Representing the Earth: Global Climate Issues in Popular, Political, Scientific, Business, Industry, and Environmentalist News; A New Old Sociology of Knowledge
AuthorSonnett, John H.
Committee ChairRagin, Charles C.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractGlobal climate change is a complicated scientific problem and a complicated social problem. Climate processes are difficult to define and observe, and social processes are shaped by competing interests and agendas. In this dissertation, I map the ways in which global climate issues are represented across a journalistic field in the U.S., comparing popular, political, scientific, business, industry, and environmentalist media between 1997 and 2004.Theoretically, I integrate the "old" and "new" sociologies of knowledge, showing how social position shapes knowledge and how social action is embedded within systems of meaning. Following Bourdieu, particular media are positioned within a journalistic field, an interdependent domain of social activity with varying levels of autonomy relative to the wider field of power. Patterns of meaning are measured as a semantic field, a relational space of words defined through affinity and contrast, presence and absence. Methodologically, the quali-quantitative approach used here expands on Mannheim's vision of relationism. I draw on Qualitative Comparative Analysis to identify subsets of text with configurations of keywords, and Correspondence Analysis to map relations among subsets. This combination of methods connects the macro-structure of journalistic and semantic fields to interpretations of representative texts.The most basic way social interests shape global climate issues is in naming them. Scientists speak of climate change, the popular media of global warming, and the oil industry of greenhouse gases. Configurations of these issues receive varying amounts of attention over time, corresponding to changing agendas in the journalistic field--from generalized coverage of the Kyoto meetings in 1997, through intense industry debate in the late 1990s, to the Bush policy reversals of 2001 and the increasing assertiveness of scientists after 2002. Variations in issue naming are embedded within risk discourses, structured primarily by scientific uncertainties and political fears. Discussions of hazard link scientific and environmentalist concerns, while uncertainty forms a boundary between science and industry. Both industry and environmentalists interpret words like precaution and defend in light of their specific interests, suggesting that solutions are a partially autonomous dimension of risk which are given particular attention in the hidden transcripts of specialized media.