The potential of microblogs for the study of public perceptions of climate change



Microblogs are electronic platforms that convey brief communications posted by users. Keyword searches in popular microblogs, like Twitter, reveal fragments of users' knowledge of and views on issues like climate change. Evaluations of climate change communications in the microblogosphere are rare even compared with the few studies on the impacts of Web sites and blogs on users' perceptions of climate change. However, extant research focuses more often on appraising logic and evidence in microblog discourse than in discovering pathways of influence and impact. The limiting ‘frames’ imposed by strategic users of microblogs and the persuasive power of ‘influencers’ are often depicted as interfering with the open, egalitarian potential of microblogs, and also, as perpetrating bias and misinformation. But oversimplifying or biased framings and pronouncements by celebrities are the stock and trade of microblogs. Good or bad, they are part of a communication medium whose users plunge in to exchange views, to persuade, and to be persuaded. Tweets and posts on any number of issues are fodder for attitudinal analytics and predictive modelling. Tools of the analytical trade should be applied to climate change microblogging, too, considering the sheer number of people who post commentary on this topic, and considering the continuing need to better understand how people view and engage with climate change.

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Conflict of interest: The authors have declared no conflicts of interest for this article.