I almost gave up subscribing to WUWT, but juuust about frequently enough something interesting comes up; and of course its a convenient way of keeping up with the denialosphere. So today I find A review of the seminar ‘The contrarian discourse in the blogosphere–what are blogs good for anyway?’ which is a somewhat odd title, because I can’t really see any “review” in there; just a transcript of the talk and Q+A afterwards, and a minor whinge from AW (see below). But its fun, nonetheless. From the talk abstract:
…Using the highly ranked blog ‘Watts up with that’ as a case study, discourse analysis of seven posts including almost 1600 user comments reveals that blogs are able to unveil components and purposes of the contrarian discourse that traditional media are not. They serve as extended peer communities as put forth by post-normal science, however, blog users themselves do not see post-normal science as a desirable goal. Furthermore, avowals of distrust can be seen as linguistic perfomances of accountability, forcing science to prove its reliability and integrity over and over again. Finally, it is concluded that the climate change discourse has been stifled by the obsession of discussing the science basis and that in order to advance the discourse, there needs to be a change in how science as an ideology is communicated and enacted.
and its by Franziska Hollender, Institute for Social Studies of Science, University of Vienna.
Snide note: in order to defend his reputation for bad faith and getting things wrong, AW complains bitterly about FH’s “No post has less than 50 comments”. FH explains patiently that she means “of the 7 posts analysed”, but AW isn’t at all happy. This is just oh-so-typical: someone says something, which can be interpreted several ways. One of those ways is clearly false. The denialists leap upon the false way, apparently confident that anyone who disagrees with them is both a liar and a fool; and from then on there is no way of them backing down. Sigh.
The study itself is full of terms like “post-normal”, which usually means I wouldn’t bother reading it. From skimming it I don’t think many people will find much of it surprising. Lets have a look at some bits:
Analyzing the seven WUWT posts, she finds discursive strategies on WUWT to include ridicule, personal attacks, and name-calling. She says this is formally discouraged on the site, but nonetheless occurs.
and the follow-up There are very few dissenting comments on WUWT, and if so, they are viciously attacked. Self-selection of contributors therefore takes place, under the influence of and to avoid prospective attacks on views expressed. These are all things that happen at WUWT–it is not that free, not everyone is welcome. There is gate-keeping. And so on. The commenters on the post aren’t very happy with that – come of them vituperatively so, rather proving her point. She doesn’t explicitly address the issue of some people like me being banned, although the commenters, again, are in denial, and insist that just-about-no-one-is-banned.
If you’d like something positive, she claims
On the plus side, the constant questioning encompassed in blog comments holds scientists accountable. She agrees with this function, which she considers valuable
Though I consider that dubious; note that no examples are provided.
On of the Qs afterwards is:
Q. Do blogs help generate new ideas and avenues of research?
To which she answers A. Different roles of commenters–there is the police function, aimed at exerting power and silencing oppositional voices. Another role is productive–criticism, reinforcement, engaging information. rather than the more obvious and simpler “No”.
Narrative structures utilized on WUWT include: 1) Scientific data dissemination. 2) Critique of scientific findings. 3) Social and political implications of climate change. 4) Climate change as a political tool to challenge capitalism and impose a new model of wealth onto the American public.
I think that is largely wrong, though a plausible mistake for a non-expert to make. Most of the “critique of scientific findings” on WUWT is simple denialism; there is very rarely enough understanding of the findings to produce any meaningful interaction or critique. And similarly for the other.