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Therese Asplund

Associate professor

My research interests focus on perceptions of environmental- and climate change and in particular how these perceptions are formed and withheld through dialogical processes. I primarily use frame analysis on media material and focus group material.

Environment and communication in focus

Environmental issues, and how perceptions of environmental issues are created in interaction with other people, is at the core of both the research and the teaching I am engaged in. The analytical framework, the methods, and the pedagogical approach I apply all emphasizes the relevancy of communication and interaction to how we perceive environmental issues.

My research concerns communicative aspects of environmental issues, and particularly climate change. I have studied media frames of climate change and public perception of climate change. To understand how climate change is communicated and understood.

In current projects, I study the interaction between game design and different actors' perceptions of climate adaptation and its negative effects. In the Seed-box funded project "Narratives as bridge-building practice", I study how narratives and stories can act as bridges between different understanding of climate (mal)adaptation. Part of my research also focuses on perceptions on how societies can be transformed into becoming more sustainable. The EXPECT project studies local urban experiments while the Societal Transformations Lab spans local and global dimensions.

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Analytical framework and Methods

Below is a presentation of analytical frameworks and methods that I primarily use in my research.

Analytical frameworks – interactional frame analysis

I work with frame analysis as analytical framework. The literature on frame analysis argue that when we make meaning of the world around us, we make use of often unconscious structures, so-called frames. Frame analysis therefore argues that we cannot talk about environmental issues, such as climate change, but to frame it in any way. 

Frame analysis also emphasizes the relationship between perceptions and actions and suggests that frames guide actions through the promotion of a particular problem definition and solution recommendation. I analyze the relationship between perceptions of problem definition and solutions by critically examine various arguments and assumptions as well as their formation. 

Furthermore, frame analysis speaks of credibility to understand why some frames resonates with a particular audience while others don´t. Frame analysis suggests that frame resonance depends partly on frame consistency, credibility of knowledge production and credibility of information source. My research involves analyzing credibility and the joint construction of credibility.

I adopts a dialogical perspective on sense-making which also means a dialogical perspective on framing processes. Dialogism assume that meaning is created in interaction and thus, I view sense-making processes as dynamic. Frame analysis tends to be static while serving the purpose of that an issue can be understood in many different ways and from different angles. The dialogic frame analysis emphasizes the role of interaction in the construction of meaning and emphasizes process rather than perspective. Thus, I focus in my research not only on different frames, but also on how they are formed.

Qualitative methods

To gain insight into how people understand and relate to environmental issues, I work mainly with focus group material. Focus groups are a method that enables the exchange of ideas, thoughts and experiences between participants. One of the challenges as moderator is to create conditions for fruitful discussions - both for participants and for me as a researcher. Overall, I see that qualitative approaches allow for a contextual understanding of different views and therefore, I also conduct qualitative studies of media content as well as qualitative interviews. My analysis is aimed at both the spoken and the unspoken. To study the explicit statements I use thematic content analysis with a focus on recurring themes in the material. To identify implicit statements such as frames and how they formed, I analyze different framing devices, or communication tools, such as metaphors, analogies and distinctions (prototypical) example.


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Meaning-construction in interaction

"Meaning-construction in interaction" are some key words that permeate my research as well as my teaching. I am mainly engaged in teaching at a problem-based (PBL) bachelor program in Environmental Science, Linköping University.

I have the privilege to do individual as well as group supervision, lead courses and examine students. In teaching, I have the privilege to see how meaning and learning are created as it takes on a a number of expressions, such as when the students are working their way towards a deepening understanding, or when I can see the joy in that together they manage to “crack that code”. I also have the advantage, I write the advantage, seeing the difficulties that “meaning-construction in interaction” often brings. Typical examples are frustrations and conflicts in the groups which often results in lack of in-depth learning processes. In these cases, we have the opportunity to reflect on the students’ own efforts, how one student's goals and ambitions might be in conflict with someone else's goals and aspirations, and to find strategies to constructively work together towards a common goal.

I see that one of my main tasks as a supervisor of group processes to be responsive, to see how the process and learning are interrelated and mirror the reflections to the students as input for enhanced learning.

Problematise more

Working for an improved environment requires insight into a variety of perspectives. An environmental issue can rarely be solved by technology alone, legal instruments or biological processes, but often requires a thematic overview and understanding. Therefore, in my teaching I introduce almost always a perspective that contrasts with another. Thus, I teach problem solving environmental engineers different views on climate change and its solutions, or teach students in climate visualization to reflect on what it might mean to visualize the social dimensions of climate change.

In addition, I supervise bachelor students through the environmental sciences’ sometimes chaotic ontology, epistemology, methodology, methods, analyzes and I supervise student reflection upon ideas of environmental issues, as consisting of natural, anthropogenic or cultural dimensions.
I see that one of my main tasks as a teacher is to increase students' awareness of the many perspectives on environmental issues, enhancing their analytical capacity to identify and understand the basis of different perspectives and in length to increase students' critical reflection.