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Sep 23

How I came to study Science Communication and do research on Extinction Rebellion

Student Anna Fry introduces her MA Science Communication dissertation on Extinction Rebellion

Having struggled through the first year of a Biology degree I was hit with the realisation that, while I had a love of science, the lengthy lab sessions were simply not my thing. Fast forward a few years and one History degree, I found myself looking at MA courses, not really sure of the direction I wanted to take but aware I wasn’t quite ready to stop being a student just yet. I was discussing my dilemma with a friend over a drink in Spoons, scrolling through the courses available at Kent, when – eureka! – I was hit by the headline ‘Do you love science but know that a career at the lab bench is not for you?’ It was with a ‘yes’ to this question that my career as a Science Communication student began. Now, just over a year later, I have completed my course and submitted my final piece – a dissertation looking at the communication methods of the infamous group Extinction Rebellion (XR).

I knew I wanted the focus of my dissertation to be on environmental issues as it is incredibly important to educate the entire population on the current state of our earth’s climate and the steps that each and every person can, and should, be taking in order to head toward a not-so-bleak future. What drew me to XR I cannot be too sure, but I believe it had a lot to do with their ability to constantly put themselves in the news, get shared on my Facebook newsfeed, and create controversial disruptions in the city. Needless to say, once I had settled on XR as my case study their presence began to increase in my life. This did not only occur through my own research inquiries, but I also began to notice their recognisable symbol on posters and flyers dotted around the city and in people’s windows.

XR turned out to be a wonderful case study providing a wealth of online resources both produced by the movement’s members and by others discussing their tactics. Because XR is a relatively new group, having only started towards the end of 2018, there is little written on their approach by academics, and even less examining the particular science-communication question of whether their methods can be considered a success. Nevertheless, their main approach, civil disobedience, has been used by many in the past and as already noted there are plenty of people willing to share their opinions on the group, both good and bad. All in all, while it is too early to state whether XR can be considered a ‘success’, it is undeniable that they have a remarkable talent of being heard, what matters next is how much we choose to listen. Please follow the link to the dissertation to find out more.

A Case Study on Extinction Rebellion’s Methods of Climate Change Communication (pdf)

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