainability communication (Dade & Hassenzahl, 2013; Allen, 2016). Sustainability communication requires a transdisciplinary approach (Godeman & Michelsen, 2011) which implies critical methods (Downing et al., 1995) like intervention research (Lerchester & Krainer, 2016) and story tracking with narrative interviews (Weder, 2017). Thus, we asked journalists, blogger and PR people in Central Europe (n = 25, 2009; n = 50, 2017) to tell the stories they relate to sustainable development and discuss the potential and barriers in communicating about and for sustainable development.

The interviewees point out economic interest of media corporations, short-term orientation and local interests as the main barriers in communicating an issue like sustainability. Their stories show that science communication in today’s public media needs critical journalism with a deeper understanding of ethics. Here, sustainability related issues can acts as “best practices” by showing contradictions in our society and critique of our social order.

By knowing about the selectivity of the interviewed communicators as the major limitation of our study, the sustainability issue seems to challenge science communication and related research. It not only marks a new type of “content” that has to be communicated. Journalists in particular realize that with their reporting on sustainability related issues and by offering reflexivity on existing paradoxes and contradictions, they contribute to sustainable development as well.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Stories
Area of interest: Building a theoretical basis for science communication