Social media play an increasingly important role in societal debates about nature policies. In the debate about the management of Oostvaardersplassen in The Netherlands for instance, social media are used to find like-minded people and form groups, to influence public opinion such as by spreading photos of dead animals, to address or attack people such as forest rangers and Staatsbosbeheer, and to coordinate and organize (offline) protests.
Nature conservation organisations, policy-makers and public officials are trying to find ways to deal with public criticism expressed through social media. They can use social media data to inform their communication strategies and policies, but such practices raise empirical and normative research questions that need to be addressed:
- How does policy relate to public communications and perceptions, and how do policy makers/ organisations think they should relate to the public debate and to public perceptions? See the triangular model attached.
- What are the dynamics of online discussions, in particular the interplay between public (online) communications, the strategic communication of stakeholders, and policy decisions?
- On social media, some people are more active than others, and some views are more frequently expressed than others. How are public opinion about nature policy and public debates about nature policy related?
- What is the role of social media in animal welfare activism, such as those active in the protest against the management of Oostvaardersplassen? Who are involved (multiple groups/identities)? How do they coordinate and organize protests?
A thesis on this topic enables you to:
- combine methods of your interest: framing-analysis, interviews, surveys, focus groups, automated text-analysis and/or visual methods.
- work with stakeholders in the field, such as nature conservation organisations (staatsbosbeheer), governmental organisations (Provinces) and public officials and politicians.
- be part of a research project that conducts academic research of societal relevance