Fits perfectly with Communications Week: trolling. I actually, surprisingly don’t have many trolls. I have had some bizarre interactions, especially with fundamentalist environmentalists (OMG like talking to a wall), but rarely do I encounter haters. There’s misunderstanding and misinterpretation, but that’s not trolling. I wonder if trolling is an issue on Tumblr at all?
Either way, trolling is a problem in science reporting. So much so that researchers have studied it. A summary of their findings:
Anyone who’s spent any time on the internet is familiar with trolls. From politics to sports to science, trolls take pleasure in bashing a story from every possible angle. Science is no exception, and recent research shows that when it comes to science news, the trolls are winning.
The University of Wisconsin reports on a recent study that tried to quantify just how much of an impact trolls could have on a reader. Basically, the researchers showed comments on a blog post about nanotechnology to study participants. They surveyed their users pre-existing ideas about nanotechnology and measured how those ideas might change based on the blog and the comments beneath it. What they found was that negative comments, regardless of their merit, could sway readers. The University of Wisconsin writes:
For rapidly developing nanotechnology, a technology already built into more than 1,300 consumer products, exposure to uncivil online comments is one of several variables that can directly influence the perception of risk associated with it.
“When people encounter an unfamiliar issue like nanotechnology, they often rely on an existing value such as religiosity or deference to science to form a judgment,” explains Ashley Anderson, a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University and the lead author of the upcoming study in the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication.
At Mother Jones, Chris Mooney puts it this way:
The researchers were trying to find out what effect exposure to such rudeness had on public perceptions of nanotech risks. They found that it wasn’t a good one. Rather, it polarized the audience: Those who already thought nanorisks were low tended to become more sure of themselves when exposed to name-calling, while those who thought nanorisks are high were more likely to move in their own favored direction. In other words, it appeared that pushing people’s emotional buttons, through derogatory comments, made them double down on their preexisting beliefs.
It’s Climate Science Communications Week at Climate Adaptation! For the entire week of Feb. 18 - 23, I’ll cover how climate change is discussed by the media, scientists, researchers, academics, and politicians. If you have sources or ideas on communicating climate change, send to: http://climateadaptation.tumblr.com/submit