Construction Work in Progress? The Hegemonic Struggle underlying Two Multimodal Climate Change Frames

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)Research


Climate change is the global threat of the 21st century. Yet, our collective future largely depends on the ways in which media, among others, frame climate change. The dominant environmental frames have, however, been criticized for only manipulating (passive) consumers into supporting short-term actions, which serve the interests of the elites. Put differently, the mainstream frames are only superficially environmental and keep reproducing the (anthropocentric) hegemonic ideology. Real change, contrariwise, requires profound, ideological transformations (towards biocentric values). The engagement of active citizens and bottom-up groups is a means and a purpose. Alternative media, in particular, can be crucial for such endeavors: Through their bottom-up approach (e.g., citizen journalists, reversed hierarchy of access) they attempt to open up the public debate.
As one frame can promote various ideologies, familiar ‘masterframes’ like ‘Cycles of Nature’ or ‘Environmental Justice’ can provide convenient contexts for hegemonic struggles. However, little is known yet about the nature of the hegemonic and counter-hegemonic (media) ‘subframes’, particularly in alternative media. Therefore, conducting a multimodal qualitative framing analysis, we discuss the differential realizations of the Environmental Justice and the Cycles of Nature frames. Our corpus encompasses three mainstream northern Belgian newspapers and two alternative outlets.
The results demonstrate in detail the remarkable similarities among the two selected frames and striking contrasts within the frames. The anthropocentric ‘subframes’ foreground an external fight with a largely external enemy (GHG). The biocentric ‘subframes’ highlight internal problems within human society, which need to be solved internally. Yet, our analysis also shows that the alternative subframes still lack the potency to truly inspire bottom-up engagement or to expand the number of solutions considered: They are quantitatively and qualitatively underdeveloped, failing to provide concrete, positive solutions, encouraging us-them dualisms and/or lacking a truly biocentric language. Hence, we call for further (collaborative) scrutiny and construction work.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBook of abstracts, Constructed/Constructive Journalism Conference
PublisherVrije Universiteit Brussel
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2016
EventConstructed|Constructive Journalism - Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts, Brussels, Belgium
Duration: 8 Dec 20169 Dec 2016


ConferenceConstructed|Constructive Journalism
Internet address


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