Table of contents
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. INTROUDCTION AND BACKGROUND
1.1 What is climate change?
1.2 What is the Extreme Ice Survey
1.3 Why analyse the EIS?
1.4 Objectives and statement of purpose
1.5 Research questions
1.6 Study outline
2. LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Visual communication
2.2 Emphasis on media’s representations
2.3 Challenges in communicating climate change
3. THEORETICAL CONTEXT
3.1 Framing Theory
3.1.2 Frames of generating meaning through the environmental spectrum scale
3.2 Photos / images
3.2.1 Analytical tools for reading visuals in Kress & Van Leeuwen
3.2.2 Narrative representations
4. MATERIAL AND METHOD
4.1.1 Photography section
188.8.131.52 Content of videos
184.108.40.206 Justification of chosen videos
5.2 Framing Devices / Framing in the photography section
5.2.1 Themes framed within the images
220.127.116.11 Sublime nature
18.104.22.168 Glacier vulnerability
22.214.171.124 Involvement of human interactions
5.2.3 Metaphors within the EIS
126.96.36.199 Time metaphors
188.8.131.52 Journey metaphors
184.108.40.206 Health and sickness metaphors
220.127.116.11 Container metaphors
5.3.1 Narrative representations
5.3.2 How are the videos framed?
5.3.3 Scaling to perspective
5.3.4 Representations of a Timeline
18.104.22.168 Tense, temporal sequencing and aspect
6.1 The relation between text and visual
8.1 Published sources
8.2 Unpublished sources
Communication plays a fundamental role in shaping our understanding of complex issues such as climate change. Too often scientists and journalists complain that the public does not fully comprehend climate change as they cannot see it. Adhering to calls for a need to propel away from media representations of climate change to a focus on more case-specific research, this Master Thesis analyses the aspect of visualisation within climate change communication with a focus on a contemporary example, the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), as a case-specific study. EIS give a visual voice to our planets changing eco-systems, where an emphasis is placed on visually documenting the adverse effects climate change has on the planets glaciers, through conventional photography and time-lapse photography.
Adhering to the need for further studies of visual representations towards the environment this thesis deploys an image analysis to investigate how meaning is framed through the EIS’s photographs and time-lapse videos. A collective reading between the photographs and their accompanying written captions highlighted contradictive frames of beauty and uncertainty. Additionally, as climate change is predominately seen as an abstract entity, a metaphor analysis was also applied to open further frames of thought into more comprehensible understandings. Integrating both still images and moving images into the study provided different results. Time-lapse videos were analysed to open up new developments of seeing and to extract potential frames of unfolding narratives, perspective and time.
Keywords: climate change, Extreme Ice Survey, visualisation, visual communication, framing, time-lapse photography, image analysis, metaphors, metaphor analysis, glaciers, ice, global warming
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my supervisor Heike Graf for several insightful conversations showing encouragement, guidance and support throughout the process of this thesis. Furthermore I would like to thank Staffan Ericson for his support and invaluable constructive criticism in the planning stages of this project and Lars Lundgren for his insightful thoughts towards the thesis. Also, I would like to thank and show my appreciation towards my fellow classmates for sharing their truthful and illuminating views on a number of topics related to this Master thesis. Last, but not least, special thanks to my girlfriend, Anna Nilsson, for her moral support and encouragement shown throughout.
Chapter 1: Introduction and background
Visual communication coincided with visual representations and constructions of the environment are a valid paradigm for further research as only recently have studies begun focusing more on the visual construction of the environment. Communicating about the environment is of essential importance within contemporary times. Problematic issues such as rising global temperatures have an increased effect on the melting of ice caps and glaciers, contributing to a rise in sea levels. Although this change is partly attributable to natural occurrences, human activity, such as burning of fossil fuels, has greatly increased gas emissions into the atmosphere, leading to consequential environmental damage. Damages include, erosion on a devastating level, a decline in marine habitat, flooding of wetlands and threats to coastal communities. Forty percent of the world’s population live within 100km of coastal regions, and a continued rise in sea levels could have devastating economic and social consequences. Moreover, specifically related to this thesis, an abundant of scientific reports and evidence have been published that indicate the worlds glaciers are melting at quicker rates than ever before. Consequently, sea levels will rise however, there are still complexities and uncertainties surrounding how high and fast these levels will accumulate. Reasoning for this could be because scientists and glaciologists have only recently begun to develop models for understanding the complex and dynamic processes of glaciers. Too often society cannot fully comprehend these consequences as there is a lack of immediacy, visualising climate change and its causes has an attachment of invisibility, and furthermore envisioning of problems is dominantly portrayed in a distant manner with complexities and uncertainties. These problematic notions reiterate the importance of communication, as in order for something to be perceived as a reality it needs to be communicated. Propelling from these challenges, we can lead a discussion proposing whether climate change communication needs to be visualised with alternative approaches. Complexities of communicating climate change and consequential melting of glaciers can be reduced by visually framing the issues through understandable and comprehensible approaches. Framing devices including metaphors, symbols, catch phrases and narratives can aid with depicting meaning from visual communication.
Whilst communicating climate change a greater emphasis needs to be geared towards moving away from media representations of climate change whereby sensationalism, controversy and fear induced messages prevail. Consequently, climate change as a highly debatable topic within contemporary times generates an enormous amount of conflicting messages, making coherent and valid interpretations difficult to manage. Further developed case studies, focusing on how specific environmental projects and movements, NGOs and social movements visually communicate climate change require attention. In doing so alternative ways of seeing and addressing climate change appear plausible, as various scholars hold the assumption there is a lack of readily available visual evidence documenting climate change (Cox 2013, Hasen & Machin 2013, Moser & Dilling 2008, Schroth et al 2014). This is often attributed to the invisible nature and slow development of issues like climate change, however, this propels calls towards critical studies that challenge these problematic issues. Additionally, when we read a single newspaper article or view a single photograph in relation to climate change, scholars have commented on the difficulty to apprehend the extensiveness of the issues in a wide scale reality. Here it can be suggested more creativity within a visual perspective is required to evoke deeper meaningful responses in communicating climate change.
1.1 What is climate change?
On a simple note, climate change refers to a change in the planet’s weather and climate patterns, lasting for an extended or significant period of time. Climate change conjures many different and compelling images and associations, from rising sea levels and temperatures, retreating glaciers, severe droughts, melting ice caps and lone polar bears. We may also think in terms of the global warming spectrum, questioning how both worldwide corporation’s environmental ethics and our own carbon footprint contribute to climate change. Attachments of a destructive nature appear quite often within the climate change discourse, especially from the mainstream media’s perceptive. Moreover, climate change is often labelled along the lines of the biggest economic, social and environmental threat to mankind. Yet the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference failed to establish a global agreement on climate change, with governments criticised for not obtaining enough political will power on the issue within the preceding months to the conference (Müller, 2010). Accordingly, it is justifiable to proclaim climate change could be communicated in different ways with alternating messages and meanings.
The climate change communication field is vastly interdisciplinary, many fields of study absorb together in contributing to knowledge on how to appropriately communicate the issue. However, it then becomes subjective to broad results. Predominately previous research within academia has focused on mass media representations of climate change and studies of public perceptions. Consequently, to advance the research territory within climate change communication there is a demand for more case-specific and longitudinal research (Moser & Dilling, 2008).
1.2 What is the Extreme Ice Survey?
The Extreme Ice Survey, from here onwards abbreviated to EIS, set up by James Balog in 2007, are an ongoing photography project, aimed at capturing and documenting the adverse effects climate change has on the planets glaciers. On their website they state “the programme integrates art and science to give a “visual voice” to the planet’s changing ecosystems” (EIS, 2015). Here, with the emphasis on the visual they aim to establish communication and work that will benefit future generations. The EIS use both conventional single shot photography where the “beauty–the art and architecture–of ice” (EIS, 2015) is captured, and time-lapse photography, compiling thousands of still images, over multiple year periods, into very short video clips. Cameras are situated in fixed suitable positions near glaciers and then programmed to take pictures year round every hour during daylight. At present they have deployed 41 time-lapse cameras around 23 glaciers in Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland, Canada, Austria, the Nepalese Himalaya, Alaska and the Rocky Mountains of the U.S (EIS, 2015). The EIS visually frames its communication to spread an awareness, through the medium of photography, showing profound evidence of glaciers melting at quick rates. They aim to provide undeniable visual evidence of the melting of glaciers. The EIS, now part of earth vision trust, was set up independently in 2007 after James Balog had visited Iceland between 2005 and 2006 to photograph glaciers. Photographic findings from his time in Iceland were covered by National Geographic which were featured in the 2007 cover story “The Big Thaw”. Emerging from this was the beginning of the EIS. The foundation of the EIS centres on the motto of “seeing is believing”, whereby they “provide(s) scientists with basic and vitally important information on the mechanics of glacial melting and educates the public with first hand evidence of how rapidly the Earth’s climate is changing” (EIS, 2015).
Their project is documented in the critically acclaimed documentary film, Chasing Ice (2012). Chasing Ice, winner of best cinematography at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, is a collaboration of the main concepts and ideologies embedded within their work on visually communicating about climate change. Through the cinematic screen they strive for communication in a more accessible manner reaching out to a diverse audience in the public sphere to view the devastating effects of climate change.
1.3 Why analyse the EIS?
Throughout this thesis the literature and chosen theories will be analysed to show motivations and reasoning as to why the EIS has been chosen for the example of analysis. As far as can be ascertained, little attention within academia has been drawn towards the specific nature of movements like the EIS and how they visually communicate about the planets changing ecosystems. By using the example of the EIS different perspectives within communicating climate change will be given throughout. The EIS aim at providing undeniable visual evidence of the melting of glaciers and in doing so they are actually the largest and most extensive wide spread glacier study using ground based photography. Their time-lapse photography compiles thousands of still photographic shots into single continuous short video clips that are highly engaging and can assist in diminishing scepticism about climate change. Here, there are indications showing how projects like the EIS should be taken as a paradigm for further research in helping to occupy knowledge gaps within the literature.
In contrast to ideological concepts within the literature the EIS, through their profound use of visualised communication, aim to vanquish any sceptical notions and distance themselves from a sole focus on rational thought of global climate change (statistical and numerical approach) towards documenting large occurrences of visible change of glaciers to provide undeniable evidence. Creative and appealing measures are needed in order to counteract the problematic issue of the slow development and ‘invisible’ nature of global climate change. Arguably, through time-lapse photography this issue is placed into perspective in documenting the evidence. For brevity, this thesis wants to explore how contemporary projects like the EIS visually communicate climate change; how they advocate for change and how, throughout their work as an innovative visualisation of global climate change, can be seen to communicate climate change in a more engaging and accessible manner away from a sole focus on scientific jargon. Importantly, of course, that is not to discredit scientific knowledge, but by accessible I mean incorporating frames of understanding which average citizens are familiar with and can acknowledge. Here, the effects of global climate change are constructed and communicated visually, away from just still images but also to numerous images side by side to formulate the short videos the EIS produce. In turn, this allows for an opening of a discussion for the possible need of new and alternative strategies for visually communicating global climate change.
As previously mentioned further research into the visual representations of environmental issues and how case-specific and longitudinal research projects operate within communicating about the environment are both needed. Literature predominately involves a fragmented view of communicating climate change with notions focusing on a lack of perception, false media reporting, the need for new frames, too much emphasis on statistics, and the need for a stronger identification of nature and the invisibility and slow development of environmental problems. Here, I envision providing an analysis of plausible suggestions in tackling these fragmented notions through analysing the EIS’ communication techniques
1.4 Objectives and statement of purpose
The overall aim of this thesis is to analyse the aspect of visualisation within climate change communication with a focus on a contemporary example, the EIS, as a case-specific study. In doing so their photography section embedded on their website and a selection of their videos will be analysed to show how this communication is framed. Throughout arguments have been made in a neutral perspective in order to avoid biases and although a justification has been made as to why the EIS are the chosen example I have addressed both positive and negative standpoints within the EIS’s visual communication. Inevitably, as previous research suggests there is no quick term solution for climate change communication, nor will the issue just disappear, as long term engagements are needed (Moser & Dilling, 2008). Consequently, the EIS will not be presented as the glorified missing piece in the jigsaw. Rather, elements of their work will be projected as a step in the right direction, entailing previous recommendations in the literature, towards raising a more coherent awareness of climate change communication.
The following point on climate change scepticism is of great importance in relation to the overall aim, purpose and content of this thesis. I am fully aware of climate change scepticism that ranges amongst varying actors in society. In order to brandish off any potential climate change sceptics I am not interested in arguing if climate change is real or if it exists per say. Conclusively, the objective of this thesis is to take into consideration and analyse how the EIS visually communicate climate change.
1.5 Research questions
The purpose is to centre on how the EIS implement and make use of communication within a visual perspective, through their photographs and videos, and how this communication is framed. Throughout, the thesis will address how the visual communication is framed and in doing so the following specific questions will be addressed:
- What framed metaphors can be extracted from the Extreme Ice Survey’s photography section?
- What is the relation between the visual images and the written captions?
- What framing devices can be extracted from the Extreme Ice Survey’s videos?
1.6 Study outline
Chapter 1 presents the introduction and background to this thesis and the main objectives / purposes and research questions that are deployed throughout. The chosen example, EIS, are introduced early on here as I believe it gives the reader clarification of the chosen example within the objectives and research questions.
Chapter 2 includes the relevant literature review in relation to the objective of the thesis. Literature focuses on visual communication; proposed moves away from media representations of climate change; and the apparent challenges that surface whilst communicating climate change.
Chapter 3 introduces framing theory as the main theory to be deployed within this thesis alongside various accompanying theoretical perspectives. Metaphors as a framing device are devised from Lakoff & Johnson (1980), frames of generating meaning on an environmental scale are compiled from Corbet (2009). Whilst reading the image notions from Barthes (1977) have been formulated as a background and various analytical tools for reading images are comprised from Kress and Van Leeuwen (2006)
Chapter 4 gives the reader an understanding of the material to be analysed throughout this thesis – the EIS’s photography section and a selection of five videos. Additionally, the applied method of an image analysis and metaphor analysis are introduced.
Chapter 5 analyses the research materials. Here, the theoretical discussion is also developed, in accordance to the analysis.
Chapter 6 summaries the main findings from the analysis in the format of a discussion, highlighting how important they may be and why.
Chapter 7 provides a conclusion for the overall thesis and some suggestions for further research.
Chapter 2: Literature Review
This chapter presents an overview of the literature on visual communication, an emphasis on the media’s representation and the challenges in communicating climate change. The concepts, perspectives and notions discussed in the literature review will be used to contextualise the analysis and results within this thesis.
2.1 Visual communication
Within contemporary times, visual communication is omnipresent in society; essentially it is communication through the use of the visual. Visualised images appear in abundance within our everyday life. Television screens can be found in places ranging from public transport to our handheld smart phone devices, advertisements, billboards and visual images surface in a conspicuous manner. Visual culture is a way of understanding and interpreting life and culture within the 21st Century, it proposes a concern for the visualised in how our perceptions are created. Mirzoeff (1999, p. 3) argues the recent fixation with the visual creates the moment of postmodernity in response to the highly visual media saturated society we live in. Here, it can be viewed upon as a tool or a tactic, as Mirzoeff (1999) labels it, in how we construct meaning from visual images. Arguably, the visual image of a lone polar bear floating on a piece of ice has become the prolific image of the climate change discourse. Furthermore, this all becomes part of the visual language in communicating to audiences. We can view, read and interpret visuals through visual language which takes into account amongst others; sets of conventions, aesthetics, perceptions and cultural contexts, and the study of semiotics.
The depiction of the visual is at the centre of the EIS’s ongoing project whereby they have the motto of seeing is believing. On that note this next section will examine the literature in relation to the growing field of visual environmental communication. Visual representations and constructions of the environment are a valid paradigm for further research as only recently have studies begun focusing more on the visual construction of the environment. Visual communication is an underdeveloped research area, with scholars labelling it an ‘underestimated contributor’ (Di Francesco & Young, 2010). Too often in academia emphasis is placed on textual and rhetorical constructions of the environment rather than visually. Hansen and Machin (2013) discuss the gradual emergence of visual communication and how we need to expand on the definition of visual, and Moser & Dilling (2008) outline various recommendations of further representations of climate change, one being the incorporation of the evaluation of the arts. Here, they envision the role of visualisation through the arts as an accessible medium, including frames of understanding which the public can relate to.
Hansen and Machin (2013) published a special edition for the journal, Environmental Communication, entitled ‘ Researching Visual Environmental Communication’. Throughout they integrate the latest key trends in research and literature on visual representations of the environment. Here, they argue the very essence of the term visual needs to be more freely thought of as visual communication allows for different kinds of seeing. Throughout the authors observe how visual communication is expanding within various academic disciplines which is important for diverse theories. Historically, visual communication can be drawn back in relation to media and culture towards prominent thinkers such as Adorno and Horkheimer in the 1970s and through to Stuart Hall within the 1980s. All three took into consideration the importance of the visual within culture whereby the very definition of culture itself was expanding further afield in causing and shaping society. Research in media and cultural studies and researching visual representations of the environment incorporate similar traditions, consisting of unravelling through concepts, ideologies and cultural contexts within images that shape our understanding of the world (Hansen and Machin, 2013).
It appears rather ironic though how much of the public vocabulary on climate change is of a visual sense, visual associations of climate stated earlier in this thesis will likely spring to mind when discussing the issue. However, as Hansen and Machin (2013) note, too much emphasis in academic research is placed on textual and linguistic constructions of the environment. Visual constructions are starting to gain more prominence and in their article the authors elaborate on recent studies of visual representations of the environment. Including amongst them; Cottle (2000) showed how television news can represent the environment as under threat through using various visual symbols which become almost standardised within context to the environment. Linder (2006) argued how global warming visualisations can be re-framed as public problems with scientific and political legitimatisation, however sometimes they end up being a possession of the advertising sector.
Overall ‘ researching environmental communication ’ is a well referenced article, portraying various ways how we can think of visual representations of the environment. In order to progress conclusive remarks discuss how visual analysis needs to embark on communicative, cultural and historical contexts coincided with the sites of visual meaning-making, i.e. production, content and consumption.
However, whilst there is a need for a greater emphasis to be placed on the visual when communicating environmental issues, problems can arise with the distant manner of framing. Moreover, Tonn et al (2006) have shown how individuals feel more pessimistic about the longer term as they struggled to think in terms beyond 15-20 years. Likewise, Lorenzoni and Hulme (2009) observed individuals imaginable timescales for realistic visioning within a distant manner extend to no more than two decades into the future. Coincided with this temporal struggle to engage within a futuristic manner, the affected areas of climate change also tend to occur in distanced geographical locations.
Manzo (2010) argues there is a need for adopting more creative and meaningful approaches whilst representing climate change in order to move beyond the standardised image of the lone polar bear floating on a piece of ice as symbolically representing climate change. Similarly, Cox (2013) argues it’s difficult to apprehend the wide scale realities of the issue when we just see a single article or photograph of a polar bear in what he labels as a ‘condensation symbol’. Alternatively, though ever so slightly, Corbett (2006) argues the complexities of issues like climate change can be reduced through using animals as symbols and metaphors for they are the living components of the environmental world and can be very thought provoking on an emotional scale. Dunaway (2009) discusses events at an art exhibition by renowned art critic Lucy R. Lippard in how contemporary art is accumulating new concepts of communicating climate change. Here, the literature stems towards the direction of focusing on new visualisations for climate change that can comprehend the severity of the issue. Framing devices such as metaphorical representations and symbols of thought can be further evoked through art as approaches of visualising climate change.
Schwarz (2013) carried out a case study that highlighted how two environmental organisations use a Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition (RAVE) in relation to drawing attention to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Here, the visual is used as the medium in gaining knowledge of an environmental issue. A RAVE focuses attention on a specific environmental issue with conservation in mind, whereby both photography and narratives highlight alternative ways of seeing an issue and addressing motivations for concerned citizens. Schwarz (2013) addresses the concerned notion of how exactly environmental narratives are depicted visually. Throughout, one of the strategies deployed by the team of photographers was the presentation of a slideshow showing the photographic results from the RAVE in assisting to depict a narrative. Side by side the photographs highlighted what the problem was, whom the protagonist was, and illustrated future solutions. The visual imagery used to gain emotive responses from audiences were of a cultural, historical and economic background of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Furthermore, the RAVE highlighted important and influential factors that are needed in visually constructing an environmental issue; a combination of both scientific knowledge and environmentalism, an inclusion of media framing the issue as of importance, communication tools must strive to be visually and symbolically engaging thus to dramatise the problem, economic incentives must be apparent in the proposed solutions and lastly legitimisation must be met through an institutional sponsor (Schwarz, 2013).
2.2 Emphasis on media’s representations
A large and exhaustive amount of studies in recent times have focused heavily on the media’s coverage of climate change communication (Cottle 2008, Smith & Joffe 2009, Manzo 2010, Konieczna et al 2014, Schäfer & Schlichting 2014). Moreover, the media tend to focus and frame climate change within a sensational perspective deploying fear induced representations. Climate change as an urgent matter is compiled of varying complexities whereby framing within a meaningful sense is required. In response to this, Smith and Lindenfeld (2014) suggest media analysis must be interwoven into transdisciplinary research. Here, the authors envision the need of framing social, environmental and economic issues in terms of adapted solutions, whereby, in order to heighten plausible actions to the various complexities, media studies must collaborate with other researchers from fields such as environmental communication and various other stakeholders.
Notably the frames the media deploy whilst communicating climate change can have large influences on public perception of the issue. Case studies focusing specifically on environmental groups, social movements or NGO’s aimed at changing perceptions of climate change appear less frequent in academic journals (Doyle 2007, Schlembach 2011 & Schwarz 2013). Here, there is a need for an emphasis in research to be placed on specific environmental projects and movements in order to fill this lacking gap of knowledge. As mentioned, the media’s coverage of climate change has been exhaustively researched and more often than not, media representations have an element of fear attached, and as Hansen and Machin (2013) note this merely attracts the public’s attention and prevents personal engagement.
Although as previously mentioned different media’s coverage of climate change appears in abundance in academic journals, it can still be of meaningful use in relation to focusing on specific case studies. Lester and Cottle (2009) carried out a visual analysis of television news coverage of climate change from six different countries over a two week period. Arguments stem towards the notion that the discourse of climate change is socially and culturally produced, whereby it has developed from a contested debate within the sphere of environmental science towards an accepted position of discussion within politics. Within their visual analysis they place the news visuals of climate change into the following three categories; iconic, symbolic and spectacular visuals. Here, iconic visuals are used to represent what is being discussed; symbolic visuals are connotative of something beyond the picture and spectacular visuals play with emotions, waiting for an implied anxious and dreaded response, whereby destructiveness is portrayed or slow camera movements of natural landscapes are shown. These categories aid in depicting people or places as under threat within the visualisation of climate change. The use of these visuals is used to create a sense of localism of a global issue;
“Cultural resonances that are embedded in the past and reliant on shared or imagined memories are also repeatedly called upon to establish the magnitude of crisis and loss, and to invite the viewer to care” (Lester & Cottle, 2009).
Alike, just as Goffman (1974) observed, the meaning of a particular frame within a visual image is dependent upon the reader’s cultural resonance, whereby different emotions, images or memories can be evoked. Additionally, Lester & Cottle (2009) also place images which symbolically come to represent climate change in news reporting under two further categorises; causes and impacts. Causes, as the name suggests are images depicting the actual cause of a problem, in this case human created causes such as traffic congestion. The cause images are rather self-explanatory, they do not require deep cultural insight to gain an understanding into the imagery and symbolism at present. Additionally, the impact images can appear both as natural impact and human impact visuals. The natural images can be perceived as iconic in the sense that they show what is represented, for example a lone polar bear or water dripping from a glacier. On the other hand the human impact visuals require further reading to comprehend the symbolism deployed, and in doing so, regarding climate change, they are often accompanied with explanatory text to make the viewer / reader to draw a connection between the image and climate change. Overall, the cause images and the natural and impact visuals are constant in appearing together in climate change stories (Lester & Cottle, 2009).
The rhetoric’s of the visual within communicating climate change are embedded with complexities and intertextuality is constantly occurring as different actors within the climate change discourse, such as scientists, environmental groups and politicians are all subject to different forms of visualisation (Lester & Cottle, 2009). The different ways these actors are visually constructed leads to different calls of authority and credibility from their behalf. Hansen (2011) acknowledges Lester & Cottle’s (2009) analysis, however he argues we need to dwell deeper in accounting for how visuals are purposely constructed to signify a particular stance, and how they ‘privilege particular ideological views and perspectives on climate change over others’ (Hansen, 2011, p. 18). The television news media, within their study, predominately focused on images of a spectacular nature where emphasis was placed on people being under threat from the risks of climate change.
2.3 Challenges in communicating climate change
Climate change communication is a challenging field, for many scholars comment on how climate change causes can be perceived as invisible or slow to develop (Cox 2013, Hansen and Machin 2013, Moser and Dilling 2008, Schroth et al 2014), or how fear infused images will not send the message home (O’Neil & Nicholson-Cole 2009). Lorenzoni and Hulme (2009) conclude that we receive conflicting messages on climate change in an abundance, resulting in the public making a varying amount of different interpretations to the actual intended message. Furthermore, scholars have argued the lack of readily available visual evidence documenting climate change, and most importantly here the melting of glaciers, is problematic in efforts to inform and educate citizens of the urgency in communicating complexities that often lead to notions of scepticism (Cox 2013). The media are widely known to play an instrumental role in the public’s perception of climate change, but all too often media outlets feature outlandish articles of a sceptical nature (Carvalho & Burgess 2005 and Curtin & Rhodenbaugh 2001).
Within climate change communication differing apocalyptic frames are in operation. Foust and Murphy (2009) draw upon two types of apocalyptic frames; the tragic apocalypse frame and the comic apocalypse frame. Tragic, as the name suggests is of a catastrophic nature, here we resign ourselves to climate change as purely natural, decreasing human’s sense of responsibility. The comic apocalypse frame on the other hand is more adaptable to change. Here, human awareness is possible, as we can interact to reduce the effects of climate change. Overall though these two frames are of importance as they are in regular use within discussions on climate change. Furthermore, the environment frame already distances society from nature, yet scholars such as Lakoff (2010) view this as a tragic false frame as both nature and society depend on one another. On this note, more emphasis needs to be directed away from concerns of fear and an alarming nature associated with the apocalyptic frame, towards an inclusion of more adaptable and comprehensible frames of thought that incorporate the human factor at the heart of the narrative (Foust & Murphy, 2009). This opens up possibilities of integrating visual communication research into the discussion on climate change.
Moser and Dilling (2008) argue within climate change communication there is a vast gulf of perceptions between scientists and the public. Here, to develop, enhance and bring together this relationship further communication strategies are needed. Furthermore, they argue scientists need to be fully cautious and aware of how they communicate climate change as it can be difficult to comprehend the damages of climate change; glaciers are at a “distance” to us. Dominant ideological frameworks in place tell us that geological changes occurred at previous times in existence, prompting the need for a change in perception because geological changes are constantly occurring. Moreover, scientists are positioned in privileged roles of power in advocating the truth (Klein, 2013), thus creating a division of scientist and citizen. This division is further expanded with the conventional means of communicating climate change, i.e. numerically, through spreadsheets, percentages and statistical graphs. Here, the overly common dominance of scientific jargon is a factor for the misrepresentation of information in an accessible manner for all citizens on climate change (Yong, 2010).
Doyle (2007), addresses various problematic representational issues whilst communicating climate change. First and foremost identifying climate change has origins in science, here scientific knowledge is needed in order to legitimise the issue. However, not everyone has access to this privileged form of knowledge; stemming from this there have been grounds for linking climate change to common sense, in not placing sole responsibility on science (Foust & Murphy, 2009). Furthermore, climate change has an unseen nature or rather an invisibility factor attached to it. Here, in order for the issue of climate change and its prevailing effects to be perceived as a reality, visual communication is needed. Nonetheless, this is not a simple task, the very essence of using photography to communicate climate change portrays a temporal problem of what has already happened, thus making preventable action problematic (Doyle, 2007). Visual evidence documenting glacier retreat can be somewhat problematic as it distances human involvement. Doyle (2007) uses these outlined problems with communicating climate change as the foreground for her analysis of how Greenpeace UK has communicated climate change since 1994. Doyle’s (2007) concluding remarks appear questionable. As outlined above, her entire article focuses upon the use of photography to communicate climate change, the challenges this medium necessitates and Greenpeace’s response to these problems. Baring in mind the whole content, it appears rather odd she concludes with the suggestion attempts should be made to persuade the public not all environmental problems can be seen. Surely if authoritative figures were to carry out this persuasion, human involvement and activity towards the issue would degrade. Environmental problems have to be visualised in order for the public to gain an understanding and for further action to be taken against the risks (Beck, 2009 p. 86).
Further difficulties are expanded in getting people to discuss issues such as climate change, here environmental issues need to be identified and framed within the public sphere before they can be seen as social problems. Moreover, just because an issue is identified within the public sphere does not mean that it will achieve political attention. Here, Doyle (2007) argues cultural resonances is needed, and in relation to environmental issues this is the need for scientific legitimisation on the potential risks.
In addition a lack of understanding complex issues such as climate change is evoked throughout. Within the field of environmental communication, the literature predominately centres on a lack of perspective and the importance of political frameworks. Carbaugh (1999) shows how we too easily pass judgement on the unknown; Milstein (2011) argues that a stronger identification with nature is needed; Foust and Murphy (2009) criticise the media’s lack of perspective; Lakoff (2010) argues that better frames of understanding complex environmental issues are needed. Furthermore, too often, political frameworks are at the forefront for change, resulting in the diminishment of the ideologies and importance of environmental groups, social movements and NGOs (Lakoff, 2010).
Chapter 3: Theoretical context
The following chapter will focus on the theories and theoretical frameworks to be used within this thesis, whereby each theory will be outlined separately then towards the end of this chapter a justification will be made as to why they were chosen and if applicable how they complement one another. The main body of theory to be applied within this thesis is framing theory, developed from Goffman (1974) and Entman (1993). Corbett (2006) is brought into the theoretical discussion to show how frames generate meaning on her developed environmental spectrum. Additionally, metaphors as a framing device are included with various authors’ perspectives, however, the main framework for analysing metaphors generates from Lakoff and Johnson (1980). Notions from Barthes (1977) have been formulated as a theoretical background to reading images that precedes with various analytical tools comprised from Kress and Van Leeuwen (2006), illustrating how visual images communicate meaning.
3:1 Framing theory
The concept of framing is used in many different academic disciplines, thus a universal definition has not exactly been made. It is a widely used theory within the field of social sciences, however it has been criticised by scholars for its lack of coherence within a theoretical or methodological sense (Entman, 1993 and Weaver, 2007). Framing theory is suggestive of how a particular event, story or text is presented, or rather framed, can be influential in how audiences read it, thus altering the choices we make. Essentially, to frame involves depicting a specific selection to formulate a particular storyline, an understanding or an overall interpretation. Predominantly most scholars attribute the emergence of the concept of framing theory to Erving Goffman’s 1974 book entitled Frame Analysis: An essay on the organisation of experience. Goffman (1974) argued we understand events in our everyday life through our primary frameworks, the most basic of frames, whereby meaning is provided to otherwise meaningless events. Here, he entitles it as primary because it is taken for granted by the individual. There are two distinct frameworks embedded within the primary framework, natural and social. Within natural frameworks there is no presence of a social agency attached, rather events are purely physical, like the ‘state of the weather in a report’ (Goffman, 1974, p. 22). It’s plausible to suggest natural frameworks become habitual conventions in their own right; their meaning is difficult to alter. Contrastingly, the social framework views events as socially driven by incorporating an outlet of intelligence and the human element that assists in guiding the individual, for example a meteorologist reporting on the weather (Goffman, 1974, p. 23). Here, we can contextualise social frameworks into our own cultural backgrounds and past experiences within life. In short, for Goffman anytime we experience an event we inadvertently frame the occurrence within either the natural framework or the social framework. To reiterate, frames assist us in making sense of our past experiences, they structure how we interpret communication; furthermore we use frames to understand occurrences that are constantly happening around us.
We can draw on further thoughts and parallels within the definition of framing from the work of Robert Entman (1993) whereby he notes; ‘framing is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communicating text’ (Entman, 1993, p. 52). Furthermore framing involves defining problems, diagnosing causes, making moral judgments, and suggesting remedies (Entman, 1993, p. 52). As framing has to be placed within a cultural context, conflicting interests can alter how we differently perceive a reality. For example if we were to look at framing within a visual image, there could be many different elements we choose to focus our attention on in perceiving the reality.
Additionally, framing is a term derived from cognitive science whereby frames are the ‘unconscious structures’ (Lakoff, 2010, p. 71) of our understanding. Language is fundamental to framing, a point reiterated by Lakoff (2010) showing the importance of depicting the correct words. If a word is not chosen carefully it can activate another frame, thus possibly changing the implied message. The average citizen does not have the adequate frames put in place for understanding complex scientific issues, instead messages need to dwell on emotions, values and within the context of the citizen’s frames of understanding (Lakoff, 2010).
In essence, framing theory highlights attention to a frame, certain words and stock visuals can assist in activating an alternative frame. However, concentration should not solely focus on what is included but also on what is excluded from the frame (Gamson and Modigliani (1989). Gamson and Modigliani (1989) developed an analytical framework known as a “signature matrix” which is a useful tool when discussing the framework of an issue. It comprises of five framing devices, including, metaphors, exemplars, catch phrases, depictions and visual images, and a further three reasoning devices, including; roots, consequences and appeals to principles (Gamson and Modigliani, 1989). It is by these framing devices that a frame can be formed, each one collectively cooperating in aiding to gain an understanding on issues such as climate change.
Climate change is a very complex issue with difficulties arising in effectively communicating the issue. With a variety of competing stakeholders ranging from policy makers to scientists and the media climate change is a heavily debated issue. The role of language, through words, frames and metaphors, is of particular importance in conveying climate change communication in a meaningful manner to a wide variety of actors and stakeholders (Nerlich et al, 2010). Traditionally, metaphors are related to literature and more specifically poetry, however they are widely incorporated into everyday life communication. Metaphors help us make connections with otherwise abstract entities as they open up new frames of thought that can evoke our attitudes towards a particular issue. Moreover, Van Der Linden et al (2014) have shown how metaphorical representations are highly engaging approaches for public understanding of climate change, as the message is framed in a simpler and more comprehendible manner.
Metaphors are widely used within communication of the environment in a general sense, evoking powerful images that open further frames of thought. Within a general sense, we may metaphorically state Mother Nature, space ship earth or environmental footprint. Centralising within the climate change discourse, debates are often framed around the use of metaphors that include amongst others; atmospheric blankets, climate gate, greenhouse gases / effects and tipping points. In the book metaphors we live by, Lakoff and Johnson (1980) illustrate how metaphors have a ubiquitous presence within everyday communication and language. The conceptual system that structures our processes of thought, perceptions and actions are fundamentally metaphorical by nature (ibid, p. 3).
Predominately taken for granted or rather unnoticed, metaphors are an important aspect of generating our thought processes as a tool of communication. They are not simple linguistic devices, as they are rather constricted by culture, nor do they exist solely as an accompanying aspect of language, rather they are conceptual and fundamental concepts that are related to our experience and understanding. Metaphors induce change, they format something difficult into a comprehensible understanding, and in turn this involves discussing one thing in the context of another, allowing for a distinguished comparison.
Society’s relationship with climate change is often framed and evoked as an interpersonal relationship, whereby the consequential damages within the natural world from climate change need human involvement and action. Moreover, because climate change does not possess an entity of a humanist existence it can be viewed upon as an abstraction. Consequently, metaphors obtain the potential to help understand the complexities of climate change, through incorporating it in human terms. On this note, Lakoff & Johnson (1980) regard framing an issue within human terms deemed as personification. Sometimes personification possesses the only representational outlet of coherent sense making to most people that further allows for an incorporation of human qualities, elements or emotions into an otherwise non-human entity (ibid, p.34). We personify nature in our everyday lives, for we might suggest the wind was whistling or the sun kissed the flowers. Here, personification helps to create a picture in our mind of how a particular subject would react if it was human.
3.1.2 Frames of generating meaning through the Environmental spectrum scale
Environmental ideologies surround us in everyday life, however, they are less known than political ideologies, for example communism, liberalism or conservatism, of which all act as principles or as sets of belief to how society should function. Julia Corbett, states an environmental ideology ‘is a way of thinking about the natural world that a person uses to justify actions towards it’ (Corbett, 2006, p. 26). Systematically a person’s belief system, i.e. information from one’s childhood experiences, a sense of place and historical and cultural contexts can differ from their actual behaviour towards the environment. Here, Corbett (2006) draws up an environmental spectrum scale, placing anthropocentric notions on one side and ecocentric notions on the other. Anthropocentric notions view humans as the most significant and dominant entity in existence. The points in between begin with unrestrained instrumentalism, here the world revolves fundamentally around humans whereby there is an endless supply of resources for humans consumption and use. Secondly, is conservationism, here the future generations are in the hands of human’s collectively conserving resources in the present to avoid destroying the environment. Thirdly, there is preservationism, and again it includes a matter of conserving resources for future generations. However, preservationism can appear a somewhat selfish word, as the value of nature is subjective to humans. Next on the scale are ethics and values-driven ideologies that give non-human entities intrinsic value and worth, both in human’s consumption and on their own. An example includes land based ethics or animals rights. Lastly there are transformative ideologies, centralising around social change they tackle and question the dominant environmental ideologies, examples include ecological sensibility, deep ecology and ecofeminism.
3.2 Photos / images
When discussing photography, photos, imagery or semiotics within a Western perspective, the work of Roland Barthes (1977) is profoundly brought into discussion. Photographs are always presentations of something, what has been, acting as the physical traces of the world. Questions Barthes addressed throughout his work included: how do images pose meanings? How does the meaning get there in the first place? How do they influence and persuade us? In deriving meanings out of images we use language and sign systems to guide our thoughts and interpretations. Barthes differentiates between three different categories of a picture; the linguistic message (text), the symbolic message (connoted image / uncoded image) and the literal message (denoted / coded image).
In contemporary times the linguistic message can be many things such as a title, film dialogue or written captions. The most prominent and easily identified functions of the linguistic message in photography, according to Barthes, are anchoring and relaying. Anchorage can assist in directing (anchoring) the reader or viewer to the intended readings / meanings of an image, Barthes (1977) argued this can be ideological and also act as a means of control. Relay is less common, it involves text, such as dialogue and the image complementing one another, and it is in use throughout the sequence in cartoons or films. All images are polysemous as they have multiple related meanings whereby different interpretations can be made. Consisting of multiple meanings though can provoke confusion, disagreements and fear. Alternatively, the symbolic message is connotative of something else, here again there are different interpretations that can be implied for different people. Derived meaning comes from a lexicon which acts as a branch of one’s knowledge and each ‘one lexia mobilizes different lexicons’ (Barthes, 1977, p. 160). Barthes applied the notion that meaning is constructed from both the producer and the consumer but also the competing elements of one’s lexicons in parallel to the signs present in the image. This acts as further justification into how the uncoded image can be problematic as it allows for mixed interpretations to be made from an individual image. A further difficulty in analysing the signified (the connotation) results from there being no universal or analytical language for expressing them.
Kress & Van Leeuwen (2006) argue a need to move away from Roland Barthes’ (1977) notion of how the visual image and text can provide one another with an extension of meaning. In reference to Barthes they state, ‘the visual component of a text is an independently organized and structured message, connected with the verbal text, but in no way dependent on it – and similarly the other way around’ (Kress & Van Leeuwen 2006, p. 18). Arguably though, Barthes original notion is still applicable, as thought-provoking as an image can be, sometimes we need the written text to accompany the visual in making the image more meaningful. Within their visual analysis’s both Doyle (2007) and Schwarz (2013) derive towards Barthes notion the written text is needed in order to conjure the desired meaning of the image. Schwarz (2013) even goes as far as saying, “the background details that the caption provides about the process by which algal blooms are produced are vital to understanding the full story the iLCP is trying to convey”.
3.2.1 Analytical tools for reading images in Kress & Van Leeuwen
Kress and Van Leeuwen’s landmark textbook, entitled ‘ Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design’ (2006) provides a detailed and thorough account of how visual images communicate meaning and how meaning appears in all forms of semiotic modes. The authors draw on a rather comprehensive list of examples ranging from children’s drawings to photojournalism and fine art. There is a focus throughout, as the title explicitly suggests, on the grammar or rather structural design of the visual, focusing attention on framing, perspective and colour amongst others. Much of their theory they dwell upon and develop is derived from semiotics and linguistics. They draw upon the work of Michael Halliday to provide a theoretical notion characterised by three alternative meta-functions that exist in any given visual image; ‘the ideational metafunction, the interpersonal metafunction and the textual metafunction’ (Kress & Van Leeuwen, 2006, p. 42).
The ideational metafunction is the means by which we make sense of reality. Here, the ideational metafunction of any semiotic mode has to make sense of the object it represents too how it is experienced by humans. Secondly the interpersonal metafunction involves the aspect of interactivity, highlighting attention towards the social relationship between the producer of a semiotic image, the object and the receiver. This mode, alike with the former, offers differing choices for representing interpersonal relations. Lastly the textual metafunction, as the name suggests, refers to the accompanying written text, with emphasis placed on the composition and coordination of the text in relation to the picture. Alternating the composition of the written text with the picture can consequently change the overall implied meaning (Kress & Van Leeuwen p. 42-43). Additionally the composition comprises the representational meanings of any given meaning through three associated factors; ‘information value, salience and framing’ (ibid, p. 177). Firstly meaning is established through the positioning of a semiotic mode, i.e. left to right, top to bottom and centre to margin. We can also gain meaning from visual indications of salience where size, contrasts in colour and depicted placement of foreground and background function to draw the viewers’ attention to a particular spot. Furthermore, framing devices both present and absent can shape meaning by communicating to the viewer the connectedness of different elements within an image resulting in apparent significations. These alternative design methods all cooperate together and can take on different meanings against one another.
3.2.2 Narrative representations
Another aspect whilst analysing the visual that Kress and Van Leeuwen (2006) draw upon, which is of significance to this thesis, is the development of narrative representations. Narrative here does not always mean telling a story, rather emphasis is generated towards the interaction between the different objects depicted within the image. Accordingly, all images can be divided into two opposing categories; narrative patterns and conceptual patterns. The former, narrative patterns, ‘serve to present unfolding actions and events, processes of change and transitory spatial arrangements’ (ibid, p. 59). Alike with a regular narrative, the purpose here is to centre on a connectedness of events. Contrastingly, conceptual patterns are in essence static and stable, obtaining a sense of timelessness in portraying their elements or participants in a more generalised manner.
Kress and Van Leeuwen (2006) illustrate the differing potential components that can be present within a visual image. In relation to some of the specific EIS’s videos that are analysed throughout this thesis I am interested in including the three components of actor, vector and goal. The component of the actor is essentially the active participant within an image that our attention is drawn towards. Alternatively the vector(s) provides a sense of connection between the object or participant represented within an image and ultimately the goal is the final outcome of the interaction between the actor and the vector. Although these three components are only discussed very briefly here I deem it necessary that they were included. Together they have the potential to form narrative representations that are influential components towards the overall theoretical framework devised by Kress and Van Leeuwen (2006) for reading the visual. Quintessentially, without providing specific examples that incorporate the interactivity between these three components there is not much more light to shed on the issue. Instead, together they are brought into the discussion within chapter 5 in a more thorough and detailed manner towards the specific videos discussed.
Many complexities can arise whilst reading the visual, an image of naturalistic qualities can most likely always be analysed in detail. Various elements are embedded within both minor and major structures of visuals whereby we can extract meanings of a deeper value. In visuals, exactly what constitutes the minor and major structures is deemed by size of proportion, colours and an overall conspicuousness of the elements (ibid, p. 107). In relation to embedding, pictures can be analysed accordingly to the following four processes, including, classification, analytical, symbolic and transactional processes. Classification processes involves placing the similar elements or participants of a visual next to one another. These participants are predominately of equal proportion to one another, represented in a decontextualized manner as the camera shot is of an objective nature, whereby plain and neutral colours are deployed to heighten this process. Analytical processes involve both the whole and partial structures of a visual. In this process there is not necessarily an apparent narrative, rather attention is given towards the pictures carrier and the carriers attributes. Here, the carrier is posed, invoking emotional responses rather than representational whereby the element of interactivity is incorporated through the directed carries gaze towards the audience. Symbolical processes are rather self-explanatory, as representing or being suggestive of something beyond the picture. Lastly, in transactional processes there is a connectedness between two participants where meaning is generated (Kress and Van Leeuwen, 2006). Overall, these competing processes and tools of analysis illustrate the complexities and multidimensional nature of abstracting meaning from visuals, running parallel with Roland Barthes’ notion of images being polysemous. Although, beyond the scope of this thesis we could pose the question of how much theory in meaning making is subconsciously structured within us.
As highlighted throughout this chapter, framing will be predominately used throughout this thesis. Ultimately, framing theory is suggestive of how something is presented to an audience within a specific frame. Taken that into consideration with the overall aims and purpose of this thesis by centring on how the EIS’s communication within a visual perspective, through their photographs and videos, can be framed. Additionally, various accompanying theoretical perspectives are included. Integrating the use of metaphors into the discussion is a framing technique in itself. Metaphorical representations allow for a more salient and comprehensible reading of complex issues. Additionally, theoretical perspectives from Roland Barthes work runs parallel to framing; in the sense of how we interpret the meanings within an image. In turn, Kress and Van Leeuwen’s (2006) analytical tools for reading the visual will be deployed as a further theoretical perspective. Attention, here, will focus on different approaches they discuss whilst analysing images and expanded towards how we can extract meaning of the EIS’s visual communication. Although, Kress and Van Leeuwen (2006) predominately draw attention towards examples of still visual images, they constantly reiterate throughout the importance of all semiotic modes. Semiotic modes range from the visual, verbal, written or musical. Although they have their differences in appearance, representational and compositional patterns coincided with communicational concepts of making meaning are applicable to all semiotic modes (ibid, p. 258).
Chapter 4: Material and Method
This chapter will introduce the methods that were used to analyse the desired scope of material throughout this thesis, here being the EIS. Throughout this section the methodological approaches and material will be justified in agreement with the desired objectives and aims of this thesis. Firstly, a discussion of the material that was analysed will proceed.
Centring on the EIS as the chosen example, the main material analysed throughout was their photography section and five chosen videos from their vimeo channel, both of which appear on their website, http://extremeicesurvey.org. Attention here focused on their main outlets of communication within a visual aspect. Additional factors within their website were included within analysis, here a recognition of their logo was taken into account.
4.1.1 Photography section
The following section draws attention to the photography category situated along the black header bar on the EIS’s website. This section was chosen for analysis as it is where the overall majority of their photographs are situated. It entails the various countries and glaciers where the EIS have documented glacier movement and alongside all of the photographs is an accompanying written caption. For reference, within appendix A, I have enlisted the written text (captions) that accompany the still photographs from the photography section. The text was placed in quotation marks as it is the exact words used by the EIS. Additionally, after the text in quotation marks I included a heading entitled ‘emphasis’ to show what I believed to be the most salient aspects of the caption in relation to the visual. All of the photographs captions appear in appendix A, except the category, “ICE” Fine Art Prints that was instead incorporated as a whole. Here, only the glaciers name and the photographic shot number were given, thus it was deemed unnecessary to include each one individually.
It must be noted that there are some glaciers that have been photographed from different angles and some written captions have been duplicated, give or take a few words. Baring this in mind not every photograph will be analysed separately or in as much detail as others as I did not want to repeat myself within the analysis. There are a total of 109 photographs within the photography section, undoubtedly a thorough image analysis of each individual one was beyond the scope of this thesis. Instead, a variety of photographs have been included within the analysis; those that were deemed most relevant to help validate the overall analytical framework and to the specific themes in the analysis. When reference was made towards a particular photograph it was written with the name of the category followed by the shot number, i.e. Greenland (1).
In total five videos from the EIS’s vimeo page that appears on their websites home page were chosen for analysis. They included:
Four time-lapse videos – example 1: Ilulissat Glacier, example 2: Solheimajokull Glacier, example 3: Mendenhall Glacier.
Two conventional videos – example 4: Ilulissat Glacier Two and example 5: Stor Glacier.
Throughout this thesis the videos have been referred to as their example numbers, as shown above, i.e. Ilulissat Glacier Two was referred to as example 5. Note, although the videos range from around 0:55-1:20 in length a full analysis frame by frame of each video was not be made. Firstly, with time-lapse it would have been near on impossible to do so and secondly it would have defeated the purpose of analysis. Instead I wanted to look at the continuous flow created in the videos, which was still apparent within the two videos that did not use time-lapse photography, examples 4 & 5. In these examples the action of events unfold in one continuous frame. Additionally the only time the flow was interrupted was through the change in camera acceleration or when a marker or diagram was included to show the perspective of scale, and this will be analysed further in chapter 5. In doing so, attention focused on the videos as a whole showing their existing similarities and differences, whilst running parallel to the theoretical framework derived from Kress & Van Leeuwen (2006).
22.214.171.124 Content of videos
A brief description of each videos content including the dates it spanned across is outlined below for readers who have not viewed the videos. Additionally, the links for the videos are included below too, as I believe it’s more accessible for the reader whilst maintaining a coherent reading flow.
Example 1. Ilulissat Glacier, Greenland
June 7th 2007 – June 20th 2013
Available at https://vimeo.com/70073371
Unlike the other videos, attention here begins by focusing on an object other than ice, notably a helicopter. The camera zooms far back to its fixed position, whilst doing so a rectangle appears on the screen to remind the viewer of the helicopters position and how small it appears in comparison to the vast glacier. Afterwards on the 0:14 second mark the time-lapse begins showing gigantic and colossal masses of ice breaking apart, running to the left of the screen, resembling rapid currents down a river or a conveyor belt mechanism. There are a total of three camera positions used during the time-lapse: the first two are long shots and the third is an extreme long shot emphasising the vastness of the landscape.
Example 2. Solheimajokull Glacier, Iceland
April 1st 2007 – January 19th 2014
Available at https://vimeo.com/6039933
The camera is in a fixed position looking down on the glacier, here chunks of ice fall of from the glacier causing streams of water at the bottom of the shot. There are both narrated and non-narrated versions of this video. In the narrated version we are told the reasoning of retreat is not through calving like the glaciers in Greenland and Alaska, but instead through increasing temperatures up slope and stream erosion of the ice that occurs at the bottom of the video. Cracks are visible running parallel to the glacier flow and again through the narration we are informed that the glacier is spreading out sideways.
Example 3. Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska
May 20th 2007 – March 14th 2013
Available at https://vimeo.com/5963395
One camera is situated in a fixed position throughout the 0:55 second clip. For the first couple of seconds the viewer is presented with a still image of the Mendenhall Glacier and then the time-lapse begins, large masses of ice continuingly fall off the glacier and disperse into the water. Here, the ice is sinking and deflating, whilst melting at the glaciers edge it is also thinning (EIS, 2015). On the 0:43 second there is a pause and a red outline appears on the screen showing the area where the glacier once stood. Afterwards, still with the red outline present, the camera rewinds back on itself in a very quick motion to show how the glacier stood at the beginning of the clip. The red outline is used as an indicator to represent the loss in size of the glacier.
Example 4. Ilulissat Glacier, Greenland Two
May 28th 2008, 18:08 – 19:23
Available at https://vimeo.com/94534528
Although time-lapse is not present here and instead the sequence involves the acceleration of the camera, this clip has been included because it is the largest glacier retreat ever captured on camera. From a fixed position showing the glaciers stillness the camera then pans sideways capturing the immense masses of ice, taller than some of the world’s skyscrapers, breaking off and being engulfed into the water. Halfway through the video the camera zooms out to show the area of detached ice where various arrows and pictures are used to illustrate the perspective of retreat. In seventy five minutes, it retreated 1.6km in length, 4.8KM in width – illustrated by two Golden Gate Bridges from San Francisco, US and 1km in depth and lost 7.4 Cubic KM in volume – illustrated by 3,000 United State Capitol Buildings.
Example 5. Stor Glacier, Greenland.
June 9th 2007, 12:12
Available at https://vimeo.com/6041336
Within this clip normal time video is used that shows a piece of ice, two times the size of the United States Capitol Building breaking off from the glacier. The mass of ice begins to crumble and sink in on itself from the back causing the side of the enormous structure to rise up out of the water and flip over sideways, before drifting out into the ocean. As a consequence, smaller pieces of ice, in comparison, disperse off the glacier. The camera then accelerates backwards and forewords to highlight the damage done.
126.96.36.199 Justification of chosen videos
Attention will now draw towards the reasoning as to why these particular videos were chosen for analysis. The videos chosen included three time-lapse videos and two conventional videos. Here, five videos were chosen as a suitable amount, as I deemed anymore to be too exhaustive. Moreover, I felt it was important to include slightly more videos that included time-lapse photography as the EIS use them to greater extent. Still though it was important to show a representative of the differences in conventional videos too. Example 5 for example uses normal conventional videoing, albeit a forty second period is rewound backwards to emphasise the loss in size of ice. Conventional videoing is used slightly differently in example 4, here a rewound effect of the glaciers calving event totalling seventy five minutes in duration is played back within forty seconds or so.
I believe the five videos chosen provide a fair representation of time as the dates of the videos range from April 1st 2007 to January 19th 2014. The EIS was in fact founded in 2007 and still continue to develop videos. Moreover, the five examples represent time in different terms of duration as examples 1, 2 & 3 all show at least six years’ worth of footage compressed down into the videos sequence. Additionally, example 4 makes reference to a seventy five minute period of time and example 5 presents the glaciers calving period in one minute real time (not time-lapse).
A fair representation of various indicators and markers the EIS use to scale the loss of ice into perspective are used throughout the videos, including: well-known building landmarks, helicopters and arrows and lines to reiterate direction and size. Lastly, within this section it is worth taken into consideration that examples 2 & 3 are two of the four videos highlighted on the EIS’s homepage under the section entitled: “Explore the work of the Extreme Ice Survey in the time-lapse videos below (and catch more videos on our Vimeo channel)”. Arguably, their placement here holds some significance as they act as a ‘sneak preview’ of the EIS’s other videos contents. Additionally, the largest glacier calving event ever recorded on camera is highlighted in example 4. The EIS use the footage of this specific glacier’s calving event throughout the scope of their project as James Balog makes reference to it throughout the various multimedia presentations he has given. Moreover, the event is included within their 2012 documentary film Chasing Ice, as the determining point that the film gears towards.
Two methods were used throughout this thesis; the main method was an image analysis, whilst a metaphor analysis was also applied albeit on a lesser scale. Essentially, an image analysis involves the ways in which we read a media image text. As previously stated we can read images selectively from one another, as their readings are polysemous. An image analysis can function by focusing on how meaning is derived from the visual through various aspects of media language ranging from symbols and signs depicted within an image, camera techniques, visuals and the inclusion of text.
The written captions of the photographs were analysed in terms of framing devices that were apparent; they included potential themes and metaphors. A metaphor analysis was chosen as it aims to analyse the possibilities of metaphors within the captions. Here, a metaphor analysis was chosen for the possible association metaphors and images can have. The analysis of metaphors were contextualised under a selection of conceptual metaphors outlined by Lakoff & Johnson (1980). Here, in total four conceptual metaphors were used, which included time metaphors, journey metaphors, health metaphors and container metaphors. Undoubtedly these are expanded and elaborated on within chapter 5 of the analysis whereby justification is given for why they were chosen. Additionally, potential themes evoked through the captions in relation to the visual image have been included within the analysis. Here, these different themes acted as possible frames of thought within the EIS’s communication. The themes that were framed included; sublime nature, glacier vulnerability, human perspective and causes. By applying an image analysis onto the captions and photographs allowed for the function of the message too be implied through proposed questions such as: Can the text alter our reading of the image? Is the text acting as an anchor of factual and informative information? Or can we perceive it to influence our reading? How effective is the image as a visual message?
Additionally, an image analysis was also applied towards the five chosen videos. In doing so, the method utilised various concepts and approaches obtained from Kress and Van Leeuwen (2006) which were most applicable to my chosen examples to help derive structural meaning from the videos. Concepts highlighted with the videos included the presence of narrative representations, the overall framing and the sense of time, evoked through a time-line have been drawn upon with the aid of an image analysis. Albeit, the sense of time which arose throughout the analysis differed slightly from Kress and Van Leeuwen’s (2006) assumptions, and again reasoning is outlined in chapter 5. Whilst analysing the concept of time different sub-systems discussed by Mitchell (2004), such as tense, temporal sequencing and aspect were used as a methodological concept towards the analysis.
Chapter 5: Analysis
Following calls for movements away from media representations of global climate change towards advancements of more case specific and longitudinal analysis with an emphasis on the visual, the overall aim of this thesis is to show how a contemporary example, the EIS, visually communicate climate change. The analysis of this thesis has been conducted using an image analysis and a textual analysis on the desired material previously stated. Furthermore, the chosen theories and theoretical perspectives from chapter 3 will be developed and applied within the analysis.
A full website analysis will not be attempted, rather attention here will briefly analyse their logo and draw the reader’s attention to the photography section. The name itself, The Extreme Ice Survey, is suggestive they are engaging and enduring a challenging feat, something out of the ordinary, going to exceptional and “extreme” heights to visually communicate and document our planets changing ecosystems. However, when contextualising the title the word survey is descriptive of a close examination, here the group are carrying out a close examination of the extreme (as they explicitly state) ice loss from the world’s glaciers.
The back header on the home page of the EIS website (http://extremeicesurvey.org/), as shown in figure 2 illustrates a backdrop image compromising of ice and snow top mountains. Together, coincided with their logo, shown on the left hand side, we can begin to read the visuals as depicting the foundations and ideologies of the project. Their logo in figure 1 is used in order to create a sense of identity and purpose. As mentioned earlier, communication is full of symbols and, albeit on a deep level, their logo in figure 1, can connote their environmental ideologies. The circular logo compromises of a white background symbolic of a glacier with a red pathway descending from it. Appearing on a symbolic level it suggests the blood, or rather the life, is being drained out of the glaciers, of which essentially this occurring change is the catalyst for their project. The circle as a fundamental shape bares a closer connection to nature than squares or rectangles, suggestive of protection, endlessness and warmth. Additionally, shapes of this form bare a closer connection to natural and organic growth as opposed to mechanical construction (Kress & Van Leeuwen, 2006, p. 55) or rather destruction.
illustration not visible in this excerpt
Figure 1: Extreme Ice Survey logo, http://extremeicesurvey.org/ .
illustration not visible in this excerpt
Figure 2: EIS homepage, illustrating the black header bar.
The top black bar on the home page (Fig 2) compromises the different categories audiences can browse through on the EIS website. Underneath the photography category the images are categorised predominately under countries or places, consisting of Greenland, Iceland, Alps, Alaska, Rocky Mountains, Bolivia and Nepal. The other two non-country headings include EIS team in action and “ICE” Fine Art Prints. As has been previously discussed within the visualisation of climate change, places are predominantly depicted as under threat (Lester & Cottle, 2009).
5.2 Framing Devices / Framing in the photography section
Focusing attention solely on the visuals within the photography section does not open up the same frames of thought as a collective reading of both the captions and the visual together do. As shown, the ice within the photography section, more frequent than not, can be seen within a positive light of beauty as sublime and pristine nature. Additionally, this is evoked throughout the captions too, however, contrasting and contradicting frames are also opened with the incorporation of the captions. Again, at times, portrayed throughout the captions is uncertainty, tragedy and fear of an alarming nature, all of which evoke the apocalyptic frame. This section will be separated into different sub-sections that discuss both the potential themes framed within the photographs and the metaphors used within the written captions.
5.2.1 Themes framed within the images
Within this next section I have enlisted four different themes that are framed within the collective reading of both the visuals and written captions together. The four themes include: sublime nature, glacier vulnerability, human perspective and causes.
188.8.131.52 Sublime nature
The vastness of nature is constantly evoked through the sublime nature of the glaciers and their surrounding environments, alluding to thought of nature’s strength and power. There are a total number of 105 photographs within the photography section and roughly 50% of these are long & extreme shots and aerial shots. These kind of shots are deployed to portray the vastness in size of nature, whilst at times the written captions provide further referencing to the vastness and size of nature, with phrases including; “massive landscapes”, “vast amounts of ice and ice cliffs”. Additionally, various EIS team members are shown to provide a perspective of scale to the landscapes they are situated in. The vastness of nature coincided with the various camera angles and shots of the ice and glaciers and the bright lighting creates a sense of tranquillity and stillness in depicting the glaciers within an aura of beauty. At times the written captions further evoke this sense of beauty with words and phrases such as “fantastic shapes”, “ice diamonds”, “lily pads”, “staggering immensity” and “night sky”.
184.108.40.206 Glacier vulnerability
Although in the majority of the photographs the ice and glaciers are shown with an attachment of beauty and stillness, the written captions at times evoke the vulnerability of ice and glaciers. Phrases and words frequently distributed include “instability”, “deglaciated”, “unstable stage”, “vast amounts of ice dumped into the sea very rapidly”, “shrinkage”, “reduced”, “thinning” and “reclining”. Additionally, the vulnerability is shown through the frequent use of comparisons of the previous height, width and previous total number of glaciers. Here, it appears apparent the captions are needed to show the vulnerability of the glaciers as this is not particularly framed solely within the photographs.
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Figure 4: Iceland gallery picture 7: “9.13.07 | Iceland/Jökulsárlón. Death of an iceberg”.
Without incorporating the caption in figure four we could read the image as showing the portrayal of a floating piece of ice that appears to have been washed up close to the shore. The ice is still projected as the most salient object within the composition of the photograph, not only because it is depicted at the forefront of the picture but the contrast in colour draws in our attention. Although the waves appear to be crashing quite violently with gusty upsurges of spray depicting the water in a state of stark roughness, the ice, in contrast, is vibrant and striking turquoise and cyan shades of blue, appearing in a calm state of beauty, against a ferocious backdrop. It is not until we read the caption, “death of an iceberg”, that we can proclaim this specific piece has fallen from a larger mass, an iceberg, and is perishing away. Again, although the caption evokes the ice’s vulnerability and fate, the above analysis illustrates the ice still appears in a state of beauty, thus showing the difficulty of communicating climate change within this context.
220.127.116.11 Involvement of human interaction
Photographs with an inclusion of a human perspective are incorporated less with a total number of twenty five used, roughly equating to one quarter of the total number of photographs. Humans are either framed within the photographs from a production perspective focusing on the EIS team in action or as an object for scale in size against the vastness of nature. Photograph number 16, within EIS team in action, is interesting as it differs from these two categories, instead showing two local Aymara Indian women standing against a grey wall looking towards the camera. Aymara people alike with other indigenous peoples have a close connection to nature, one that we as humans are actually equal to, with the ideological thought the entire world around us is alive including rocks, air, water and land (Corbett, 2006, p. 49). Interestingly to note, at times it appears the EIS either frame the ice in an anthropomorphism perspective, embodying human like features or characteristics onto the ice, or by framing the ice in a state that needs to be heard, i.e. giving it a visual voice – their goal throughout.
Moving on, there are three different notable photographs within the EIS team in action category that can be read and framed as light-hearted comedy, these include photograph numbers 3, 4 and 18. Photograph 4 shows assistant Svavar Jonatonsson being “plastered with snow”, however his posture and the presence of his hand in the air looks like he is dancing. In the fourth photograph a male EIS member is standing at Svínafellsjökull glacier with a pen in his mouth and eight fingers in the air facing the camera. Lastly photograph 18 shows a female EIS member licking a large slab of ice with her tongue positioned out of her mouth. While I will not go into too much detail over this issue, still we have to ask, is adding the element of light hearted comedy within climate change communication necessary? The EIS aim at showing the seriousness and imminent threat of climate change, moreover they aim to provide scientists with solid foundations of glacier retreat and educate and raise the public’s sense of awareness (EIS, 2015). However, when communicating through a comical framework is it not plausible to suggest the seriousness of the issue gets tangled up here?
In contrast though, it must be noted, the sense of a comical frame is only substantially readable within these three photographs. We could read this as a meta-perspective, shown on their own they would appear random and out of context but included they depict an alternative perspective and point of view within the EIS’s communication of climate change. By alternative I mean a kind of looking behind the scenes, within a production perspective to show the bigger picture of how everything they do is connected together. Notably, a change of perspective can reframe our thoughts on environmental issues and further expand our perceptions (Corbett, 2006). Taken into consideration the whole EIS Team in Action section we can get the sense the EIS are working hard against the enduring challenges they face in communicating these landscape changes. Furthermore, the very essence that the scope of the project involves challenging logistics, fierce weather conditions, forbidding terrain and prodigious distances (EIS, 2015) shows just how committed they are in their work.
Throughout the written captions, perspectives centre on the cause factor whereby there are apparent tensions between natural causes of climate change and human induced causes. Taking into consideration all of the written captions, global warming is framed as the cause factor thirteen times in total. Global warming is framed twice within each of the following photographs, Alaska (8), (11), (12) & (13), in all four photographs of the Rocky Mountain category – four times explicitly and four times equated to a rise in average temperatures and once within the Bolivian category. Interestingly to note global warming is most deployed within the North American categories. Within the highlighted Alaska examples global warming is framed as the cause for the glaciers retreat and secondly for the instability of the dispersed ice sheets. The Rocky Mountains category frames global warming as the cause factor for the reduced number of glaciers within Glacier National Park in Montana. Lastly, global warming is boldly framed as the cause with the Bolivia (4) example for the reduction of the Chacaltaya Glacier in Bolivia to mere patches of snow. Cause is also attributed to the dynamics of the glaciers drainage processes within the four highlighted Alaska examples (see above).
If we are to read the categories of the photography section within the order they are listed, from top to bottom, then words such as “draining” and “drain” are used at the beginning in the Greenland category. Further down the list of categories within the Alaska category, “dynamics of the glaciers drainage processes” is stated. However, if the draining process is dynamic and involves constant change, surely an understanding of this process is not necessarily self-explanatory, yet the terms draining and drain are freely brandished earlier on without any previous elaboration or added clarity. This process must be important in understanding how these glaciers work, thus an important aspect in understanding the complexities of the communication at hand.
Examples of reoccurring metaphorical personifications or anthropomorphism highlighted within the written captions include; the “mouth of the glacier” and the “glaciers calving face”. Here, reference is made towards the glaciers exemplifying features of the human body, most notably the mouth and the face. Through a suggested invitation to view these glacier as human-like structures, this further highlights an interpersonal relation whereby nature needs our help in tackling climate change consequences.
Whilst communicating the scale and size of glacier reduction, the EIS make continuous reference through their visuals and videos towards famous Western perspective landmark buildings, such as the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower and the United States Capitol Building. Taken into account metaphors functional existence “is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another” (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980, p. 5), these worldwide landmarks can be viewed upon as metaphors of communication. Using well known landmarks as referencing points helps to place the visualisation of glacier reduction into a broader and more comprehensible understanding. Throughout, the glaciers are continuously referred to by their names, an example includes; “remnants of the Greenland ice sheet flushed out to the ocean by Store Glacier’s spring calving cycle”. Notably, not only is the glacier referred to by its name, but operational frames of it’s functionally are implied through the word cycle. Although naming within nature is of a basic occurrence, research needs to further develop how the communicative approach of naming aids in mediating our perceptions of the natural world (Milstein, 2011, p. 21).
5.2.3 Metaphors within the EIS
The following section contextualises examples from the written captions used by the EIS within the photography section on their website under a selection of conceptual metaphors outlined by Lakoff & Johnson (1980). The following conceptual metaphors are used as headings throughout 1.Time metaphors, 2. Journey metaphors, 3. Health metaphors and 4. Container metaphors. Baring in mind metaphors are subjective as they can differ from one person to another and one culture to another (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980) it’s important to note the examples I have selected may not have been deemed metaphoric by the EIS. Nor do I want to argue the EIS purposely placed any suggestive metaphorical concepts into the captions. Rather, the examples I have chosen to be analysed as metaphorical are just a selection of the most suitable and relevant towards the conceptual metaphor categories outlined by Lakoff & Johnson (1980).
18.104.22.168 Time metaphors
Time is valuable within society as it is related to money, in the sense that we create yearly budgets and can get paid hourly wages. Additionally, time is a limited resource in the sense we can waste time or run out of something (ibid, p. 9). On this note, reoccurring time metaphors are an apparent theme within the written captions depicted alongside the photographs. Essentially, a sense of time could be applied to all the photographs as the captions all entail the date it was captured and furthermore the photograph itself is an extraction of what has been. However, as previously stated within chapter 4, I am interested in looking at the occurrence of time metaphors within the captions of the photography section.
Here, we can distinguish between both long term perspectives and short term perspectives of time. Frequently, the long term perspectives of time are characterised by phrases such as: “ice created millennia ago”, “300-500 years ago”, “since 1850 / 1860” “remnants” and “shrinking steadily”. Notably, when a long term perspective of time is applied there is no apparent cause effect attached of the global warming or human induced framework, rather we can read it of being suggestive in supporting the frame of natural climate change. Contrastingly, short term perspectives are characterised by phrases such as: “rapid retreat”, “global warming”, “instability”, “turned into seawater in a matter of years”, “will vanish”, “thinning”, “gone in the next few years” and “fast shrinking glaciers”. In Iceland (7), the caption states “death of an iceberg”. Here, the word death is framed as the ultimate end of the glacier, its time is up, evoking a very strong and bold message, arguably too strong of a word to use. Predominately when the context is placed within a short term perspective frames of human induced climate change and global warming are applied as the cause effects. The time metaphor within a long term perspective highlights the gradual and steady decline of the glacier, whereas the short term perspectives highlight the descending rapid retreat evoking tragic frames of thought.
Coincided together, both the long-term and short-term perspectives of time evoke suggestions of time metaphors. Here, the ice and the glaciers are portrayed as limited in existence, they are presented through comparisons made towards an earlier time as retreating at more alarming rates than before, examples include:
Alaska (10): “In 1984, the glacier was 1300 feet (400m) thicker than it was at the time this picture was made in June, 2006 …”
Rocky Mountains: “In 1859, Glacier National Park had 150 glaciers. In 1968, global warming had reduced that number to just over 50. By 1998, the park had 27 glaciers.
While these comparisons suggest a continued trend of glacier retreat, the essence of time within a point in the future is implied through Bolivia (3):
“With the human populations below the peaks dependant on the water stored in fast-shrinking glaciers like this one, trouble lies ahead if these melting trends continue”
Metaphors of time are suggested through the troubling times fixated at a point in the future, whereby time is a limited resource, albeit a limited natural resource that will have consequences for the human populations. The inclusion of the perceived effects opens frames of an apocalyptic and tragic nature.
22.214.171.124 Journey metaphors
The “love is a journey metaphor” was created by Lakoff & Johnson (1980), regarding the types of journeys that are made within a love relationship, such as; we’ve gotten off the track and it’s been a long, bumpy road (ibid, p. 45). Journey metaphors evoke a sense of purpose and progress in reaching a destination, contextualising the domain of a journey. Taken this into account essentially the journey metaphor is apparent throughout the EIS as a whole. The project itself is a long-term documentation, one that is in progress and constantly evolving, aspiring to raise awareness (the destination) of the planets changing eco-systems and glaciers. In the example, Greenland (2), the journey of the iceberg is implicitly applied:
Greenland (2): “Icebergs that have rolled over and been scalloped by waves metamorphose into fantastic shapes”.
Here, the journey metaphor is suggested as the use of rolled over implies a change in direction and movement. We can make this presumed reading because Lakoff and Johnson (1980) state, “there is no single consistent image that the JOURNEY metaphors all fit”, rather “they specify different means of travel” (ibid, p. 45). Consequently these icebergs have been turned over and made the process of journeying into a new appearance. Additionally, the actual stated journey is provoked through the following example:
EIS in action (5): “Climbers work their way through crevasses and ice cliffs. Ascent was made in darkness, by headlamp and starlight”.
Progression is made when one works their way through something towards a goal or a destination. Here, the potential journey metaphor suggests the EIS team are progressing and climbing upwards or rather ascending towards the fixed position for the camera. In doing so they are making the physical journey towards documenting the changes of the glacier. The language used here heightens the enduring battle the climbers face throughout the rough terrain / landscape, entailing the scope of their project. Additionally, the journey metaphor is suggested through the means and transportation of the journey, highlighted in:
EIS in action (11): “Dogsled trip to Sermeq Avanardleq”
Again, this example shows the different paths and trails covered by the EIS throughout the project as a whole. The function of the metaphor highlights the various possibilities the EIS use whilst documenting changes within the ice. The ice itself goes through a cycle, or rather a journey – a colossal feature like a glacier breaks off to an iceberg then breaks down further into smaller pieces of ice which inevitably disperse into the ocean before melting. The journey metaphor contextualises the danger of this process and the need for progress to be made in raising awareness of glacial melting. Moreover, through the progress made within this specific metaphor the EIS give the landscapes a visual voice that would not be heard otherwise.
126.96.36.199 Health and sickness metaphors
Health metaphors imply the state of someone’s well-being and if sickness is prevailed then they have the possibly of generating help. Additionally, healthiness is associated with an upwards direction – he’s at the peak of health & she’s in top shape, whereas sickness is suggested through a downward direction – her health is declining and he’s sinking fast (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980, p. 15). Phrases such as thinning, glacier less, de-glaciated, deflation and (global warming has) reduced, appear several times within various captions. This suggests the ice and glaciers are suffering, thus appearing vulnerable, running parallel of health metaphors. The following three examples, in photographs Greenland (9) and Iceland (6) & (7) suggest metaphors of health:
Greenland (9): “A massive iceberg broken off the Greenland Ice Sheet, surrounded by lily pads of sea ice, in the process of breaking up at the edge of Disko Bay”.
Iceland (6): “Decaying ice and icebergs on the surface of the Jökulsárlón”
Iceland (7): “Death of an iceberg”
In the first example we can make the reading of breaking up as becoming progressively worse. Secondly in the Iceland (6) example the verb decay suggests the ice and the icebergs are deteriorating and perishing before our very eyes. Here, they are portrayed as suffering and vulnerable, on a downward slope, suggestive as the preluding consequential damage. Lastly, death, is the ultimate end of health, time and existence and by placing these three captions one after the other is suggestive of how the events unfold. Apocalyptic frames of damage and tragedy are expressed here that evoke stark warnings, and severity is initiated through phrases such as; glacier less, de-glaciated, deflation of ice, shrinkage, rapid retreat and most notably death of an iceberg. Anthropomorphic frames are initiated through the term “death of an iceberg”. Death is the end of existence for living organisms, furthermore it is when all biological functioning’s cease to operate. Neither icebergs nor glaciers are living organisms, they are not living systems.
188.8.131.52 Container metaphors
As physical beings, Lakoff and Johnson (1980) discuss how we view the world in terms of boundaries, whereby we experience the rest of the world as outside of our physical boundaries. We can view ourselves as containers, bounded by space with a difference between inside and outside (1980, p. 29). The container metaphor functions in everyday life, for our bodies are containers in the sense that we put food into our mouth. Additionally our field of vision is conceptualised through the container metaphor, as in I have him in sight and she’s out of sight now (ibid). The Alaska (10) example below evokes suggestions of the container metaphor:
Alaska (10): “Greenish snow-covered vegetation is above the trimline and uniform gray rock is below the trimline”.
The trimline is a specific boundary from which a glacier has retreated. Here, the trimline functions as the container metaphor, in the sense that it separates two surfaces, acting as a boundary between the snow-covered vegetation and the grey rock. Alternatively, we could make the interpretation the trimline is in fact trapped within a container, bounded below the snow, yet under the grey rock. To a slight degree the container metaphor is implicit in the below example:
Alps (2): “Over the next 18 years the glacier receded so much that downward extensions of the walkway were successively added to allow visitors to touch the glacier. Note the figure on the landing in the middle of the stairway for scale”.
Lakoff & Johnson (1980) note, “[our] field of visual defines a boundary of the territory (land, floor, etc.) namely, the part that you can see” (1980, p. 30). In the example Alps (2), the figure, i.e. the person, is inside our visual field. The walk way of stairs the figure is standing on acts a conjunction between nature and ourselves. Arguably the construction of the stairway allows for a bounding surface, breaking up the boundaries with nature as we can be up close to the glaciers surface. Can we read a narrative forming throughout that evokes a combination of these metaphors?
This next section will analyse the five videos that were introduced in chapter 4. Again for clarity’s sake the videos have been referred to as their example numbers, as shown below, i.e. Ilulissat Glacier Two was referred to as example 4.
Four time-lapse videos – example 1: Ilulissat Glacier, example 2: Solheimajokull Glacier, example 3: Mendenhall Glacier.
Two conventional videos – example 4: Ilulissat Glacier Two and example 5: Stor Glacier.
5.3.1 Narrative representations
Narrative representations can be found across a wide range of broad interdisciplinary spectrums from government reports too mass media advertisements and documentary film, all evoking structures of sense making (Barbatsis, 2005). In this next section attention and analysis will focus on the unfolding narrative processes present within the chosen videos for analysis. Regarding narrative processes Kress and Van Leeuwen (2006) state, “when participants are connected by a vector, they are represented as doing something to or for each other … we will call such vectorial patterns narrative” (2006, p. 59). Here, I would like to motivate the camera and the means of using time-lapse video as the vector throughout. Vectors involve a sense of connection in relating objects, participants and contexts, they prompt us towards a particular point of view and aid in making an interpretation (ibid 2006). Here, the participants, essentially are the thousands of still photographic images connected and compiled together to create the time-lapse videos. To implement Kress & Van Leeuwen’s phrase, they possess “the value of combination” (ibid, p. 84). Justifiably, the still photographs within the EIS’s photography section portray no risk or danger, they can appear somewhat meaningless by themselves in attempting to show the dangers and effects of climate change. Although, throughout the accompanying captions help to show the partial effects of climate change. Again though, on their own they are suggestive of Kress & Van Leeuwen’s (2006) proposed conceptual categorisation. Here, they can merely be seen as static within a timeless essence, however when they are placed together to form the desired sequence their reading changes as they are placed into context, loathing the meaning they desire. Fundamentally, static relations have been transformed into dynamic actions, evoking a narrative representation.
As outlined above reasoning has been made as to why the cameras and the means of using time-lapse videos can be seen as vectors. The inclusion of vectors are needed in order for an image or semiotic mode to be seen as a narrative representation. Within the chosen videos for analysis there are narratives unfolding from the EIS’s perspective. For, “narrative patterns serve to present unfolding actions and events, processes of change, transitory spatial arrangements” (ibid, 2006, p. 59). Through both conventional photography and time-lapse photography the EIS portray a narrative in documenting the changes in the glaciers, and ultimately the loss of landscape.
Within a process of action there is an actor present: “The Actor is the participant from which the vector originates, or which itself, in whole or in part, forms the vector” (Kress and Van Leeuwen, 2006, p. 63). Essentially, the actor is the main object of focus within a visual that is interacting with or creating a vector. I find it justifiable to motivate the ice as the actor as it is of the main focus here and ultimately so within the EIS as a whole. Furthermore, the ice takes on the more dominant salient role – its vastness in size is particularly captured in example 1 through the focus on extreme long shots – its contrast against the background is highlighted in examples 2 & 3 – its place in composition is portrayed in example 5 where the large mass of ice literally begins to point outwards before breaking off in clear view. Factors of salience are highlighted throughout all the videos depicting the dominant view of ice. To reiterate the point in order for an object to be regarded as an actor, a sense of action must be provoked, through the actor’s interaction or creation of a vector (ibid, 2006).
Additionally, the outcome of the process between the actor and the vector is referred to as the goal, Kress & Van Leeuwen state the goal is “the participant at which the vector is directed” (2006, p. 74). On this note I want to motivate the disappearance of ice to be considered as the goal. As has been previously said, the EIS’s aim is to document and show landscape changes through the decline of the world’s glaciers. In doing so, the vector presented as the time-lapse photography is aimed at situating climate change and its effects into a manageable and viewable framework of thought. Insofar, the glaciers (the actor) and their decline, through adverse effects of climate change, have created the need for the EIS to implement direct action through the use of cameras and time-lapse photography (the vector), to document the disappearance of ice and raise awareness of this issue (the goal).
5.3.2 How are the videos framed?
Both the time-lapse videos and conventional videos are framed to evoke a response out of the audience, to portray a viewpoint away from densely compressed scientific reports, thus ultimately to show the effects of climate change in the sense of seeing is believing. However, this in itself is no easy task as Corbett (2006) notes changing individual’s attitudes or behaviour of the environment is difficult to obtain from people.
Socially and physically we are complex beings, for communication and an understanding of climate change will seize to exist with the click of a switch. Often it is the most minimised of events, experiences and messages that contribute to our beliefs on climate change (ibid, 2006, p. 84). The way these occurrences are framed can have adverse effects on our behaviour. On this note, the role of language within the relationship between climate change communication and behaviour change, through metaphors, narratives and frames is of great importance in conveying communication to varying publics (Nerlich et al, 2010) Frames have a role of organising and structuring our understanding, embedded with symbolic meaning they make the process of communication more salient. Framing too can be limited, as whatever agenda, concept or concern is framed steers the discussion towards that direction.
Evoked throughout the five videos selected here, the ice and glaciers are framed in a sense of danger as occurring around them are vastly destructive changes to the landscapes. The first thing we view in example 1 is the presence of a helicopter, it can appear somewhat as a disconnection in composition (Kress & Van Leeuwen, 2006, p. 210). Visually it is separated, by colour, contrast and size, to the large white background dominated by glaciers. At first the viewer could be left asking questions of its significance, as it could be suggested the helicopter is framed as a separate unit. However, it is not until the camera zooms out, coincided with the rectangular image surrounding the helicopter, that we can place it into context. Realisation here is that the helicopter is not framed as separate but instead fits into the continuos flow throughout. When the camera zooms right back, the white rectangle appearing on the 00:09 second mark is used to frame the scale, depicting the contrast in size and proportion that we as humans are to the vastness of this glacier in particular. By applying one of Julia Corbett’s environmental ideologies from the spectrum (Corbett, 2009, p. 26) we could read the framing within an anthropocentric view of nature that in reality nature is too big for us and how it has an aura of vastness with complexities attached. Justifiably nature’s eco-systems are complex processes, precisely the reasoning for communicating on these issues.
Examples 2 and 3 are framed slightly different to the other examples, in the sense that they are framed against a darker background as opposed to the light white colours, here there are more vivid contrasts in colour. Ultimately both these examples show how the glaciers have been formed on the slope of mountains and the ice is retreating in a downwards motion. The white coloured ice thins out and becomes embedded within the dark, murky coloured rock surface. At the beginning of both examples the ice already appears somewhat vulnerable with crack formations indented throughout revealing the contrasts in colour. Transformative ideologies can be applied here because not only do the EIS aim at providing undisputable evidence, they too are addressing a deeper questioning of society’s lack of understanding on climate change and its effects, hence the grounds for the projects creation.
5.3.3 Scaling to perspective
Within the five videos chosen for analysis the EIS place the proportion(s) of the glaciers retreat into perspective in four of the videos. Arguably just reading about scaling measurements or perspectives, such as the height of a building or the size of a football pitch, does not have the same effect as a visual. It is well documented that we construct meanings from visuals through historical, cultural and societal contexts in relation to our own past experiences (Corbett 2006, Cox 2013). Justifiably our perceptions of differing scaling perspectives in thought can differ accordingly, more so than through an actual visualisation. I am not attempting to proclaim the various perspective markers and indicators used such as, the Eiffel Tower, the United States Capitol Building or the Golden gate bridge, are free from historical or cultural contexts. They do have their flaws, notably the examples above are from a Western ideological perspective. However, the landmarks visually shown have the potential to obtain a more broader and comprehensible reading of the glaciers retreat as they can be contextualised into similar objects that exist within an individual’s belief system.
As has been previously discussed, example 1 frames the perspective through the incorporation of a helicopter. Heavily embedded within this video is the frame of nature’s vastness and complexity in comparison to the smallness of an on looking human perspective. From the cameras fixed position the on-looking helicopter appears as insignificant as a smudge of ink, almost entrapped-like, within the valley of the glacier. Before the mass of ice breaks off in example 5 a picture of the United States Capitol Building is shown to illustrate its size. The power and strength of nature is framed here, yet so too is the glaciers vulnerability. As the ice begins to crumble away, sinking in on itself, it slowly begins to rise upwards before turning in a ninety degrees angle and ferociously slams into the water. The process lasts for around a mere twenty seconds before it drifts onwards out of frame.
In example 4 visual structures of arrows are used (see figure 5) to show the points where the ice has retreated from. Although in section 5.3.1 I argued for the process and use of the time-lapse to be the vector, in the instances when the arrows are shown, still conventional camera shots are used, hence they take over as the dominant vectorial role. Here, the use of an arrow as “the visual structure foregrounds procedure over substantive content, the act of ‘impacting’ over what makes the impact” (Kress & Van Leeuwen, 2006, p. 66). The arrow
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Figure 5: Screenshot taken from example 4: Ilulissat Glacier, Greenland
does not suggest the cause of the problem here, rather it symbolically draws attention to the impacting procedure that has unfolded, i.e. to remind the viewer both the start and end points of the glaciers calving event. Additionally Kress & Van Leeuwen (2006) draw upon amplified vectors which can indicate both density and frequency. Here, density can be suggested through bolder arrows and frequency can be suggested by the use of a number of arrows at once. Interestingly, this particular glacier calving event of Ilulissat Glacier in Western Greenland on May 28th 2008, is actually the largest glacier calving event ever caught on film (Guardian, 2015). Consequently, the arrows here are composed as amplified vectors, indicating the mass of loss ice. Towards the end of example 4 a picture of the U.S. Capitol building (see figure 6 below) appears on the screen then a total number of 3,000 U.S. Capitol buildings are accumulated on top of one another (see figure 7 below).
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Figure 6: Screenshot taken from example 4: Ilulissat Glacier, Greenland, showing the U.S. Capitol building as a reference of scale.
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Figure 7: Screenshot taken from example 4: Ilulissat Glacier, Greenland comparing the amount of broken off ice to the equivalent of 3,000 U.S. Capitol Buildings.
While figure 7 may not be appear the most clearest of illustrations within a high resolution sense it does symbolically frame the compactness and the denseness of the ice. With the equivalent of 3,000 capitol buildings included, we can begin to gather some perspective of the colossal size of broken off ice during this specific glacier calving event.
5.3.4 Representations of a Timeline
Running parallel with what was implied in section 184.108.40.206 we can talk of time through the metaphorical concept of time is a limited resource and time is space (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). Through space, the past is behind us, the present is now and the future is what lies ahead. We can call this process a path of time which can be shown through timelines. Kress & Van Leeuwen state timelines ‘involve the temporal dimension’ (2006, p. 94). The timeline presents a process of change, and the authors make reference to the representative evolution timeline showing the evolution of mankind. Not to dwell on this specific example, but Kress and Van Leeuwen argue this kind of timeline is representative of fixed and definite characteristics, ‘rather than representing history as a gradual unfolding of events’ (ibid, p. 94). However, it is precisely this last point on which I want to deviate and differentiate from Kress and Van Leeuwen’s (2006) analysis of timelines. In view of this, the EIS’s time-lapse videos can be seen as an alternative form of a timeline, one that still possesses characteristics of a traditional timeline, portraying the representation of the glaciers within a specific period of time. Change, a fundamental occurrence within a timeline is heavily portrayed throughout the time-lapse videos. Kress and Van Leeuwen (2006) themselves are keen to observe the very essence of a timeline need not be a straight line labelled with dates, relative of the evolution timeline frame. In contrary to Kress and Van Leeuwen (2006), the EIS do represent history as a gradual unfolding of events. The history they refer to is the time in between the videos starting and ending points that proceed in showing the size and scale of glacial melting.
Within a timeline the direction of facing is an important component which has time related meanings, here directions towards the right are more commonly used to show how we face the future (Mitchell, 2004, p. 3). Here, the videos for analysis differ slightly. In examples 1, 3 and 4 the glaciers are positioned on the right hand side of the screen and the past unfolds away towards the left hand side. The future, here, is presented on the right hand side. Example 2 differs slightly, we view the glacier from a downwards perspective, thinning out in all downward directions we could read time here as a vertical line positioning the future at the top and the past unfolding away in a downward direction.
Overall though within these videos it is plausible to suggest the position of time can placed quite broadly. Arguably the future can be depicted on both left and right directions, on whatever side the glacier is positioned, showing its current state, and additionally in the direction of the flow of retreated ice.
220.127.116.11 Tense, temporal sequencing and aspect
Different sub-systems are apparent within linguistic time of which visual representations of time must contain, they include tense, temporal sequencing and aspect (Mitchell, 2004, p. 4). In order to indicate tense, visual representations must include; an indicator of now (the reference point); an indicator of then – past or future; a visual differentiation between the past and the future; and finally for a future event, an indication of certainty of that event (Mitchell, 2004, p. 4). Although, the five videos within this analysis show footage from the past, the dates shown at the beginning of each video can act as reference points to indicate the present (now) and to indicate the actual time of the event. A differentiation between the past and present is indicated in examples 1 & 4 the still shots used at the beginning of the videos indicates the past where the ice is in a state of stillness, nothing is happening, then throughout the time-lapse is used to show the change in state i.e. the future. This differentiation is further expressed in examples 2, 3 & 5 when the camera is rolled backwards and forewords to show a comparison of before and after. Lastly, it appears, the degree of certainty these events will recur is very highly as the specific five videos span over a seven year period, showing they are not just one off events, additionally the EIS is an ongoing project capturing these moments. Both of these points also run parallel with the aspect subcategory.
The final sub-system is the temporal sequencing that “refers to when one event occurs in relation to another” (ibid, p. 4). The disappearance of ice that occurs within the time-lapse videos would be motionless to the naked eye, it is not until the time-lapse is used that these changes become visible. In accordance with this the time-lapse photography draws together temporal and spatial boundaries. Timelines in themselves involve dimensions of a temporal state and in relation to this point the EIS portray glaciers within a temporal dimension before their disappearance.
Chapter 6: Discussion
What is lacking to bring about change to global climate change? We need better perceptions with regard to how society’s actions have adverse effects on climate change. Additionally, various calls have been made for further developments of factual visual evidence that has the potential to portray the reality, severity and urgency of climate change. On this note, a reflection of portraying the severity is embedded within the work of the EIS and the very nature of using time-lapse photography places glacier retreat as a reality. Foust and Murphy (2009) argue the need of linking climate change to common sense in not placing sole responsibility on science. Here, incorporating the effects of climate change with a wide range of different actors is needed. The EIS make strides towards this as the project provides a stimulus for understanding the melting of glaciers in a comprehensible manner for a wider audience.
As previously mentioned further research into the visual representation of environmental issues and how case-specific and longitudinal research projects operate within communicating about the environment are both needed. Notions within the literature suggest current climate change communication is not working adequately. Literature predominately involves a fragmented view of communicating climate change with notions focusing on a lack of perception, false media reporting, the need for new frames, too much emphasis on statistics, and the need for a stronger identification of nature and the invisibility and slow development of environmental problems.
Glaciers are retreating, and even though they have been retreating naturally during summer months throughout existence, they have been retreating more in the past ten years than the past one hundred years. Over the years it has been heavily documented that greater influxes of ice sheets are dispersing off from Greenland into to the ocean (Rosenau, Schwalbe, Maas, Baessler & Dietrich, 2013). Within a glaciological perspective, glacier calving is a large contributor to ice loss within Greenland, however it is still a largely misunderstood process with uncertainties rising over models for measurements and interpreting observational data (Rosenau et al, 2013). While it is not the aim of this thesis to motivate changes in perceptions, arguably the videos of glacier melting place the effects of climate change into perspective. However, a distinction between the definite and absolute causes of human induced climate change and natural occurrences could be implemented within the EIS’s visual communication.
6.1 The relation between text and visual
Overall it is justifiable that the written captions to the photographs are needed, otherwise too often frames of beauty and a sublime and pristine nature are evoked. Abiding by this frame, the photographs individually portray no risk or danger. We can pose questions such as do the EIS place too much emphasis on embedding the ice into an artistic contextualisation? As has already been noted the meanings of visuals are of a polysemous nature. In response to this when the ice appears gloriously still in a state of sublime beauty, with enriching colours, illuminating light and heavily featured close up shots, one reading of the text is that it can appear rather difficult to fully comprehend the attachment of endangerment the ice faces. We can apply Barthes (1977) statement here;
‘Does the image duplicate certain of the information’s given in the text by a phenomenon of redundancy or does the text add a fresh information to the image’ (Barthes, 1977, p. 155).
Again, conflicting messages are evident with the relation between the text and the visual. Embedded visually within the photographs is the portrayal that everything is fine with these glaciers in their sublime state of beauty, however their captions show something different. The text informs us how glacier retreat is expanding quicker than at previous times in history, how this process in itself is highly dynamical embedded in phases of instability. However, at times various words are deployed within the written captions that also run parallel to the artistic notions the ice holds for the EIS. Positive descriptive words include, “ice diamond”, “snow peppers”, “fantastic shapes” and (the ice is of) “staggering immensity”. Obviously these descriptions have purposely been used by the EIS for their artistic connotations. As Lakoff (2010) suggests, language and depicting the correct words is fundamental to framing. If a word is not chosen carefully it can activate another frame, thus possibly change the implied message. Arguably words such as “fantastic” can allude the audience. Does it really capture the essence of acting now against climate change? Possibly though we can read it as this sublime beauty is slowly turning into sublime horror and devastation. Furthermore, the example Greenland (2) holds connotations of the icebergs and glaciers strength, they can be in states of distress yet still appear of a tremendous and extravagant nature.
Overall though the text is crucial in constructing valid understandings from the visual. It is only with the inclusion of the text that the images help to show the partial effects of climate change. Here, the written captions act as the anchorage, an anchorage that is needed in order to extract extended and meaningful information.
Placing an emphasis towards the use of metaphors runs parallel with the first research question of this thesis. Applying metaphorical representations of time towards the written captions created the distinction of both long term and short term perspectives of time. Within the long term perspective glaciers are depicted as declining steadily, whereby there is no human induced cause factor, rather supportive of natural climate change. In contrast tragic frames are apparent as glacier retreat rapidly resulting from human induced climate change and global warming are the cause factors within the short term perspectives.
The journey metaphor contextualises purpose and progress towards the ultimate goal of raising awareness. Here, the purpose originates from the complexities and uncertainties that arise in communicating climate change, through a lack of perspectives, its slow development and the invisible nature. Moreover, the purpose is to provide factual, real world visual evidence of glacier retreat. On a deeper reading the journey metaphor could correlate distance between science and societies understandings of climate change. As climate change communication continues to develop and progress, so too does the distance between scientific consensus and the public’s understanding of climate change.
Whilst applying health and sickness metaphors a possible form of narrative could suggestibly be framed. By placing the three examples together in section 18.104.22.168 we can read the state of glaciers – from massive, decaying to death, are gradually worsening. Ultimately though the placement of the health metaphor can generate help for the sick. On this note more communication from the EIS is needed in generating and framing solutions to causes they highlight and the partial effects of climate change they show. Can we read a narrative forming throughout that evokes a combination of these metaphors?
The time-lapse photography compiles thousands of still photographic shots into single continuous short video clips and it is here through placing the images side by side that we can begin to place them into a context, creating the meaning they loath. The videos are visual evidence for a public who wants to move away from statistics and percentages. The videos have been analysed in terms of frames they can negotiate. Here, motivation has shown how they can be read against theoretical frameworks derived from Kress and Van Leeuwen (2006) to understand their structural concepts and meaning. On this note functions such as actor, vector and goal have been applied to the videos creating the possibility for conceptual narrative representations of action to be present.
Communication on climate change calls out for creative and more meaningful measures of communication. The slow development and invisibility problems can be somewhat counteracted, as it is important to acknowledge these videos are based on fact, they are not fiction, and in some sense they are documentaries whereby the evidence of the glaciers melting is there. Additionally, theoretical frameworks adopted here portrayed a sense of time throughout the EIS’s visual communication, involving tense, temporal sequencing and aspect.
Chapter 7: Conclusion
As has been shown throughout, climate change is an urgent matter which needs society’s attention as there are many embedded complexities and uncertainties attached. Here, climate change needs to be framed within a sense of meaningfulness. This Master’s Thesis wanted to investigate how the EIS, as a specific contemporary example, visually communicate climate change. The overall topic and example were chosen in line with calls that visual communication, with respect to visual representations of the environment are a valid paradigm for further research.
Embedded throughout the EIS is the dichotomy of art and science, two contrasting fields emerged together with the aim of creatively communicating climate change. On the one hand art involves aesthetics, evoking emotional responses and secondly science requires rational thought. An image analysis focused on the visual within the EIS’s photography section and five of their videos, rather than take into regard the whole scope of the entire project. Through diverting focus on still images and moving images, findings differed. The still photographic images used by the EIS were shown as a means of incorporating the subject of art within their communication of climate change. Running parallel here is the notion of a romanticised view of nature (Hansen and Machin, 2013). Here, the ice is predominately framed in an aura of beauty, the natural environment depicted here is represented as a sublime and pristine state of nature where compelling and striking photographic images are used. To move beyond that, this thesis analysed the collective reading between the photographs and their accompanying written captions. In doing so, contradictions arose several times whereby the written text holds informative values informing the reader of the uncertainty and alarming nature that the ice beholds before it vanishes or perishes away. Yet, acting collectively the photographs would still portray the ice within frames of beauty.
In order to further examine the written captions in relation to the visual, away from the rather obviousness of the evident contradictory values attention focused on a, albeit rather short, metaphor analysis, utilising Lakoff and Johnson (1980) as the framework. I deemed it necessary to analyse metaphorical representations here as it is conclusive to suggest the EIS represent the glaciers as an almost living existence, and the metaphor involves understanding and experiencing something in terms of another.
Visual symbols and hallmarks of climate change require movement away from sole focus on individual imagery. As has been noted, this can be difficult to perceive the wide scale realities of the issue. Attaining to this notion, an analysis of the five chosen videos revealed unfolding narrative processes of action were present throughout. Narrative here was not deployed as necessarily depicting a story, rather focus adhered towards the interaction between the different objects depicted within the image. Schwarz (2013) has addressed the concerned notion of how exactly environmental narratives are depicted visually. Here, focus is heavily dependent on context. Furthermore, the videos were framed into perspective through scaling by aligning glacier loss towards the size and height of famous landmarks. Through this contextualisation, potentials arise of placing glacier retreat into more broader and comprehensible readings. Additionally, the videos were seen to be shown as an alternative form of a timeline, in the sense that they represent history as a gradual unfolding of event whereby the EIS portrayed glaciers within a temporal dimension before their disappearance.
To conclude, development could be made towards creating new theories and perspectives that primarily focus on extracting meaningful thoughts and concepts through the specific use of time-lapse photography. Is a more compelling narrative needed to evoke heighten reasoning and framing from time-lapse photography? Furthermore, motivations could be directed towards the opening for the creation of new generic styles that time-lapse videos allow. Although James Balog, founder of the EIS has given various conferences and presentations broadcasting the visual scope of the EIS, there are plausible limitations attached. The audiences are presumably those whom are already interested or involved in the climate change domain. Additionally, future related studies could devise the approach of screening time-lapse videos, like the examples provided within this thesis that visually show the effects of climate change to an x amount of individuals, such as through a large focus group. If seeing really is believing then participant’s responses and perceptions could be analysed to further motivate the necessity of integrating time-lapse videos into the climate change debate. While this in itself would be far from a conclusive consensus towards climate change perception it could have the potential to open frames of thought in relation to time-lapse videos within climate change communication.
Chapter 8: Bibliography
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Appendix A: The list of captions that accompany the images under the photography section on the EIS’s website.
Below are the written captions which accompany the photographs in the photography section. Additionally, as previously stated I have highlighted the aspects which I deem are of emphasis. The emphasis highlights keywords and phrases which hold connotative values, helping to depict the framing of thought from the EIS’s perspective. Again, not every picture is shown, as some are repeated and these examples are stated below.
Picture 1: 8.24.07 “In Disko Bay, ice broken off from the Greenland Ice Sheet floats into the North Atlantic Ocean, raising sea level”.
Emphasis: The words “raising sea level” are commonly used within communicating climate change to illustrate the effects of climate change.
Picture 2: 8.24.07 “Icebergs that have rolled over and been scalloped by waves metamorphose into fantastic shapes”.
Emphasis: Arguably here the word “fantastic” alludes the audience. Does it really capture the essence of acting now against climate change? Additionally, the words “rolled over” & “scalloped” are suggestive these icebergs can take a battering and still appear of a tremendous and extravagant nature.
Picture 3: 8.24.07 “Having calved from Jakobshavn Glacier, icebergs float out into Disko Bay and ultimately to the Atlantic Ocean”.
Emphasis: Float out can be suggestive of the journey metaphor discussed in chapter 22.214.171.124
Picture 4 & 5: 3.8.08 “Near mouth of Ilulissat Isfjord, Greenland, UNESCO World Heritage Site”.
Emphasis: The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Picture 6 & 7: 3.15.08 “The sea surface downstream from the Ilulissat Glacier's calving face is packed so tightly with icebergs small and large that you can walk many miles and never touch water”.
Emphasis: Here, human like features are applied to the Glacier – “calving face”
Picture 9: 3.15.08 “A massive iceberg broken off the Greenland Ice Sheet, surrounded by lily pads of sea ice, in the process of breaking up at the edge of Disko Bay”.
Emphasis: The word “massive” can arguably be a catchphrase portraying the iceberg as very big and dramatic. Somehow using descriptive words such as lily pads conjures meanings of beauty and stillness, alike with lily pads floating on a pond or a lake.
Picture 11: 6.7.07 “The calving face of the Ilulissat Glacier. This four-mile-wide (6.4 km) wall of ice discharges more ice into the global ocean than any other glacier in the Northern Hemisphere”.
Emphasis: Again, human like features attached to the ice – “calving face”
Picture 12: 6.7.07 “A helicopter flying past a half-mile wide section of the Ilulissat Glacier calving face gives perspective on the staggering immensity of this ice wall (in some places it may be 70 stories tall)”.
Emphasis: Helicopter used as a scaling perspective.
Picture 18: 7.16.07 “Remnants of the Greenland ice sheet flushed out to the ocean by Store Glacier’s spring calving cycle”.
Emphasis: Remnants is descriptive of what has been.
Picture 1: 2.7.08 “Iceland/Jökulsárlón. An iceberg melts where surf meets sand on the beach near Jökulsárlón”.
Emphasis: Descriptive words, “surf meets sand”, show a combination of two opposing elements meeting. It could connote a conflict here perhaps between the two different elements.
Picture 2: 2.9.08 “Iceland/Jökulsárlón. Wind-driven snow peppers an "ice diamond" on the beach”.
Emphasis: Descriptive words are applied here; “snow peppers” and “ice diamond”. Draws the reader’s attention into the sublime, strong, powerful beauty of nature.
Picture 3 & 4 : 2.9.08 “Iceland/Jökulsárlón. High tide brings an endless procession of ice fragments into the beach. The "ice diamond" are unique sculptures created when they tumble in the surf and onto the sand. They will vanish during the next high tide”.
Emphasis: Close up shot of “ice diamond”, which again conjures responses of a sublime nature and beauty. The ice doesn’t appear to be in danger, rather oppositely it looks to be in its element of beauty. Contrastingly though, the text here informs the reader the ice and its elements of beauty will “vanish” too.
Picture 5: 2.12.08 “Iceland/Svínafellsjökull. An EIS team member provides scale in a massive landscape of crevasses on the Svínafellsjökull Glacier in Iceland”.
Emphasis: This is the first picture that incorporates the human element in order to scale the size of this specific glacier. Here the actor can be the human; acts as a catalyst for relation, size, and emphasis. The fact that the human figure is placed within this “massive landscape” is suggestive of the vastness of nature. Here the eco centric perspective is developed.
Picture 6: 3.5.05 “ Iceland/Jökulsárlón. Decaying ice and icebergs on the surface of the Jökulsárlón in southeast Iceland. The ice drains off the great icecap called the Vatnajokull (umlaut over the “o”).”
Emphasis: The word decaying is suggestive of a natural occurrence. Can we read it as implying the glacier will get old by itself, naturally, and we can’t prevent it? Arguably, again the sense of urgency to act now is lost here.
Picture 7: 9.13.07 “ Iceland/Jökulsárlón. Death of an iceberg”.
Emphasis: The word “death” propels a strong, bold and powerful message, it is the ultimate end, nothing more or less afterwards. Perhaps it is rather too strong or harsh of a word to use. When we think of icebergs we think of quite colossal features, but we also have to remember that they melt naturally too.
Picture 8: 9.14.07 “Skeidararjokull, Iceland. Meltwater features, moraines and volcanic ash layers in the Skeidararjokull, a major outlet glacier draining the Vatnajokull Icecap”.
Picture 1: 9.17.08 “Crevasses and glacier travel in famed Vallee Blanche, the upper reaches of the Mer de Glace. In background of some views, the massive Brenva Face and summit of Mont Blanc are visible. In green: Olivier Greber, mountain guide. In gold, Didier Lavigne, mountain guide.”
Emphasis: Human element
Picture 2: 9.19.06 “A tourist walkway provides access to the Mer de Glace glacier in France. It is a graphic indicator of the glacier’s shrinkage. In 1988, the platform in the upper right of the image reached the ice. Over the next 18 years the glacier receded so much that downward extensions of the walkway were successively added to allow visitors to touch the glacier. Note the figure on landing in the middle of the stairway for scale.”
Emphasis: Here the human element is incorporated as a “graphic indicator” for the shrinkage of the glacier
Picture 3: 9.21.06 “Aerial view of Mont Blanc and the Mer de Glace glacier in France”.
Emphasis: Just an aerial shot, doesn’t really show anything
Picture 4: 9.25.06 “Swiss Alps, Trift Glacier.”
Emphasis: Just shows the glacier. Doesn’t seem of serious nature to help protect. Human factor included within the photograph
Picture 5: 9.27.06 “Aerial view of the Rhone Glacier in the French Alps, France.”
Emphasis: Again, just a picture of glacier aerial shot
Picture 6: 9.27.06 “ Rhone Glacier”.
Emphasis: Descriptive text, merely tells us the name of the glacier.
Picture 7: 9.27.06 “A waterfall descends beside the face of the Trift Glacier in Switzerland. Since 1860, the Trift has emptied a huge basin full of ice, pulling back 9100 feet (2800m.). The retreat in 2005 alone was nearly 700 feet (215m.). The vast majority of glaciers in the Alps are shrinking steadily and many will likely disappear in coming decades.”
Emphasis: Arguable the point is made here – shrinking happens steadily, that is why it is a difficult issue to communicate. Effects are not so visible on the eye. “Coming decades” are at some distant point in the future.
Picture 8: 9.27.06 “ Oberer Grindelwald Gletscher, barely visible in centre of rock gully.”
Emphasis: Text is needed here, without it the content of the photograph is rather difficult to presume. Does it mean it’s nearly gone?
Picture 9: 10.10.12 “ Mont Blanc”
Emphasis: Again, just a still shot. Showing beauty, sublime nature. Sunset shot just emphases this more, very colourful and bright.
Picture 1 & picture 2: 6.13.08 “ Whiteout Glacier, Alaska, June 13, 2008”
Emphasis: Contrasting halves – ice / green land. However, the text merely informs us of the glaciers name. In the image the pieces of fragmented ice are scattered around.
Picture 3: 6.19.08 “Climber on iceberg, Columbia Bay, Alaska; June 19, 2008.”
Emphasis: Human element brought in for scale. The text is merely describing the contents of the picture.
Picture 4: 6.20.08 “Calving face of Columbia Glacier, Columbia Bay, Alaska, June 20, 2008”
Emphasis: Calving face informs us of the pictures content, which otherwise may not be so clear.
Picture 5 and Picture 6: 6.20.08 “ Meltwater on surface of Columbia Glacier, Columbia Bay, Alaska, June 20, 2008”
Emphasis: The text is merely telling us what we already can visualise in the photograph. The ice here is shown in a true state of beauty. However, the term melt is also of a natural occurrence.
Picture 7: 6.16.06 “ Columbia Glacier calves icebergs into Columbia Bay west of Valdez, Alaska. The ice scene in the bergs was deposited in snowstorms 300 to 500 years ago.”
Emphasis: The text adds further information of a historical emphasis. We could ask how they know this happened 300 to 500 years ago.
Picture 8: 6.17.06 “ Columbia Glacier calves icebergs into Columbia Bay west of Valdez, AK. Since 1984, the glacier has retreated 16 km. This retreat is caused partly by global warming but mostly but dynamics of the glacier's drainage processes. When tidewater glaciers like this one reach an unstable phase, vast amounts of ice can be dumped very rapidly into the sea--and such processes are analogous to what will happen to the tidewater outlet glaciers of Greenland and Antarctica should those ice sheets reach a phase of instability caused by global warming. The ice shown in the bergs was deposited in the glacier centuries if not millennia ago, but is broken up and turned into seawater in a matter of years or decades once a recessional phase of the glacier begins”.
Emphasis: Here, the accompanying text is rather thorough and detailed. Arguably the emphasis here is the deployed term, “global warming”.
Picture 9: 6.22.06 “Columbia Glacier, Alaska. Contrasts between clean glacial melt water and water laden with eroded silt colour these lakes on the surface of the East Fork of Columbia Glacier. Black stripes are erosional debris called "moraines."
Emphasis: The accompanying text is needed here as it is rather unclear what these different colours imply. We could presume the black substance is from oil? Contrasting colours at play here.
Picture 10: 6.23.06 “Aerial view of Columbia Glacier in Alaska. The trim line (seen on the slope to the right) shows the deflation of the ice mass of the Columbia Glacier since 1984. Greenish snow-covered vegetation is above the trim line and uniform gray rock is below the trim line. In 1984, the glacier was 1300 feet (400m) thicker than it was at the time this picture was made in June, 2006; the height of deflation is equivalent to the height of the Empire State Building”
Emphasis: The Empire State Building is used as a symbolic reference to a place, perspective and certain time.
Picture 11, 12 and 13 use the same captions, just different angles of the glaciers are taken: 6.23.06 “Columbia Glacier calves icebergs into Columbia Bay west of Valdez, AK. Since 1984, the glacier has retreated 16 km. This retreat is caused partly by global warming but mostly but dynamics of the glacier's drainage processes. When tidewater glaciers like this one reach an unstable phase, vast amounts of ice can be dumped very rapidly into the sea--and such processes are analogous to what will happen to the tidewater outlet glaciers of Greenland and Antarctica should those ice sheets reach a phase of instability caused by global warming. The ice shown in the bergs was deposited in the glacier centuries if not millennia ago, but is broken up and turned into seawater in a matter of years or decades once a recessional phase of the glacier.”
Emphasis: Detailed text on the process. Instability, vast amounts. Highlight the word global warming, the glacier is breaking off into the ocean. Effects of global warming. Again on time, something that took long to form, can be “broken up … in a matter of years”.
Picture 1 & Picture 2 & Picture 3 & Picture 4 (all same text just different angles of glacier): 9.4.06 “A view of Sperry Glacier in Glacier National Park, Montana. The glacier's surface area was 3.76 sq. km in 1850 and 0.87 sq. km in 1993, the date of the last precise survey. Below Sperry Glacier is glacier-scoured bedrock and melt water lakes formed as the ice receded in recent decades. In 1850, Glacier National Park had 150 glaciers. In 1968, global warming had reduced that number to just over 50. By 1998, the park had 27 glaciers; that number remains the official count as of this writing, but by next year three more will have been taken off the list. Each of the glaciers is shrinking at the rate of 3 to 8% of its surface area per year. The shrinkage is due to an increase in average annual temperatures and/or a reduction of snowfall. If the present rate of increased temperatures continues, the park will be glacier-less by 2030; if the climate gets no warmer, but stays at current temperatures, the glaciers will be gone by 2100. SOURCE: Dan Fagre, research ecologist, US Geological Survey's Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center. See nrmsc.usgs.gov/research/glacier_retreat.”
Emphasis: The accompanying text again is rather thorough and detailed text. There is further mentioning of the term global warming. The text adds further dimensions to the photograph, standing informative of the reasoning in the decline in the surface area of the glacier, the decrease of glaciers within the national park over time, more will decline by the next reading is made, inevitably they will be gone (2 alternatives are given here) either 2030 or 2100. However these two dates are rather far apart from one another, and we may ask how can the public act upon this? Framed as an apocalyptic tragedy here or in a distant manner.
Picture 1: 10.20.06 “At approximately 18,900 feet on Huayna Potosi, climbers work their way through crevasses and ice cliffs (aka "seracs"). Ascent was made in darkness, by headlamp and starlight.”
Emphasis: Shot type shows how small the climbers are in retrospect to the landscape. “Darkness” and “starlight” shows their sheer determination to the project. The language used here heightens the enduring battle that the climbers face throughout the rough terrain and landscape.
Picture 2: 10.20.06 “Red line = 8/11/2006, orange line = 8/11/2008, Chacaltaya Glacier, Bolivia. This mountainside was once completely covered by a glacier. Remnants from the 1940s of what was once the world's highest ski at 17,000 feet can still be seen on the ice. Experts estimate the glacier will be entirely gone in the next few years.”
Emphasis: A comparison of the glaciers retreat over time is given. Furthermore the text is descriptive of what once stood there, the highest ski at one point. Some historical sense here and element of human. Tragedy for recreation industry.
Picture 3: 8.9.06 “A full moon rises over the city lights of La Paz. The coppery colour of the moonrise is a result of smog and dust in the atmosphere. Illimani, the 2nd highest mountain in Bolivia at 21,125/6,439m, rises above the city. Every glacier in the central and northern Andes, has been in rapid retreat since the late 1970’s. The lower glaciers are thinning at the average rate of 1.1 meters per year; the higher glaciers at 0.5 meters per year. With the human populations below the peaks dependant on the water stored in fast-shrinking glaciers like this one, trouble lies ahead if these melting trends continue.”
Emphasis: “Rapid retreat” is suggestive these glaciers are lessening at quick rates. The text is of an alarming and problematic nature with emphasis directed towards the “human populations below” whom are dependent on the water stored in these glaciers. Both the causes and effects are outline here, however, we have to ask where the solutions are. Is it merely a solution that they are communicating about the issue? It’s plausible to suggest yes, however where do we go from the awareness? What next?
Picture 4: 8.11.06 “Global warming has reduced Chacaltaya Glacier, a real glacier as recently as the 1970’s, to patches of snow. The glacier was so substantial, in fact, that the Club Andino Boliviano built a ski lift and small lodge on the site in 1940 for recreation. Poles from the former ski lift are still visible. Every glacier in the northern and central Andes, has been in retreat since the late 1970’s. Glaciers like this one are thinning at the average rate of 1.1 meters per year.”
Emphasis: The text takes the reader to a former time in history, a former life. Where once there stood a glacier now exists as nothing more than patches of snow. Ski lift, ski poles and the small lodge represent feelings of nostalgia, again of a former time. The reader is informed that global warming is the cause.
Picture 5: 8.15.06 “In the Condoriri mountain group in the Cordillera Real, this glacier drains the mountains at the head of the valley below Pequeno Alpamayo. It has been in rapid retreat since the 1970”s; the area from the right edge of the frame to the edge of the ice has been de-glaciated since that time.”
Emphasis: Descriptions of where the glacier once stood, it’s in “rapid retreat”. The glacier drains the mountains.
Picture 6: 8.15.06 “Cordillera Real, Bolivia. Situated in the Bolivian Andes mountain range, this glacier has been in rapid retreat since the late 1970s. Like virtually all other glaciers in the region, the lake area was once covered by ice. In the Condoriri mountain group of the Cordillera Real, this glacier drains the mountains to the left/north of the Condoriri basecamp (the glacier has no specific name). All the area shown in this picture was covered by ice early in the early 1970's. The ice pulled back from the site of the lake in approximately the late 1980's.”
Emphasis: No specific name given to the glacier, why not? Text descriptive of the area once being covered by ice, but not anymore. Maybe already gone. We see the affect already here, it’s not about the future, but rather the present, the present is already here.
Picture 1: 10.10.12 “EIS Nepal Team.”
Emphasis: 5 guys working, cameras, hiking, equipment.
Picture 2: 10.10.12 “EIS Time-lapse Camera at Mt. Everest.”
Emphasis: Cameras are doing the work (technology), ice is a strong symbol in the background, and cameras are stationary doing their job.
Picture 3: 10.10.12 “View from EIS Time-lapse Camera at Mt. Everest.”
Emphasis: The text informs the reader the perspective we are looking from. Here, we are up and close to the technology.
Picture 4: 10.10.12 “Night sky from Everest Base Camp.”
Emphasis: Night sky reminiscent of beauty. Do we really need to see this?
EIS team in action:
Picture 1: 6.20.08 “Adam LeWinter, Jeff Orlowski, James Balog of EIS at Columbia Glacier, Columbia Bay, Alaska; EIS camera AK-2 (New) "Waterline" camera, June 20, 2008.”
Picture 2, 4, 18: Just shows the dates.
Picture 3: 2.9.08 “Assistant Svavar Jonatonsson in surf on beach by Jokulsarlon, plastered with frozen sea spray and snow.”
Picture 5: 8.20.06 “At approximately 18,900 feet on Huayna Potosi, climbers work their way through crevasses and ice cliffs (aka "seracs"). Ascent was made in darkness, by headlamp and starlight.”
Picture 6: 6.2.07 | Campsite for "Cliff" Glacier.”
Picture 7, 9, 11, 12, 13: “Dogsled trip to Sermeq Avanardleq Greenland, March, 12, 2008”.
Picture 8: 6.18.08 “EIS team at Columbia Glacier, Alaska, June 18, 2008”.
Picture 10: 3.12.08 “Cabin during dogsled trip to Sermeq Avanardleq, Greenland, March 12, 2008.”
Picture 14: 7.24.08 “Iceland, July 2008 James Balog photographing Ice diamonds, Iceland”.
Picture 15: 7.13.08 “Moulin, Greenland, July 2008James Balog, Founder and Director, Extreme Ice Survey”.
Picture 16: 8.16.06 “In the Condoriri mountain group of the Cordillera Real, Aymara Indian women herd burros carrying our equipment out of the mountains”.
Picture 17: 8.16.06 “In the Cordillera Real, llamas graze on the shore of Laguna Tuni, a man-made reservoir storing a considerable fraction of La Paz's water supply. A storm has just brought fresh snow. Single large peak in some shots shows Huayna Potosi (6092 m.) from west”.
“ICE” Fine Art Prints
In total there are twenty six photographs depicted under this section and the accompanying text merely informs the audience of the name of the glacier and the photographic shot number taken. For this reason, I deem it unnecessary to explicitly state each individual caption here. The ice is depicted as beautiful, magical and pristine. If “seeing is (really) believing” then we have to ask is this the right stance to be taking in communicating the matter at hand? Arguably, while the sense of urgency of acting now is perhaps not completely lost is it plausible to suggest it’s fading away. The types of camera shots and frames used further evoke these frames of beauty as mixture of close ups and high shots are used.
 With time-lapse photography the frequency of film frames are captured at a much lower rate to that of which they will be played back as. There is very much a manipulation of time happening. However, to dwell onto the technicalities of time-lapse photography is beyond the scope of this thesis, and more importantly not the ultimate aim.
 Hence, in this thesis, frame is not used to imply a photo frame structure holding a picture or photograph, nor with reference to a person’s body frame.
 By whole I refer to the main significance in the visual, or more purposefully the carrier. Additionally the partial structures are embedded within the carrier of the visual.
 The Vimeo channel is the section whereby the time-lapse videos can be found is entitled, ‘Explore the work of the Extreme Ice Survey in the time-lapse videos below (and catch more videos on our Vimeo channel)’.
 Ilulissat Glacier, sometimes referred to as Jakobshavn Glacier, is situated in the town of Ilulissat, Greenland. For clarity’s sake, Ilulissat Glacier will be the name used within this thesis as that is the name deployed by the EIS. The glacier is one of the fastest accelerating glaciers and active in nature.
 Glacier calving is when chunks of ice suddenly break off and recline at the edge of a glacier.
 The Aymara people are an indigenous group of people living in vast remote plains of the Andes and Altiplano regions of South America, notably Bolivia, Chile and Peru.
 By participants they mean individuals, objects, places or things represented within that specific semiotic mode.
- ISBN (Book)
- File size
- 1.8 MB
- Catalog Number
- Institution / College
- Södertörn University – School of Culture & Education
- communications media climate change extreme ice survey framing global warming visual communication image analysis