ICA pre-conference “Visual Politics: Image Production, Perception, and Influence”

Stieven-Taylor, A. (Organiser)

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesContribution to conference

Description

Presented the paper: @Everydayclimatechange and three US daily newspapers: Comparing the visual representation of climate change Abstract: Daily, millions of images and videos are shared on the world’s leading photo-media app, Instagram. Despite a plethora of quotidian photographs, Instagram is emerging as a platform where the press’ representation of issues such as climate change may be challenged. The press in this study are the legacy US newspapers, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. Research shows that the legacy press favours a narrow selection of images to convey climate change: cracked earth symbolises drought, cities shrouded in smog represent air pollution, smokestacks illustrate deliberations on energy sources, and starving polar bears depict global warming. The press’ limited visual repertoire is reflective of the cultural politics of climate change, where certain narratives are privileged over others resulting in a constructed and partial view of the problem (Boykoff, Goodman & Curtis 2010). The power of the press to direct the climate debate and influence policy has concerned scholars since the 1970s with research focused primarily on word journalism. In recent years research has considered the press’ use of images documenting climate change (O’Neill 2010, 2019) yet there has been little attention paid to Instagram as a source of visual news. Using a mixed methods approach that involves framing and content analysis, this paper compares the visual representation of climate change in the press with the Instagram feed @everydayclimatechange during the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21) from 29 November to 8 December, 2015. This time frame is determined by the period when @everydayclimatechange posts focused on COP21 through the use of hashtags. COP21 has been the subject of scholarly research with an emphasis on word journalism, but the event provides a rich seam of visual material through which to undertake a comparative analysis. @everydayclimatechange is an Instagram feed established in 2015 by freelance visual journalists to convey that human-induced climate change is happening everywhere, every day. @everydayclimatechange began with 20 visual journalists from five continents. In 2021 there are more than 50 contributing visual journalists from six continents and the feed has a following upwards of 140,000. The press’ climate change coverage is largely event focused with attention heightened during major political happenings like COP21 or dramatic weather events such as superstorms. These concentrated periods of attention bestow celebrity status on climate change, which means climate change is also subjected to the short-lived interest associated with celebrity. This paper argues that Instagram, as a micro-blogging platform, provides visual journalists with an alternative publishing space through which to challenge the press’ hegemony over the visualisation of climate change, to introduce narratives that are overlooked or are outside of the news agenda, and to create an ongoing conversation about the issue. While this paper’s focus is on Instagram, the findings deliver important insights into the opportunity that digital networks provide to visual journalists to act as producers and distributors of content and to challenge the press’ visual representation of climate change.
Period21 May 2020
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Media representation
  • Instagram
  • Photojournalism
  • Visual Journalism