Blog Post 8—what direction am I heading in?

This week presented me with the opportunity to start considering possible directions I could explore around my focus area, being the factors that influence a person’s views on climate change. I found this slightly daunting, and found that after many weeks of mapping stakeholders and participants, I had perhaps lost my direction slightly, and needed to reacquaint myself with my earlier research.

To begin the session, we each spent some time working individually through a series of questions in order to define a problem statement, identifying who, what, where, when and why. I found this quite difficult as I was really forced to narrow down my answers in each category, in contrast to the past several weeks where we have been encouraged to provide as many answers and directions as possible. Nonetheless, eventually I was able to come up with the following statement:

The problem I have identified within the broader issue of climate change is the idea that the discussion around climate change is not black and white, as there are a number of factors that will influence any given person’s views on the issue, as well as the information they will respond to. This problem affects the general population, but also more specifically stakeholders who are creating campaigns to convince people of the effects of climate change, and scientists and governments. The main boundaries of the problem are both a lack of understanding of how different people may view climate change, and perhaps also a general lack of action by organisational bodies such as governments on the issue of climate change. The problem occurs most predominantly in the representation of climate change, as each person is going to respond differently, based on factors such as cultural values and current knowledge. It is important that the problem is fixed or at least more well researched so that messages about climate change may be more successfully received by the general population as a whole. By understanding this problem, we will also be able to more successfully target different groups of people with different cultural values with more specialised information.

I found that in writing out this problem statement, I was able to condense all the thoughts in my head into a coherent ‘brief’. I can see that it definitely needs a lot of refinement, and I think that this will come over the next few weeks as I continue to read more scholarly sources in order to get my ideas clearer in my head, as well as through the continued discussion with group members, and the visualisation of the research process, which will be undertaken for task 3.

Once each group member had a problem statement written out, we reconnected and began a process of brainstorming as many possibilities for a design response for each problem as we could, a process which resulted in 3 mindmaps, one for each group member. Photos and descriptions of the process are presented in blog post 9, however, overall, I found the brainstorming session to be extremely useful. It opened up a lot of new avenues and ideas that I had not considered before in relation to my own problem, as well as opening my mind to other problems outside my own that other group members had identified. Like with the stakeholder maps that we have been creating over the past several weeks, I found that working in a group allowed a much richer and deeper consideration of each problem. Going through the process of brainstorming also presented the opportunity for discussion between group members, as well as the opportunity for resources and possible directions for further research to be shared.

As a result of the brainstorming session, I have received a detailed map with numerous ideas for areas/directions to pursue in relation to the problem of people’s views on climate change differing due to a number of different influencing factors. The five most promising directions in my opinion are discussed below.

  • Looking at how to shift people’s stance on climate change.

Within this idea, there is the potential for a lot of different design responses, both in the areas of generative design and service design. At the moment I am thinking that further research on this area could lead to the possibility of the creation of a campaign to convince people of the realities of climate change, taking into account all the factors which influence a person’s view on the issue. However, I also realise that this is still quite a large issue, and maybe one that I cannot tackle at the moment given my limited time and resources.

  • Looking at how people’s views of climate change are affected by their geographical position, i.e. whether they are in the city/country or whether they are close to climate change related events.

This is an idea which interests me greatly, and the idea of geographical proximity is something that I have touched on both in blog post 3 in one of my mindmaps, and in blog post 6 in relation to data scraping. Within this idea, there is the potential to create a data visualisation in order to demonstrate how much geographical proximity shapes a person’s views of climate change. There is also the potential to create a service design proposal, which aims to generate more awareness of climate change across all groups, so that there is an equal level of awareness and concern.

  • Looking at how government policies either reflect or shape a society’s views on climate change, as well as their effects on individual values.

This idea could be very interesting to investigate given the prominence of the government as a stakeholder within the issue of climate change, something I have come to realise through mapping the stakeholders, seen in blog posts 3 and 7. I feel that this avenue could lead to a data visualisation showing the relationship between government policies and the general public’s views of climate change. I also think that this avenue has the potential for the production of a service design, one that provides all the information that the public is not receiving from the government, in a straightforward and honest manner.

  • Examining the issue through the lens of religious values—how do people filter knowledge they receive based on their beliefs, and how do they manage information that conflicts with their inherent values/beliefs?

Again, this idea has the potential to be formed into a data visualisation, showing the relationship between religious/cultural values and views on climate change. I am very interested in exploring this idea, however, I need to consider that the information I would be dealing with here would be very personal and quite sensitive, so would need to handle it in a respectful way. It might also be difficult to gather a suitable range and volume of different religious views.

  • Looking at how attitudes towards climate change have altered over time, and, in doing so, drawing out possible influencing factors.

I am extremely interested in this idea also, as it would give me the opportunity to look back in history and see how attitudes towards climate change have changed. This avenue has the potential to lead to a data visualisation, showing the above, or a service design in which the collected information is collated and used to create a new campaign or similar which takes into account the values of today’s society. It could also use the ignorant attitudes of the past in order to inform the people of today.


Proposal

As I have mentioned across several of my previous blog posts, my research has led me to a focus area looking at the factors that influence a person’s views on climate change. Originally, I was focused very much on simply how people’s cultural values affect their climate change stance, due to Andrew J. Hoffman’s statement that “…cultural identity can overpower scientific reasoning” (Hoffman 2015, p. 4). However, this has evolved to include a whole range of influencing factors, such as geographical proximity and government policies, as cultural values could be seen as quite personal, so it may be difficult to gather solid data in this area.

From my research, I have come to form the view that whilst there are abundant scientific and other sources to back up the existence and indeed gravity of climate change, there is a fundamental problem as to why people are so unsure of the issue, and why so much confusion surrounds it. ‘Cultural cognition’, the human method of interpreting information based on cultural values, causes people to sift through climate change facts and choose what information they want to take on board, according to their own views. However, cultural cognition “…is not simply a bias or heuristic, but a natural mechanism by which human beings collect and interpret information.” (Schrader & Shattell 2013, p. 842) I believe that the confusion amongst the general population about the real dangers of climate change and the extent to which it is occurring are a direct result of this cultural cognition, but I also believe it could be linked to the fact that the majority of sources that people get their information about climate change from, which I understand to be mostly mass media sources, such as newspaper and magazine articles (Nicholson-Cole & O’Neill 2009), fail to address or take into account the factors that influence people’s perceptions of the issue. Indeed, it could be seen that the authors themselves are writing in a vacuum, clouded by their own perceptions, leading to articles which people feel no connection to.

In response to the ideas presented above, I propose to create a design response within the area of service/generative design. I want to create some kind of campaign that could be run across both print and digital media, that responds to each individual’s experiences and values and delivers them a message about climate change which takes these factors into account. Alternatively, I would like to create a kind of data visualisation which presents the scientific facts of climate change in a neutral manner, eliminating all possibilities for cultural values and personal experiences to influence a person’s interpretation of the data. This data visualisation would involve the collection of facts and statistics which are commonly misrepresented or misinterpreted, which would then be presented through a visual system developed to eliminate personal bias. I feel that this would be an extremely interesting route to take, and it would force me to view information and statistics objectively as well, in order that my own views are not pushed in the representation.


References

  1. Hoffman, H.J. 2015, How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate, Stanford University Press, California.
  2. Nicholson-Cole, S. & O’Neill, S. 2009, ‘“Fear Won’t Do It” Promoting Positive Engagement With Climate Change Through Visual and Iconic Representations’, Science Communication, vol. 30, no. 3, p. 357.
  3. Schrader, S. & Shattell, M. 2013, ‘“Cultural Cognition”: What Mental Health Researchers and Clinicians Might Learn from the Climate Change Debate’, Issues in Mental Health Nursing, vol. 34, no. 11, pp. 842-843.

Emilie Glasson

Advertisement
%d bloggers like this: