Analyzing the rhetorical patterns of climate change contrarians

Popular media often treats data as unbiased, raw, and empirical, but all data is grounded in subjective observation and assumptions. Aggregated data compounds the role of these assumptions, which may confirm each other across data sets.

When we try to make claims using this data, especially across time and space, we are trying to do something much different from direct observation or traditional arguments. Understanding claims about data requires new modes of discourse and analysis.

In this project, James Ascher and Bommae Kim investigated discourse around climate change, where environmental data play a central role in arguments. Specifically, they explored rhetorical patterns in how climate change contrarians argue against climate change. They qualitatively analyzed a small set of arguments based on traditional rhetoric and used this to apply text mining methods to a larger volume of online publications about climate change.

James Ascher is a PhD student in the Department of English who studies 18th century literature and bibliography, putting media studies, textual criticism, ephemera and paperwork history under the big-tent of bibliography.

Bommae Kim is a fifth-year PhD student in the Department of Psychology. Her research interests focus on the intersection of social science, statistics and computer science.

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James Ascher and Bommae Kim