Evaluating Climate Change Speech Framing in TED Talks

Hello, it’s Team Climacated.
We are a group of enthusiastic learners, researchers, and designers who aspire to tackle the seemingly complicated challenge of climate change. We are all very excited to share our research journey throughout Sprint 3 of the Climate Change Narratives Project at Digital Society School.

Saying hello to one of the thought leaders inside the Climate Change debate

Inside the Climate Change debate, some astonishing figures are reminding us that new narratives are necessary to tackle this huge issue. This sprint, we were lucky to listen to one of them talking directly. Kate Raworth was visiting the University of Applied Sciences Amsterdam to talk about Doughnut Economics, Sustainability, and planetary boundaries. She was part of an introductory talk from a new movement inside the university to make it a more sustainable place. After the talk, we had the chance to ask her some of the questions that were buzzing around in our heads. One main take away for us, has been, that she chooses her metaphors, stories, and visuals of which her speeches are crafted very carefully and adjusts them fitting to the current audience.

Inspired by powerful messages of our selected thought-leaders that we researched in Sprint 2, we realized that we needed a more structured approach to selecting the influencers and analyzing their speeches. Soon after this realization, it dawned on us that there was a great platform that we could use to find and analyze the messages of thought-leaders: TED.com.

Kate Raworth, Thought-Leader in Climate Change & Author of Doughnut Economics

TED Talks are truly a gift to humanity. Well-informed speakers from around the world pitch their viewpoints on important issues of our time, which gives the audience a peek into cutting-edge solutions, viewpoints, and new narratives that have the potential for tremendous positive social impact.

Team Climacated during the working process

But what sets TED talks apart from other speeches found on Youtube, and why do TED Talks seem to be so effective and impactful to the audience? This is the question that we asked ourselves during Sprint 3, and we came to the conclusion that the secret spice is not only in the peer-reviewed scientific nature of the speeches but also in the framing of the messages. While each speaker has their own unique style and way of communicating, there seems to be a common thread between each TED Talk that usually leaves the viewer with a sense of wonder, inspiration, and knowledge beyond what they had felt before absorbing the speech. Whether it be communicating through metaphors, stories, or other relatable, human-scaled messaging techniques, TED speakers have the skills to communicate their information in a memorable way. Exactly this kind of powerful speech management is needed to be able to motivate and activate people to act on climate change.

We mapped out all the possible characteristics we could analyze within a speech.

Our team, studying the language within the topic of climate change, was inspired to dig deeper to discover what makes the speeches so great, and how we could apply the findings to the field of climate change to empower individuals to communicate effectively about this complex issue. We wanted to research into what TED speakers were saying about the topic of climate change, and more specifically, how they were saying it. In relation to climate change, what problems and solutions are being proposed? How is this content being framed in a way that is considered to be effective or impactful for the audience to understand and implement into their own lives? Are there any framing patterns that can be recognized between the speakers? Is there a special formula that can help the average person deliver an amazing, inspirational message to a friend, colleague, or group of people?

TED talks on Climate Change

All of these questions were circulating in our mind as we created a potential research flowchart which mapped out all of the possible data points to analyze within each speech. After this, we narrowed it down to create an “evaluation protocol”, or a questionnaire that could be applied to analyze a speech (more specifically, TED Talks). During the creation of this protocol, our team researched other speech analyzation tools and we discovered the Toastmasters, an organization which helps people to improve their public speaking. On a Toastmaster’s member’s website, we found a list of questions to analyze a speech which inspired us to create our own list with a focus on climate change-related speeches.

Research flowchart

This list was crafted into a spreadsheet which will help us to analyze the different narratives with a more scientific approach. By the end of Sprint 3, we had created the “TED Talk evaluation protocol” which we will use in Sprint 4 to evaluate various videos. We are looking forward to seeing what data we can collect on these thought leaders so that we can understand their proposed solutions and framing techniques more deeply.

Looking towards the future, we are excited to use the then collected data to craft meaningful insights as well as visualizing and presenting those. See you next sprint!

The Digital Society School is a growing community of learners, creators and designers who create meaningful impact on society and its global digital transformation. Check us out at digitalsocietyschool.org.



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