Tuesday, May 5, 2020

                                    INSIDE AND OUT

Jennifer Metcalfe

Blogs provide potential for publics to engage more deliberatively through dialogue in controversial science than one-way dissemination methods. This study investigated who was commenting on two antithetical climate change blogsites; how they were commenting; and the quality of their dialogue. Most research into science blogs has focused on bloggers rather than commenters. This study found that both blogsites were dominated by a small number of commenters who used contractive dialogue to promote their own views to like-minded commenters. Such blogsites are consolidating their own polarised publics rather than deliberately engaging them in climate change science.

Discussion and conclusions
In this study, I set out to examine the comments on two climate change blogs to determine how the conversations generated by these comments reflect the potential of blogs for two-way deliberative dialogue. The analysis of comments indicated that most commenters engaging with both blogs wanted to disseminate information and knowledge or express an attitude, which is more reminiscent of one-way communication. Discourse analysis also showed that most comments were contractive in nature with commenters proclaiming or disclaiming and not listening to the views of others...

Using qualitative methods, I investigated the comments on two antithetical blogs on climate change science: https://skepticalscience.com/ and http://joannenova.com.au/. These blogs were chosen because they were well-established, had global reach, were written by science communicators, and aimed to use scientific information as their base. 

I chose antithetical blogs to examine whether commenters opposed to the consensus science of climate change engaged differently to those supportive of it. My reasoning was that such an investigation might reveal how commenters with such polarised views might be engaged more deliberatively with the science. However, my investigation of two climate change blogs among thousands does not intend to be generalisable or representative of all climate change blogs...

The blogs examined appeared to create and maintain their own publics as a small number of dominant commenters sought and reinforced information congruent with their own views. This is a similar finding to an analysis by Collins and Nerlich [2015] of commenters to online Guardian articles on climate change. With each blog having a core group of commenters tending to dominate the dialogue, there is even less likelihood of significant deliberation amongst commenters. This is not surprising given science bloggers often aim to create publics with similar political and ideological points of view [Luzón, 2013]...

This analysis of the comments on two antithetical climate change blogs indicates a narrowing of scientific debate to one dominated by a few major commenters who have little patience with others who disagree with their point of view; commenters are chanting to their own choir. This means that, at least for these two blogs, there is little deliberation of climate science and its role in society. 

Consequently, it is likely that such blogs are unlikely to engage publics more deliberately in a dialogue about publicly controversial science. Rather, the dialogue that occurs in these blogs offers spaces for like-minded people to share information on controversial science topics through one-way communication.