Mobilising convergence vs. Global warming


autor Ana Maria Munteanu
 
 

Mobilising Convergence

Science in Social Representations. Signalising and Indicating Processes

 

1. Introduction

1.1 Environment as news value

1.2 The mediation spiral and the social perception of the GW

2. The communicational bias, cause of the lack of interest concerning  the environmental

medium and long term risk  generated by  GW

2.1. The scientific documentaries as outlet of  reflexive pedagogy  

2.2. The Motivation of chosing the scientific documentary within the niche offer of Discovery Channel     

2.3. The Scientific Documentary as an “Instructive or Education Film”

3. Conclusion

4. Bibliography 

 

 

 

 

Mobilising Convergence

Science in Social Representations. Signalising and Indicating Processes

 

 

While the global warming (GW) fear is a constant of the European mass-media — fear encouraged from the increasingly frequent ecological disasters that “recall for radical measurements at legislative level” (N. Hulot, Le Figaro.fr, June 10) — the Romanian informational environment is relatively inertial.

1. Introduction

While massive floods incidence is more than evident all over the world, environment information does not stand as an actual domain of the main news agencies fluxes such as Media Pro, Rador, News In, with the exception of Rompress, which has presented 126 pieces of news with reference to environment since January 2008. There have been four environment-related pieces of news on infoportal.ro during two months (May and June), three of which being older than one week.

Obviously, GWis a subject controlled by the media especially over a large coverage of a disruptive event represented by a human-made natural disaster when media narrations touch an audience and dramatisation peak, and pass into the shadows when things calm down; then the audience’s interest fades, and front-page or prime-time news broadcast by the media refocus on political scandals, commercial or dramatic events as accidents, crime etc.

Environment-related news filtration is part of the commercial mass-media fabrication stereotype, and can be explained by a typology of public utility information misrepresentation from the perspective of certain press groups of interest that have influence upon the Romanian mass-media market, according to a highly critical 2007 report made by Open Media Institute foundation, published on eumaporg.ro.

 

1.2 Environment as news value

For the national media, environment-based warning and analysis news has a low news-value (newsgathering) compared to other European areas. The Environment theme is ranked the sixth within the Toute l’Europe French portal scheme, after Labour Market and Energy, followed by Euro-economy, while within the Romanian media thematic settings, the environment is regarded as a subtheme of the Science section whose general information exposure is nevertheless several times denser than the environment-related information offered.

The position reflects the environment-related subjects’ “movement” within fluxes and within the real interest horizon of information multiplication. These are sensors that quickly and competitively react to the business environment command, and to the large audiences’ interest in the political life and in the social, fashion, sporting, and film pseudo-events.

Green Report, the only publication specialised in environment analyses and information, cites a KPMG Romania study according to which “Romanian managers consider RIG a non-priority subject that lacks immediate economic advantages”.

This lack of interest is present despite of Romania’s alignment to the European Union ETS Directive, through which pollution limits are set, ozone layer damaging production and commercialisation are reduced by 10-20%, and despite the fact that short- and medium-term predictions indicate that firms may go bankrupt, a risk not taken seriously, according to the source cited.

Regarding the disaster risk caused by irrational human-made environment exploitation, Romania is ranked lower than other European countries as 27% of the territory is forested in comparison to the 32% European average. Deforestation caused by commercial exploitation is considered to be one of the causes of frequent catastrophic floods over the last several years that were followed by landfalls, human tragedies, material loss, and the destruction of entire communities.

The Ministry of Economy has recently indicated and classified vulnerabilities of certain Romanian economy domains at GW for the following 5 years, anticipating that agriculture, tourism, constructions, transportation, and some links of goods supply chain will be primarily affected (Green Report, June 12).

1.3 The mediation spiral and the social perception of the GW

The mass-media spectacle spiral and the communicational environment rarefaction from the perspective of environmentally relevant information release produce a delay in the inhabitants’ education and responsibility and limit the pressure upon firms so that they respect their environment commitments assumed through privatisation contracts (Ilie Serbănescu, interviewed by Green Report, June 12). It makes it difficult, almost impossible, to understand the European and global strategies.

The low electorate presence, especially among youths, at the recent Euro-parliamentary elections proved a rather local than global perception of the problems, and local elections were won in some areas by candidates who did not have environmental goals within their political programme, and were remarked in the past for the alterations brought to the public domain by privatising green areas.

Environment information is pushed aside from the major political impact zone where “several voices yell for a single problem” into informal circuits where a change is being prepared.

Environment information appeared on the Internet through a truly important publication – Green Report – within the offer of good quality channels such as Discovery Science and Discovery Channel, and through several online publications initiated by young people through projects: Ecomagazine.ro – the biggest link directory – EcoSemnal, Ecosapiens.ro, and several increasing blogs based on environmental topics, and on the political and administrative area actors’ responsibilities towards the new generation.

It is remarkable that certain online publications are created by students for information and ecological education purposes.

Information is taken and displayed from various sites, sources, agencies and forums. For example, a piece of information missing from infoportal.ro may appear on Ecomagazine, such as the environment law package under the American Senate debate, which was blocked by the presidential elections campaign.

Online communities, where information about youth environment projects is amplified, are created in order to debate environment topics approached by the Romanian Parliament (e.g. the law package considering the interdiction of cyanide usage within mine exploitations), to present environment-related opinion surveys, and to argue and build an alternative sphere to the one already highly debated or expressly guided by some media grouping economical and transversal interests.

Regarding the informational balance between administrative forums and society, through which public information movement towards users is monitored, several strategies and governmental programmes are launched, through which the intensification of structural founds absorption is targeted through financing projects, part of the European Social Founds (Environment Sector Operational Programme, Operational Proposals for Administrative Capacities Development, etc).

 

     1.There is a lot of information concentrated at a public administrative level and relatively insufficient environment-related information within the media and the business community. If the input is strong and the output is weak, then blockages will apquestioning either the structural entities public relations efficiency, or the communicational bpear on the circuit, which will diminish the environment policies impact, bias effect (signification breakage under the effect of circuit closure or isolation). 

     2.Strategic information usage (information contained within in the realities-projects implied by no matter how transparent durable development strategies) implies active users, whose communication competence belongs to the “action level”, defined by the straight social space pragmatic theory – “a battle” for a local position occupation, while the institutional agent–created messages format is defined as the goals objectives designation strategic level (Deleuse – Guattari, 1980).

 

2. The communicational bias, cause of the lack of interest concerning  the environmental

medium and long term risk  generated by  GW

             The comunicational bias could be defined as            

a)      gap between formal(institutional) and informal networks

b)      effect of the mediation / agenda setting and stereotypes

c)      low confidence in government  and belief that democracy is not working and the market is unfair(Eric Uslaner,2004)

The communicational bias resulted at the interference between messages defined as the public offer and local demand diminishes into series of options that alternate in a minimum two-player match, one of which being the administrative structure (and the partnership network it implies) interested in valuable projects, and the other being represented by several local actors interested in the structure sustainability in order to transform a damaged or threatened environment, through a “reality-project”. Its resources and energy are generated during the amelioration–development–integration process and integrated with reliable environment standards.

          The public authority//beneficiaries communication system constitution is not limited to either the offer – no matter how transparent priorities frame may be – or to the indefinitely competent applicant’s intentions.

 

 

 

It implies a competitive and comprehensive game (where understanding “verstehen” also involves inter-subjectivity, not only technical discursive tools) that mobilises civic and ethical legacy such as “efficient projects for the community”, projects for the biosphere protection, and projects for toxic substances and polluting activities banning.

In the strategy subtext, serious symbolist significations that are reverberated by the technological and civilisation frame are accumulated, rather like a crisis spectacle than a human’s “fluid protoplasm” (Edgar Morin, 1979, p. 13) inside the solidarities dramatically created during great disasters against which singularities and egocentrism have opposed to soliditarity until recently explained by Uslaner  in terms of long  term effect of missing trust  both in governance and in other people inheritied by  postcommunist societies. The condition that GW  become “a meaning and common/shared  sense” is found in the social life regenerator nucleus — “orientation towards the other” speech and action resuscitation — and it must be inscribed somewhere, in either a real or an imagined  space”.

             The causal arrow between the forces of the civilization and the environment damage indicated by a part of the scientists through objective arguments and an epistemological rigour highly convincingly under the form of a social, cultural and political offensive, continues to be questioned by the global, economic system itself, being contested by strong voices, such as that of the Czech Prime Minister, V. Klaus, who has recently declared that he does not believe in RIG. It is the statement of a small state, but with a considerable capital of image stored in the recent memory by the former president’s dissidence, Havel, whose “Political Essays” should be read again. Havel entitled one of his essays “Let Me Know When He Dies”, as a consequence of the famous replic of a press journalist given to Havel’s request of doing lobby  for one of the intellectuals arrested under the communist regime, who  died soon after in prison.

There is a great risk of loosing this primordial sense of life both like value and measure of things, of that arche – culture. Morin was speaking about a sapiential layer of the language in P. Ricoeur’s vision, which reactivates itself under the form of a new logical nucleation, a kind of returning to the mythical-poetic pattern, a cycle that restarts each time the community gets lost its direction, making it coherent again through its value and significations operating each conscience and finally shared by everyone.

If we admit Morin’s statement that,. “Sapiens” brains looks for an explanation to any thing, for a legimity of a certain coordinating logic and a highly interpretative subtility with deep intuitions and arbitrary fantasies, and if we consider the “neurotic compromise”, adaptive on one side to sapiens’ curiosity to his internal contradictions, to his relationships of the external world and to those organizational inside the society, it means that we need:

a)      modeling the agent so that the tension between reason and sensitiviness could be admitted

b)      this modeling should generate a fair definition of the knowledge instruments in the education as a report between means – end

c)      a denouncement of the myth of the effiencient profitable action, where the border between subject and object vanishes, inside the natural environment, taken as an inanimate object, passively predestinated to a pure technical dictate, which would come back against man himself

Deleuse and Guattari are right when they declare that the fight agent, supported by the operative  or „nomad” sciences do not direct the complex and elaborated science in order to take over the power or to help it get an independent development. This type of sciences ( whose actions in the platform space – where everything is put together: knowledge, objectives, action) subordinates all the operations to the sensible conditions of the social net of the community, whose unit should be updated again, as a solution to the nevrotical excess of “individual  alone being myth”, connected to the influential, overwhelming mass media systems and discourse.

It is the substantially altered the sense of “occupying” the local space that of any positioning inside this space through sensible operations, by modifying the options, which define the limits of the competive game both to the individual behaviour and to the social one.

Social and cultural responsibilities are dealt with, such as “the protection” of the ecosystems, the prevention of the irreversible damage, updating the biodiversity, etc, which are nowadays rather neglected, or inoperable in spite of the institutional equipment.

There is a great risk concerning the educational ends, that of considering as an absolute truth, able to render reality versions, something which should be taken not only under  circumstantial pressures but at a larger scale and frames the issues as global instead of being deduced at least partly from the speakers’ justifications depending on their immediate interests correlated with the balance of their power roles or positions. On  the other side the proactive behaviour depends on the values  conceived in terms of mediation wich works through short term effects, trust and competence(due to evaluating facts and significances)as more complex variables depending on strategies that are „well ordering” the social system. Without them the whole system becomes incoherent and the values inconsistent no matter how clearly it could be defined both formaly or through its status, rules, relations or assesment criteria.

 

2.1. The scientific documentaries as outlet of  reflexive pedagogy  

Therefore both the standards and their influence are necessary to reestablish the balance between the heuristic and the cognitive affect. It is a procedure of creating some superior function by redefining the positive emotional microclimate as a motivation and an access wehicle to more science and action, as well as to moral satisfactions.

Methodology

In this sense the selection and analysis of  30  Scientific Documentaries most of them produced and transmmited by Discovery Channel(Science) The research was  based on  7 workshops with groups of students(15-20) from the  Journalism( Communication Sciences) section of the  Faculty of Letter/Ovidius University, having as a result the following score.

  1. „Unloking the Mistery of Life”
  2.  An Inconvenient Truth (presented by Al Gore)
  3. La Marche de l’Empereur (directed by Luc Jacquet), a movie inspired by the life of the imperial penguins, an endangered species which was presented from a narrative, „human” perspective.

The students chose these  three movies out of 30 documentaires to deal with deeply exploration, within the audiovisual communication laboratory. During four sessions of 2 hours each, we experimented  the grid and group topology(M Douglas,A. Wildawski,1982)  using a series of techniques and observation, explanatory and argumentative cards, as well as keywords, role plays, selfassesment, interpersonal assesment or a journalistic portofolio, as diverse ways of communication.

This „microsphere” type of opinion space allowed the experiment of subtile interactions resulting into shared significations, verified through the questioning strategies of the film message.

These operations were followed by the demounting of the false arguments and opinions resulted from different types of biases(impact,frame,bandwagen,convergens,etc).

 

2.2. The Motivation of chosing the scientific documentary within the niche offer of Discovery Channel     

The “documentary” concept was invented by John Grierson, founder of the botanical documentary school. A largely accepted definition is that of a “motion picture that shapes and intercepts factual materials for purposes of education or entertainment” (The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1977). In order to get over the definition’s theoretical impasse, many theoreticians, authors, and journalists compared television documentaries to other audio-visual genres so as to sense possible differences. Therefore, “a documentary is more than a piece of news, even if both genres are linked to problems, people, and events”. According to John Hartley, news represents a social and cultural institution. The news institution involves words, images, a specific subsystem differentiated from the language frame (J. Hartley, 1999). Robert Hilliard believes that a documentary is “an exploration behind obviousness because not only does it investigate factual events, but it also considers reasoning, feelings and attitudes of those who were involved, as well as experts’ interpretation”.  The difference between a piece of news and a documentary is not as much related to its contents as it is related to its closeness. News is orientated towards objectiveness, while documentaries focus on analyses (Hilliard, cited by D. Zeca Buzura, 2005, p. 159)

Another criterion to differentiation could be represented by the subject portrayed: a documentary focuses on serious, profound topics, while “the folder” contains subjects mainly selected by human interest criterion, repartition that does not exclude poles inversion. As for television documentaries and reports, their borders are ambiguous because more than one voice invokes a principle of structural complexity – a documentary author must be clearly dissociated from a reporter. The former is a story teller that allows understanding the world without necessarily engaging into objectivity, presenting documentaries as “true scenarios that inform us about an event”. A reporter, on the contrary, does not have time on his or her side, and behaves under the pressure of urgent situation (Gauthier, cited by  D.Zeca Buzura, 1995, p. 26).

Saying that a television documentary informs, investigates, analyses, and forms dramatic structures means the recognition of the specific format through which “the chronological and exhaustive synthesis of the most relevant information regarding an event or a phenomenon, which focalizes the public opinion attention at a given time” involves the recognition of privileged environment quality for a socially highly important scientific content, or for a message as serious as that represented by global warming.

A television documentary satisfies the human need for information and interrogation without being a simple description, but rather a pluriperspective contextualised presentation that tries to anticipate consequences. The value of a scientific documentary goes beyond the particular moment and the epoch, just as it happened to a documentary series realised in 1896 by Dr. Gheorghe Marinescu, member of the Romanian Academy, who left immeasurable scientific documents in a metallic folder inside the Neurological Clinic of ‘Colentina’ Hospital. Each of the five metallic cases in which the documents were kept carries a dedication from one of the Lumière Brothers, Louis Lumière. The documentary proposes the adherence to an environment, to a typology, and to a specific problem, all of which usually quite inconvenient.

 

2.3. The Scientific Documentary as an “Instructive or Education Film”

 

A typology within the documentary films analysed can be identified. It’s a a typology that we could call “exemplary story”. This type of narration has its origin in one of the oldest rhetorical inventio forms – exemplum – one of the means of persuasion. In fact, in order to persuade, all orators provide proofs with examples and enthymeme. There are no other ways beside these (Aristotle, Rhetoric, cited in Adam and Revaz, Analyse des récits, 1996).

Heuristics refer to mental rules that can lead to a solution. The “heuristic affect” theory argues that a human’s mental state can affect his or her decisions.  The availability heuristics is a subjective prediction given by one’s tendency to rely on the result that brings the highest emotional revenue. This intensely manipulated and discussed cultural mechanism is reduced to a void representation within the administrative strategies based on textual “machinery”-type representation, mental tool etc.

In all the three documents analysed, the first structural level is the problematic-dilemmatic one, and is based on the verbal and visual communication system.

Regarding the documentary based on life’s “intelligent design theory”, the expressivity and the explanatory message are based on the persuasion of the scientific environment image unified by “revelation”, while the arguments include the participants’ scientific state, the indisputable competence certificate through which a new biological theory is launched in an “exemplary story”-type typology. The images suggest the symbolic meaning of the elemental items that gave birth to life – water, air, earth – in its diversity and levels. Therefore, the argumentative mechanism is rather implicit than explicit, and the filmic discourse modality suggests a told creation rather than an explained one, as the biblical model, an old cultural model that supports a new scaffolding of experimental science.

In contrast to the cognitive-cultural synthesis level, the filmic construction is defined as a visual language (that can be framed within the aestheticism model), which inter-textually sends a filmic and photographic narration that values the association between signs and visual languages.

The sound-musical level has been identified as the emotional message main vehicle, being considered a sophisticated and subtle communication system.

The communication system can be configured using the Deleuse – Guattari model combined with Adam Revaz narration model.

 

 

TO WANT TO KNOW                    TO BE ABLE TO
Relationship of wish/search  Relationship of communication  Relationship of fight (active/reactiv/proactiv)

 

 

Subject  Remittent Adjuvant
 Valuable object                                Subject > Object > Addressee              Subject > Object > Opponent

 

 

 

 

The nomadologic paradygm

 

I.The Global Science Metaphor

             The (Informational) Fortress Methaphor

 

II.The Strategy

            Level I  of cooperation at the fortress level

            Information selection –Target – Objective Construction

           

            Level II – Cooperation system creation

 

III.The Fight (Action) for Local Planning Position

For “An Inconvenient Truth” film, files regarding the three structural levels (narrative, iconic, and musical) were created for the sequential narrative configuration in which elements presented in the previous model were defined.

Below, there is a sequence of some of the students’ commentaries:

 

 S1 – There are incredible things. Al Gore brings to life an indoctrinated audience; or, better said, an ignorant one. He didn’t give me the impression of having had success from one sole documentary, but his campaign is a rather structured one with a well-defined goal.  However, we can hope that at least he managed to start a bit of the storm. It’s a long-awaited documentary with a non-classical approach.

 

 S2 – Why another approach? Since ignorance shaped a barrier against classical documentaries, this documentary’s goal is to wake one back to life, together with the global consciousness towards an evolution in “symbiosis” with the planet. 
 S3 – This message has a warning force, and Al Gore has the credibility of a global leader; Al Gore’s image capital is part of the movie. 
 S4 – Al Gore is not only a prominent political figure, but he also maintains a close relationship with the receiver. 
 S5 – The use of the animated movie language creates a link between generations.These sentences complete one another, creating dynamism to the group based on a serious analysis.

 

 

 

From the perspective of this kind of receiver profile (both genders, aged 18-22), the human factor, the communication style, and the narrator-animator positioning prevail over other levels and components of the filmic structure.

The heuristic affect factor maintains the interest for fear during a laborious evidence presentation and dramatic signals.

The cognitive symmetry verification was realised by registering information before the experiment and by comparing it to the experimental data.

The first survey in which I measured the information level regarding global warming revealed precise knowledge of the RIG causality. At that category of subject, information was mainly gathered from audio-visual media and from the Internet, covering 348 subjects. When asked about their sources of information, only 12 people indicated the school/university environment and other educational programmes.

The  definition of GW was exact indicating the multiple sources , especially from web,  mainly formed into a heuristic cognitive system. But the exact  information does not correlate to the feeling of the possibility of influencing the situation through one’s own behaviour(information bias).

 

3. Conclusion

The experiment realised suggests that projecting the acting power- decision- make balance and biases- through an influent character (theatrica/televisual  reorganisation of strategic information) is able to produce a transfer of commitment to one’s own forces and the assumption of a multiplying agent role of information that supposed clarification, argumentation and confidence and resonance. These considerations represent a confirmation of the scientific documentary role, a genre whose resources have not yet been fully explored, a complex educational means, and a mediating-inter-knowledge-interaction ramp.

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Adam J.M.,Les textes: Types et prototypes Rẻcits, Description, Argumentation, Explication et Dialogue ,Ed. Nathan,1992

Austin J, How to do things with words,Harvard Universi ty Press,Cambridge,

Massachusetts,1975

Coman M.,Mass Media Mit şi Ritual(Mass Media Myth and Ritual),2005,Polirom,Iaşi

Deleuse G.,Guattari,F.,Nomadology:The War Machine,New York, Semiotexts,1986

Douglas M,  Wildawski, A., Risk and Culture,California University Press,1982

Douglas M.,How institutions think, Syracuse University Press, 1986

Havel V.,Essais Politiques,Plon,1992

Jenkins R.,Social Identity, Routledge, London,1996

Morin E.,Le paradigme perdu,La nature humaine, Seuil, 1979

Ricoeur P.,La mémoire,l´ histoire, l´oubli, Ed. de Seuil,2000,Paris

Uslaner E M., Copy and Social Capital.The Informal Sector and the Democratic Transition, paper prepared for the Conference on ”Unlocking Human Potential.Linking the Formal and the Informal Sector”,Helsinki,sept.17-18,2004

Zeca-Buzura D.,Jurnalismul televizual(Televisual Journalism),Polirom,Iasi,2007

 

 

Presented at PCST-10 International Conference June 25-27, European trends and challenges in science journalism 

 

 

 

  

Un răspuns

  1. Being from Alaska, I have seen first hand the effects of global warming. I have witnessed glaciers calve off in monumental proportions.

    In fact, I found a disturbing, yet spectacular movie that shows global warming footage of calving glaciers. Huge chunks of ice breaking off into the ocean! You can find this film called „Alaska, The Tracy Arm Experience” on Film Baby HERE:

    http://www.filmbaby.com/films/4148

    I highly recommend buying Alaska, The Tracy Arm Experience. Watch the glaciers disappear before your eyes and show your friends and family what is really going on in Alaska.

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