On the Potential of New Media to Enhance Environmental Activism in the Australian Context
Embargoed until: 2019-11-19
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Over the last two decades, positive claims have been consistently made worldwide about the potential of new media and more recently social media to enable easier, faster, and more universal political action and enhanced civic engagement. Challenging this potential, perhaps profoundly, however, are issues of expanding corporate media ownership of new media and state digital surveillance. As such, the focus of this study is on discerning more clearly the posited beneficial potential of new media to enhance environmental activism, as also contextualised by the posited limitations to that potential. The overall aim of this study, as such, is to investigate the potential benefits and limitations of new media for Australian environmental activism regarding environmental protection, as particularly informed by campaigner perceptions of such potentiality. To fulfil this aim, the design of the research comprised two stages of investigation. The first stage comprised an extensive literature review informed by environmental politics, media studies, social movement theory, and science, technology and society (STS) studies. Relevant analytical themes identified from the literature review informed the development of the conceptual framework for downstream research. The second stage comprised the application of the conceptual framework in collecting and analysing empirical data. Data collection was based on, first, web content analysis of a demonstrative sample of 15 environmental activist groups and organisations in Australia to distil the current usage of new media for environmental activism, the extent of which appeared high. Second, data collection was based on in-depth interviews with 34 environmental activists as representatives, and expert informants, of activist environmental groups and organisations across Australia campaigning to protect the environment on their views on the potential of new media for on-the-ground activism. In conclusion, the thesis found good potential in new media to enhance environmental activism in Australia to protect the environment. However, key limitations remain, as canvassed in the literature, of increasing concentration of corporate media ownership and digital surveillance. As such, these potential limitations should pose some reasons for caution by environmental activists in Australia to ensure that democratic rights of freedom of speech and expression of dissent are protected. Lastly, the thesis makes an original contribution to the literature in two ways. First, it contributes to strengthening existing knowledge on new media in first the Australian literature and then the international literature, as found at the intersection of environmental politics, media studies, social movements studies, and STS studies. Second, the conceptual framework contributes to theory building in identifying new issues and insights not explored before in the Australian landscape, including the potential impact of fake news, echo-chambers, and abusive behaviours and trolling on civic participation in environmental activism, as well as the limitation most held by Australian activists of reaching out to diverse audiences across an increasingly crowded and competitive digital space for environmental and social issues to be raised.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Environment and Sc
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Corporate media ownership