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Alliance of antagonism: Counterpublics and polarization in online climate change communication

Author: Kaiser, J. & Puschmann, C.
Published in: Communication and the Public, 1-17
Year: 2017
Type: Academic articles

Debates around climate change are a prominent example of polarized online communication. We examine the German climate hyperlink network and evaluate the degree to which it is shaped by mainstream and skeptical views. By combining the theoretical frameworks of the networked public sphere and counterpublics, we describe the relation between publics and counterpublics and discuss the role of hyperlinks in delineating communities. Our analysis of blogrolls and link lists shows the debate’s structures to be polarized along factional lines with political and scientific institutions supporting the mainstream “climate-friendly” position. We find that skeptics form a counterpublic that is only loosely connected to the mainstream as neither skeptics nor the mainstream want to be affiliated with each other. Skeptics, thus, are mostly excluded within the German online climate network. However, skeptics are part of an “alliance of antagonism” with other groups, such as conspiracy theorists, men’s right groups, and right-wing sites.

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Jonas Kaiser

Associated Researcher: Knowledge & Society

Cornelius Puschmann, Dr.

Associated Researcher: The evolving digital society

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