Let me introduce: Team Climacated! We are Valentina, Linda, Li-Hsin, Jessica, and AJ, focused on data-driven storytelling within the climate change debate.
The topic of Climate Change is complicated — at least it seems to be — and nobody wants to talk about it. But if you are brave enough to do so — be prepared to enter a politically heated danger zone.
To get involved in the climate change debate we fearlessly headed right into it — first as an observer. Starting with our very own cultural baggage of climate experience and specific personal interests, we individually approached the topic by researching through different viewpoints.
Valentina took a closer look into the Sustainable Fashion Industry and the Fashion consumers and how climate change is communicated in those spaces. Jessica researched all kinds of climate change denial and conspiracy theories with a focus on how those “theorists” try to persuade people with their beliefs. Li-Hsin dove deeper into the world of climate art, trying to understand how artists try to engage people with their artworks. Linda was dealing with News Distributors and how those doom and gloom messages are absorbed by the general public freezing us into apathy. Finally, AJ was analyzing political cartoons, public discussions, and other counter-narratives online. Passing through all kinds of weird outbursts of opinions, we slowly got sucked into the war zone of politically tinted messages, power battles, and emotionally dragging superficial discussions.
Quickly, several things became clear:
1)That the way people speak about climate change is a
hot mess! And while people are getting tangled up into — who says what and how could he even believe this–only a few stand up and really take action.
2) We needed some more structure to approach the debate. Therefore, Carlo showed us the Instagram Scraper Tool with which we systematically can scrape data from Instagram and analyze it.
From Research to Prototype
After diving into the research we ended up with a lot of images. Those images described climate change on their own — but can be understood more deeply through looking at them as an interconnected collection. With this idea in mind, we tried to make sense of the pictures by creating storylines and sorting them into specific ways. First, we tried organizing the pictures into a collage as a group. Then we decided it would be interesting for each of us to map out the pictures individually, to explore different storylines and visual narratives.
So we did — and we ended up with 5 very different ways of approaching a narrative or system of pictures. Ideas ranged from sorting the pictures in different categories based on emotion to setting up a narrative that displays the counter-narratives. All of this was done by using the visual language of climate change as the tool to create.
After this, we had a DSS workshop related to defining research questions more specifically. Out of this exercise, we defined our more specific research question: “For a person motivated by “X” what would be the most impactful/effective messaging that will inspire positive climate action?”
To tackle this question we realized that we have to observe how people are communicating visually and verbally in the climate change debate — to then figure out which patterns/characteristics are impactful in which way.
Therefore, we wanted to see how our partner Climate Cleanup — a collective of entrepreneurs and funders who reverse climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere–communicates their solutions. We realized that there was still a lot we didn’t know about our client. How do they view themselves? Who is their audience? How do they try to speak to their entrepreneurs, partners, and the general public? And how do they position themselves inside the debate? This leads us to craft our first prototype: an exercise for Climate Cleanup to perform that would give us deeper insights into their views and messaging strategies as an organization.
The first prototype
Inspired by our collages, we thought organizing pictures would be a fun, yet meaningful way to give us insights into Climate Cleanup while at the same time giving them space to reflect on visual narratives. This would be good for them to reflect on their own organization and what messaging style they are using to speak with their audience. To source the pictures we used the most liked images from Instagram, which we scraped according to specific climate change-related hashtags, such as #climatechange, #globalwarming, #renewableenergy, and #seaweedfarming.
We created a board out of foam core and pasted the printed out pictures that we gathered from Instagram. First, we used velcro to secure the pictures and red background. After running the exercise with Sabine from the Visual Methodologies Collective, she gave us some ways to improve, including a new colour, and a broader range of images. We then re-scraped Instagram to add more solution-relevant images to the mix, and created a more sleek version, with less intrusive colours (white and dark blue instead of red) and magnets instead of velcro.
With this new-and-improved prototype, we presented the exercise to Climate Cleanup and they organized the images into how they felt their audience, friends, and family, and even they themselves viewed their organization. The explained insights into what exactly they do, and who they believed their main audiences to be: entrepreneurs, policy makers, investors, and the general public. After the exercise, they said it was a great reflection for them, as it confronted them to define a message and idea of their specific audience.
During our reflection exercise with Climate Cleanup, they explained that there were thought-leaders within the climate change space that are proposing “new narratives” of how to approach and frame the problem. They said they would be extremely interested in learning more about these thought-leaders and their style of framing. Understanding that Climate Cleanup is still crafting the most effective messaging for each specific audience, we were inspired to research more deeply into possible alternative narratives, ways of communicating, and the thought-leaders proposing them for our Sprint 2.
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.