Technoscientific Promotion and Biofuel Policy

Jenny Eklöf and I have been collaborating on a project during my HUMlab fellowship (2010-2012). Our study investigated how the biofuel controversy plays out in the Swedish press and Google search results. The results will be published in the journal Media, Culture & Society (mid of next year). The exact phrasing of the editor goes like this:

“It will be several issues, and certainly several months, before your piece is prepared for publication and the proofs sent on to you. Please do not contact us for a specified issue number and date until 5 months or so after this note of acceptance.”

Well, if you don’t want to wait that long please let us know and we’ll send you a copy!

That’s the abstract:

What are the conditions for the public understanding of biofuels and how do the media shape these conditions under the influence of a new production of knowledge? This article investigates how the biofuel controversy plays out in the Swedish press and Google search engine results and analyses winners and losers in the tight attention economy of contemporary media. It describes different visibility strategies biofuel stakeholders employ in both media arenas, and identifies a form of technoscientific promotion that hybrid actors use to succeed in the day-to- day struggle for media attention. To conclude, it raises broader societal questions of the contemporary blurring of knowledge boundaries and the emergence of new information hierarchies and their biases. By understanding how contemporary media shape controversies, we can address the democratic potential of both mass media and science.

biofuels in public spheres

Tomorrow I’ll be giving a seminar talk together with Jenny Eklöf from Umeå Studies in Science, Technology and Environment (USSTE). The title is “BIOFUELS IN PUBLIC SPHERES: How old and new media shape the biofuel controversy under the influence of technoscientific marketing”. All Umeå people are very welcome!!!

November 8, B 203, 13:00-14.30; Abstract:

While biofuels have been celebrated as an eco-friendly alternative to petrol with the potential to slow down climate change in the past, they have come under scrutiny due to their environmental and social impacts more recently. This seminar talk discusses our ongoing research project on the biofuel controversy in public spheres. The main research question to be addressed is how the controversy plays out in the Swedish press and in (Swedish) search engine results. Using “classical” (content analysis) and “digital” methods (search engine queries, link network analysis, issue clouds) we aim to show who the dominant actors are in both spheres, what visibility strategies they employ, and how actors from different sectors (industry, policy, academia) merge. In this analysis we specifically focus on blurring boundaries between different types of information (scientific, journalistic, activist, commercial etc.) and the way strategies of “technoscientific marketing” influence the staging of the controversy in the media and search engine results. This case study enables us to draw conclusions on how actors’ visibility strategies and different media (and their underlying mechanisms and business models) work in tandem to create blurred knowledge boundaries/ processes of information commercialization.

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