The polar bear and the hockey stick graph are probably the two most iconic images of climate change to date, each addressing the urgency and immediacy of the topic in different ways. The polar bear evokes empathy with an animal threatened in its own habitat, while the hockey stick presents us with shockingly alarming figures resulting from scientific research. However, these images have not yet been effective in mobilizing people to change their behaviour. One critique of the polar bear image is that the arctic is ‘too far away’ and thus not relatable enough, while the hockey stick is too ‘dry’ to engage with (even though it briefly became scandalous during ‘Climategate’).
In social media, as well as in the arts, literature and visual culture, the polar bear and the hockey stick occur amidst a wealth of other visuals and stories, and climate change is addressed in scientific, critical, political, aesthetic, and social ways. When we study such narratives along with their carrier (/media), we see that social media platforms vary widely in how they present and shape the issue of climate change. In project Climate Futures: Machine learning from cli-fi, we set out to shed a light on on climate fiction (‘cli-fi’) in literature, the arts and visual culture, and contribute to this field by developing and testing new formats for climate storytelling with AI.
Research by: Jessica Ciucci, Carlo De Gaetano, Andy Dockett, and Sabine Niederer.