Making sense of environmental change

My research locates itself in the area of environmental communication. At a general level, my research explores concepts such as knowledge, communication, sense-making, trust, agency and power. Empirically, I explore how different societal actors make sense of sustainability challenges and how such challenges could be addressed. The overarching aim of my research is to analyze challenges and opportunities involved as science-based knowledge about environment, climate and new and emerging technologies moves from the scientific arena to be recontextualized in other contexts, such as in political decisions, in the implementation of environmental objectives at different societal levels, in the media and in citizens’ everyday decisions.

I lead and conduct research with a Swedish as well as an international focus, in collaboration with colleagues at LiU, at other Swedish universities, and with international research groups. My research interests are mainly related to the three areas outlined below.

Sense-making analysis

One strand of my research concerns how different societal actors make sense of complex science-based information about environment, climate change, new and emerging technologies and societal transformations towards sustainability. This research takes its point of departure in dialogical communication theory, the theory of social representations, and frame analysis. Previous research has focused on social representations of genetically modified organisms (GMO), climate change and climate engineering. Ongoing and planned studies focus on how actors in different national and social contexts make sense of societal transformations towards sustainability, not least in view of increasing geopolitical uncertainties. 

Communicating climate change and sustainability

Another core focus of my research relates to climate change and sustainability communication, exploring questions such as: How do lay publics make sense of climate change causes, impacts and responses? How are social representations of climate change formed and maintained? How does framing of climate change influence sense-making among different target audiences for climate change communication? How is climate change covered and framed in the media, including special-interest media targeted at particular audiences? What are the roles of communicative resources such as images, metaphors, analogies and distinctions in the formation of social representations?

We also analyse how the rapid advances in the field of ICT-based visualization can be used for sustainability communication, and if and how visualization tools influence different societal actors’ sense-making. To this end, we have elaborated on analytical frameworks for the study of ICT-based climate visualization.Norrköping Decision Arena is an important setting for studies into the roles of ICT-based visualization tools for communication and decision-making support.

Methods development for research into environmental communication and sense-making

In analysing various dimensions of communication and sense-making, we employ both quantitative and qualitative methods. A large part of the research is, however, conducted from a qualitative approach, mainly using focus group methodology. I have a long-standing interest in developing analytical methods for focus group data, which takes into account the interactive features of such data. I am also involved in elaborating visualization-based focus group methodology, which draws on the competence at Tema Environmental Change and CSPR into ICT-based visualization, communication research, participatory methodology and the analysis of focus group data.

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In press

Linnér, B-O & Wibeck, V (forthcoming Nov. 2019). Sustainability Transformations: Agents and Drivers across Societies. Cambridge University press.

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Academic degree

  • 2009
    Associate Professor in the Department of Water and Environmental Studies, Linköping University
  • 2002
    Ph.D., Department of Thematic Studies - Communication, Linköping University
  • 1997
    Master in Communication Studies, Linköping University

Employments and mission

  • Oct 2017- March 2018
    Visiting professor at the School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, Massey University, Nya Zealand.
  • 2016
    Professor in Environmental Change and the Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research, LiU
  • 2015
    Assistant professor in Environmental Change and the Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research, LiU.
    Deputy Head of Department, Environmental Change
    Visiting fellow at the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, University of Oxford
  • 2013
    Director of postgraduate studies in environmental science

Project manager for research 

  • 2017-2020
    Mistra, responsible for the LiU-led projects in Mistra Carbon Exit
  • 2017-2020
    Mistra, Work package leader Mistra Geopolitics, WP 5: Foresight – Sweden in a changing geopolitical landscape
  • 2016-2019
    Formas, “Decarbonisation Leadership: Disentangling Swedish transformation pathways and their exemplary roles”
  • 2013-2015
    "Social representations of novel dual high-stake technologies: the case of geoengineering", Vetenskapsrådet.
  • 2013-2015
    ”Making sense of geoengineering”, Formas.
  • 2009-2011
    ”Making sense of climate change: a study of the formation and maintenance of social representations”, Vetenskapsrådet.



  • Teaching at the bachelor's program in Environmental Sciences
  •  Master Programme in Science for Sustainable Development, The graduate program in environmental science. 

Ph D Supervision

  • Anne Gammelgaard Ballantyne (finished 2018)
  • Therese Asplund (finished 2014) 

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