For Day 16 of #WinterABC2022, I have taken the academic route and decided to post my recent class assignment which talks about using the different forms of media to enhance biodiversity conservation. For context, I am pursuing a Master of Science in Biodiversity Informatics.
The rise of digital media has led to a process of change in which media systems around the world have become increasingly hybrid (Chadwick, 2013). The incorporation of social media as part of official media for different organizations and entities means that there are multiple ways that the general public gets information. In the hybrid media system, different forms of media not only compete for audiences but also complement, benefit, and learn from one another (Paatelainen et al., 2022). Many traditional media outlets such as newpapers, radio and television stations have co-opted social media as part of their information dissemination strategy thus making media systems hybird. Biodiversity conservation is one of the most important issues of our time and it is important to engage humans in any capacity possible to encourage them to conserve biodiversity. Understanding human-nature interactions is crucial for finding successful conservation solutions that help address the biodiversity crisis and support the wellbeing of the people (Bennett et al., 2017; Venter et al., 2016). Media plays a role in understanding human-nature interactions as more people incorporate social media into their daily lives.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology uses conservation media to tell stories, their business model involves partnering with different groups in conservation to produce high quality media and education tools that they then disseminate to conservation groups across the world (2022). We live in an increasingly digital world where more humans are gaining access to technology and the internet. Digital conservation is a sub-field of conservation science that uses novel data sources such as social media data and other large data sets to understand and potentially mitigate the biodiversity crisis (Toivonen et al., 2019). With more people on social media, a lot more data is generated on these sites than any other platforms, therefore it is easier to reach people with information using social media as opposed to other forms of media such as Television or newspapers. In a project that focuses on biodiversity conservation, a hybrid media format is beneficial in several ways.
To leverage the full potential of social media data, conservation science would benefit from adopting methods for automated content analysis and combining these methods with advanced spatio-temporal analytics (Toivonen et al., 2019). Social media allows for automated content analysis and algorithms can be created to determine content that is related to nature or when humans are in an area with endangered flora and fauna. There are several studies using, for example, geotagged social media data in spatial analysis of human-nature interactions (Hausmann et al., 2018; van Zanten et al., 2016). Social media that is geotagged can help computer algorithms to detect the location of an individual, if they are for instance in a protected area such as a National park, they can get targeted information through social media about conservation efforts going on in the park. They can also receive information alerts regarding the steps they can take to ensure that they are not in conflict with nature. Di Minin et al., 2018, Di Minin et al., 2019 have recently proposed and demonstrated the use of automated social media content analysis for tracking illegal wildlife trade, whereas Becken et al. (2017) presented a case study analysing human sentiment towards the environment from social media (Toivonen et al., 2019). Social media algorithms work in a way where an individual’s social feed is usually full of their interests. Therefore, it can be easy to analyze the type of activities one is engaged in and determine how best they can be informed about biodiversity conservation.
Crowd-sourcing data collection to nature enthusiasts is considered as one of the ways to effectively collect data when resources are limited (di Minin et al., 2015).Citizen science is the use of individuals who are not scientific researchers to collect scientific data through the use of their digital gadgets in a practice known as crowd-sourcing. Citizen science and crowd-sourcing of biological data collection have long been used in many countries, but have recently been facilitated by the availability of smart phones equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS), high resolution cameras, and continuous internet connection (di Minin et al., 2015).Social media has the ability to make anyone into a disseminator of information due to the various connections one can have on multiple media platforms. This makes the spread of conservation information quite easy. Programs can be put in place to encourage people to become citizen scientists as this is one way they can learn about biodiversity. As digital equipment such as smart phones, cameras and the internet become cheap and affordable to most people, it is quite imperative to encourage people to get more involved in conservation efforts as they also stand to benefit more.
While used for various different purposes, social media platforms also provide a venue for sharing biodiversity related content and posts on nature experiences (di Minin et al., 2015). The uniqueness of social media is that it can be used for different things. It can be used for entertainment, education, sharing of information among other things. Specific accounts that are dedicated to sharing issues about biodiversity conservation just as with traditional media when for instance, there could be a television segment focusing on animals would be one way of incorporating hybrid media.
Authors in science communication can present the information they strive to communicate in a way that aims to evoke emotional reactions within their readers, in order to encourage them to engage with the respective issue and to foster information processing (Baumeister et al., 2007; Myers et al., 2012). When it comes to biodiversity conservation, it is critical to invoke an emotional reaction in readers as this issue has an effect on the livelihood of most people and is vital to ecosystems as well. Some forms of new media such as blogs which are a form of storytelling can be a part of this emotionalization of readers. This narrative approach may include messages such as testimonials, eyewitness reports, or case studies and narratives may be particularly appropriate for communicating scientific information to non-experts (Flemming et al., 2018). For most people, scientific information may be best be broken down in a manner that is easy to understand and gets the message across. Storytelling is one of the oldest tools of communication and with the introduction of new media such as social media and blogs, innovative ways of telling a story have been created and can be utilized.
Emotionalization can also be accomplished through visual features and dealing with human–wildlife interactions lends itself well to this approach, in particular, through pictures of young animals for purposes of positive emotionalization (Flemming et al., 2018). With the increasing popularity of visual centered events such as photography exhibits, art exhibits among others. Another avenue of informing the public about biodiversity conservation has opened up. Human beings are visual and have a tendency to take things at face value therefore innovative visual ways that help to promote environmentally friendly initiatives are important. Images that show the harms of animal poaching, the effect of drought on particular landscapes or protected areas can help put a face to issues that people might have read and forgotten about. A visual image that is particularly shocking is more likely to stick to memory. Visual media such as documentaries also provide an opportunity to educate or inform the masses about issues related to biodiversity conservation.
The incorporation of traditional and new media provides an opportunity to come up with a hybrid media model that can serve as a crucial tool for information dissemination. Social media in particular has the capacity to reach more people than any other form of media. With unique features such as geotagging, one is able to tailor pertinent messages to an audience. While social media may be popular, traditional media is still capable of proving information to audiences and maybe a preferred media for others, therefore it is quite imperative that it is not completely abandoned.
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di Minin, E., Fink, C., Tenkanen, H., & Hiippala, T. (2018). Machine learning for tracking illegal wildlife trade on social media. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2(3), 406–407. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0466-x
di Minin, E., Fink, C., Hiippala, T., & Tenkanen, H. (2018). A framework for investigating illegal wildlife trade on social media with machine learning. Conservation Biology, 33(1), 210–213. https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13104
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