MUCS studies media use in crisis situations, comparing climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. We analyze how people in Norway encounter these issues in everyday life and in the media, where information is abundant across platforms.
The objective of the project is to resolve paradoxes in the communication of crisis in digital societies. Why have we accepted drastic measures to fight the pandemic, while similar climate action is difficult to accomplish? There is extensive media coverage warning of a climate crisis, but we do not know enough about how this information is interpreted. The pandemic was perceived differently in terms of speed, proximity and impact on our lives. By comparing these cases, we learn more about information in different crisis situations, and build resilience in the face of future and unknown risks.
Since the start of the project, war and an energy crisis has broken out in Europe, and the news cover a landscape of evolving crisis situations that affect each other. Media are key to how experts and governing bodies communicate, and risk management depends on communication to mobilize and maintain trust. Social media, journalism, smartphones and digital platforms are all part of how citizens relate to society. We study these and other examples in a cross-media perspective, analyzing how Norwegians use a variety of media in their everyday lives. We are particularly interested in digitalization, and in understanding the challenges and opportunities new technologies bring forward to crisis communication.
The project conducts qualitative research, including interviews about media use pertaining to climate and COVID-19, and ethnographic studies of these issues in local communities in Norway. We collaborate with stakeholders in climate and crisis communication to develop actionable knowledge.
Our results so far originate from pilot studies. Based on qualitative in-depth interviews on news use during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have analyzed how and why people monitored infection rates, and what these metrics meant to interpretations of the pandemic as a societal phenomenon and everyday challenge. Regarding climate change, we focus on the meanings of social media as a debate arena, analyzing interviews with Norwegians engaged in climate issues about their media use. We are currently recruiting media users for new qualitative in-depth interviews about how they follow news in the current situation, and will contact the same people again later to ask follow-up questions.
MUCS has an interdisciplinary approach and project team. The project is a collaboration between media studies (Brita Ytre-Arne, Hallvard Moe, Hilde Sakariassen, Solveig Høegh-Khron, University of Bergen), human geography (Håvard Haarstad, Ida Sekanina, CET, UiB) and journalism studies (Jannie Møller Hartley, Roskilde University).
MUCS studies media use amongst Norwegian citizens in relation to two complex societal crisis situations: the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. Through innovative qualitative methods and an interdisciplinary approach, the project resolves paradoxes in the communication of crisis in digital societies.
In a digital media environment with abundant information, the media is essential to how people encounter crisis situations, even those that are also experienced personally through changing everyday circumstances. Social media, journalism and smartphones are all part of crisis communication, but rarely studied from a cross-media perspective rooted in citizens’ everyday lives. Media are also key to how experts and governing bodies communicate to citizens, and societal risk management depends on communication to maintain trust and mobilize for desired action. However, our understanding of societal crisis communication is riddled with paradoxes, as seen in the contrast between the drastic measures against COVID-19 versus the lack of large-scale climate action. In spite of extensive media coverage warning of a climate crisis, we do not know how this information is received and interpreted in everyday contexts, or why such different perceptions and actions arise in the communication of crisis situations.
This project resolves information paradoxes by conducting qualitative ethnographic research and stakeholder collaboration on how people encounter climate change and COVID-19 across media and in local communities in Norway, analyzing information in context, and considering challenges in the digitalization of media use, including digital misinformation and infection tracing apps. With an interdisciplinary approach and project team, MUCS combines media use studies, journalism, human geography and political psychology to develop a novel, citizen-focused perspective on media use in crisis situations, applied to solve persistent paradoxes and produce actionable knowledge.