Celebrity influence in media discussions of climate change and wildfire

Authors: Jeremiah Osborne-Gowey*, University of Colorado Boulder
Topics: Global Change, Communication, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: climate change, wildfire, media, science communication, policies, celebrity, celebrities, messaging, social media, news, methods, text mining, natural language processing, social network analysis, political ecology, politics
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 44
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Confronting complex global problems often requires collective action. Climate change is one of the most pressing and broad-reaching environmental intersectional challenges we face today, affecting a myriad of other processes in coupled natural and human (i.e., “complex”) systems. The impact of a changing climate on the frequency, severity, prevalence on wildfire is well documented with changing forest fire activity increasingly visible across the globe. Celebrity advocacy has been demonstrated to bring about social and political change and may inspire political awareness and political engagement among broader audiences. Whether celebrity audiences actualize celebrity messages into altered behaviors, beliefs or values is unclear. Yet, more research is needed into whether and celebrities may be influencing policy-making on issues about of the environment and by which processes and pathways. Thus, understanding the specific influence of celebrity at the science/policy nexus is of particular interest with discussions about climate change and wildfire of particular salience. In this paper, using social network analysis and machine learning techniques (e.g., natural language processing, topic modeling), we assess and analyze media content from climate change and wildfire communicators to understand whether and how celebrities open up discussion spaces in the public sphere on the topic of climate change and wildfires and whether this celebrity discourse functions as an ‘extended network’ shaping these spaces in the political sphere and to mobilize participatory environmental action and politics.

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