Professor Marieke Fransen about the course Sustainability, Communication and Media

Docent Marieke Fransen
Examining how sustainability is communicated in the media is very relevant, especially as almost all the information we receive about this topic reaches us via the media
Marieke Fransen
Current role
Professor Communication Science

Marieke Fransen teaches the sustainable course Sustainability, Communication and Media. This course is meant for master students.

The Sustainability, Communication and Media course in brief …

'We examine how media and communication strategies can be used to raise awareness of sustainability and encourage sustainable behaviour. We discuss (environmental) sustainability within the context of the Sustainable Development Goals and focus on the following themes.

1) Environmental sustainability in the news: Which ways of framing sustainability can we identify in the news? What role does science communication play in perceptions about sustainability?

2) Environmental sustainability in popular and social media: How can documentaries and films raise awareness of environmental sustainability? How is environmental sustainability communicated on social media? How do we deal with fake news about sustainability?

3) Commercial and persuasive communication relating to environmental sustainability: What is the best way for you to communicate about environmental sustainability as an organisation? What are the effects of greenwashing? How do you use communication to motivate people to behave more sustainably?'

This course is relevant because …

'Most people are now convinced that climate change is happening and that we are experiencing the adverse impacts of it. Examining how sustainability is communicated in the media is very interesting and relevant, especially as almost all the information we receive about this topic reaches us via the media. The media therefore play a huge role in determining how we think about environmental sustainability and how we should tackle various challenges relating to the climate and biodiversity, for example. During this course students get the chance to share their thoughts on which themes we will discuss. This means that attention quickly turns to topical themes. Take the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations on the A12, for example. They started at more or less the same time as this course. During this year’s course we are therefore focusing attention on these demonstrations by studying literature on sustainability campaigning, and a guest speaker who works for Greenpeace as a mobilisation strategist will be visiting us to talk about the role of communication and media in the organisation of climate-related campaigns. Together with a group of students I also attended the school strike for climate change and we watched the A12 demonstration from the roadside. This made a real impression on the students, who said that the picture of the demonstrations painted in the media did not correspond with the reality.'

One concrete assignment students will do is … 

'As part of this course students work on various assignments. Following a guest lecture given by an alumnus who now works at Enexis, students were asked to design a behavioural change campaign to encourage people to change the way they consume energy. Working in groups, they also had to watch a documentary about sustainability and analyse it on the basis of theoretical models. They then made suggestions on changes that would make the documentary more impactful. In another assignment they were asked to come up with a communication strategy to make organisations like Extinction Rebellion more inclusive, in response to criticism of the organisation and its desire to become more inclusive and more diverse.'

Engaging with sustainability is important …

'Sustainability is an extremely broad concept. This course deals with environmental sustainability, and climate change plays a major role in this. For me it is an important topic, as I think it is for everyone, because we really need to change the way we treat our world and each other to ensure the world remains a liveable place. I have two children and it’s not nice to think that their world will look very different if we carry on as we are. But setting change in motion is no easy task. I see this when I look at my own behaviour, but it is also apparent from my research on resistance to change. It’s great that, in my role as a lecturer, I can talk to students about these topics and reflect with them on how we can use our knowledge to do our bit towards solving this problem.'

Do you want to know more about the Sustainability, Communication and Media course?

Read here the testimonial of student Lisa Weller

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