PhD defence

See what I mean? Meaning-making by Visualisations in Policy Controversies over Energy and Food Technologies

PhD candidate Efrat E (Efrat) Gommeh MA
Promotor prof.dr. TAP (Tamara) Metze
External promotor Prof. Dr HO (Huub) Dijstelbloem
Co-promotor CGPH (Karin) Schroen
Organisation Wageningen University, Public Administration and Policy

Mon 16 October 2023 13:30 to 15:00

Venue Omnia, building number 105
Hoge Steeg 2
6708 PH Wageningen
+31 (0) 317 - 484500
Room Auditorium


In policy controversies, people often give meaning to the policy issue by using visualisations. The phenomenon, however, is understudied. This dissertation fills this gap by investigating online visualisations in controversies over energy and food technologies, with the aim to contribute to policy learning and responsible innovation in these domains. I have developed a conceptual framework and designed research to study text and visualisations found on webpages and tweets related to the controversies about hydraulic fracturing for shale gas extraction (‘fracking’), food processing, and nanotechnology in food and food packaging. I have discovered that in these online policy controversies, actors often disseminate information visually in a ‘scientific’ manner. Additionally, visual content makes visible considerations and concerns that otherwise might remain invisible. In the studied controversies, online visualisations frequently frame a technology as either posing risks or offering benefits by making these concrete. They do so by showing routine activities and commonplace objects. This encourages citizens, consumers, policy makers and technology developers to rethink the meaning of the technologies and their role in society.