Democracy or war? The communication of the climate issue online
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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For years, technology optimists have hoped that the internet might serve as a vehicle for democratization. Meanwhile, many STS-scholars have called for a democratization of scientific practices through increased transparency and inclusion of lay-persons in scientific knowledge production. Many expect this to result in increased scientific quality and more legitimate knowledge claims. In this article, we explore what happens when science related communication moves online. Do climate scientists and climate ‘skeptics’ use the internet to engage lay persons in factual deliberations and debate? Does the rise of the internet as a channel of science communication herald a new, democratic scientific era? Our paper suggests that such claims should be made with caution. Instead we identify two ways that the internet is used by climate scientists. First, it is a tool to fight a cold war with climate skeptics, a dynamic which is hidden from public view. Second, it is a site of education, where ready-made packets of facts should be transported to lay-people to mitigate perceived knowledge deficits. This strategy is mimicked by climate skeptics who attempt to make their communication appear more scientific than the scientists.