Posted in | News | Climate Change | Ecosystems

Innovating Climate Change Communication

Climate change communication has been proven to follow trends, according to scientists from the Interactive Technologies Institute (ITI).

Innovating Climate Change Communication.

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They also propose design guidelines that they hope will successfully engage communities in this field. Their outcomes have been reported in the 9th Congress of the International Association of Societies of Design Research.

Ph.D. student and the first author of the study, Marta Ferreira, has been working on ways to better communicate climate change via data visualizations. The study has illustrated that communication regarding climate change has tended to follow various trends.

The earliest projects, up until 2016, were much more focused on energy-related topics such as eco-feedback technologies, but since then, there was a shift towards sustainable lifestyles and biodiversity.

Marta Ferreira, Study First Author and PhD Student, Interactive Technologies Institute

Having been governed by Nuno Nunes and Valentina Nisi, scientists at ITI and Professors at Instituto Superior Técnico, she discovered that the majority of the climate change communication projects consist of a neutral tone. The majority of the projects examined presented neutral framing visualizations that lacked suggestions for actionable steps for application afterward.

We considered negative framing messages those that focused on what we lost or will lose as negative consequences of climate change; neutral framing those that just communicate the facts in a neutral exposition of the issue; and positive framing the interactions that focused on what can be achieved with change.

Marta Ferreira, Study First Author and PhD Student, Interactive Technologies Institute

Based on the study of 74 projects, the research group has suggested a group of implications available for the design that take advantage of different communication strategies. The authors take such proposals into account by thinking that they could help involve the audiences, leading them to take action.

Our findings support that choosing the topic based on impact and the target audience is best. For example, Project Drawdown points to impactful solutions that normally receive comparably little attention, such as high-quality, inclusive education, or topics related to the food system and land management.

Marta Ferreira, Study First Author and PhD Student, Interactive Technologies Institute

Marta and her supervisors assert that interactive engagement has been essential to successful engagement, primarily in daily regular places like shops, bus stations, or the street. One more suggestion is to carry the topic in a positive light by making use of a narrative that is tailored to the audience and offering concepts for actionable steps.

Marta Ferreira added, “One of the big issues people face is not knowing what to do. Climate change is such a complex issue that sometimes even concerned individuals don’t know how to act beyond the more discussed actions, such as recycling. Adding actionable proposals linked to the communicated topic can help people better connect with the issue and feel empowered instead of depressed with the daunting task ahead.”

Already, a few of these suggestions are being adopted by the Interactive Technologies Institute in projects like Finding Arcadia, an interactive data story corresponding to the whales and ocean ecosystems, thereby making an utmost effort to test such implications for design.

The research community agrees that it is critical to reconnect audiences with this complex and highly charged issue to help overcome this global challenge.

Journal Reference:

Ferreira, M., et al. (2022) Interaction for Crisis: A Review of HCI and Design Projects on Climate Change and How They Engage with the General Public. Congress of the International Association of Societies of Design Research.

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