Climate Meme Project Update – Gathering and Analyzing Memes

Go here to help crowdfund this vitally important project!

Thanks to all of you who have shared your memes with us so far!  We are gathering climate memes on Facebook and Twitter (by using the #climatememe hashtag) and encourage you to get involved and bring us the memes you don’t want us to miss!

We will soon begin the process of analyzing these memes.  This will involve a combination of direct linguistic analysis by our research team and the use of statistical tools to reveal larger patterns.  We will code the memes based on their semantic content (e.g. thematic focus, emotional valence, key words, etc.) and construct a taxonomy of meme dimensions that reflect this information.  This will enable us to filter through the database of memes (which can grow to include thousands of individual expressions) with the aid of computers to discover statistical patterns.

This process is described thoroughly in this video:

We are merging the fields of linguistic analysis, complexity theory, network science, and cultural studies to provide a powerful toolkit for analyzing the climate discourse in the hope that we can create ripples of change that spread throughout the world.

Samples of Memes We’ve Found So Far

Thanks to the enthusiastic engagement of people like you, we have started gathering memes that reflect the nuances of the climate debate.  This sampling captures the richness of what we have discovered so far:

“Global warming is not an Existential Risk since it will likely not wipe out the whole human race.”

“I am more afraid of the human fix to global warming than global warming itself.”

“It doesn’t matter whether global warming is caused by humans.”

“The ice sheets are melting faster than anyone predicted!”

“Is there a correlation between climate change “skeptics” and misogyny?”

“…then there’s the insurance companies, which are getting hammered, and insurance is basic infrastructure for business.”

It is already clear that people are thinking and talking about climate change in highly creative and diverse ways.  The meme landscape on this topic is rich and alive with emotional overtones, intellectual commitments, and varied motivations.  Imagine what we’ll find when we dig into this cultural soup and discover how it works!

Next Steps

We only have five days remaining in our crowdfunding campaign, so much of our energy is still directed toward getting the word out.  You can help by donating to the cause and spreading the word — just go here!  In anticipation of our success, we are meeting with research partners who mine social media for relevant content so that we can do a much deeper dive into Twitter and the blogosphere.  This is where we will uncover the 1,000′s of memes out there that people are sharing on a daily basis to shape public perceptions about climate change.

In the coming weeks, the Climate Meme Project will:

  1. Manually analyze the initial meme set provided by our supporters to construct a first draft taxonomy of meme dimensions.
  2. Create a list of key word filters for mining Twitter to gather much larger swaths of data.
  3. Pull out the memes that are active on Twitter (meaning they have been retreated at least once) and add them to our database.
  4. Begin the multi-step statistical process to make visible the semantic content of this meme ecosystem.

As we engage in these vital early stage preparations, we will continue to expand our partner network and build capacity to act upon this research in real campaigns starting in the spring.

Cognitive Policy Works specializes in providing organizations and individuals with frame analysis, policy briefs, strategic advising, and training.