Project Title: Nature vs Climate: Instagram as a site of contestation for sustainability

German Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development grant, January 2022, EUR25,000 for one year.

Throughout history, the entangled interrelationships between nature and culture continually reflected the social and technological environments in which they were formulated. In the context of the current climate crisis, the contestation of the Anthropocene as a new geological epoch, in which environmental changes are attributed to human activities, also redefines the rapport between nature, culture, human agency and technology and calls  for an urgent articulation of the shaping, formulation and contestation of nature in digital media environment.
Focusing on Instagram, this study analyzes the contestation, epistemology, aesthetics and rhetoric of the mediation of nature and climate through the platforms’ affordances and the cultural practices of its users. It argues that while Instagram’s algorithms and affordances encourage the aestheticizing of nature, climate advocates are repurposing them to de-aestheticize and textualize the debate, so as to frame climate change as anthropogenic. We analyze the competing imaginaries of climate and nature on Instagram by mapping networks of user generated images and classifications, and by combining computational techniques and qualitative analysis to analyze the aesthetics of the images related to these tagged posts and the rhetoric of the posts’ texts. The project therefore contributes to contemporary understanding of the co-shaping and contestation of debates on sustainability and climate change by and through social media platforms.