Can environmental citizenship be enhanced through social media? A case study of engagement in a UK University




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


The research presented in this thesis focuses around the question: “can social media tools be used effectively to foster a participatory process that increases environmental citizenship and promote pro-environmental behaviour-change?”. The research aims to understand the role of staff and students in the socio-technical system that influences an institution’s environmental impact. Users need not to be educated, but empowered in order to be able to take decisions that would reduce the environmental impact of their institutions. Therefore a participatory process is suggested as the right tool to nurture environmental citizens, who will be able to take ‘right’ and ‘good’ decisions about their pro-environmental actions. In the last years, social media have emerged as a worldwide phenomenon. But alongside the grand claims of a social media inspired ‘revolution’ lie more nuanced questions around the role of digital tools in ‘every day’ contexts, and whether or not they are facilitating a cultural change or merely adding to the noise of modern life. The thesis contributes to the debate through presenting findings from an action research study at an East Midlands University in which a case study approach was implemented to explore the potentialities offered by participating in decision-making regarding pro-environmental issues in the institutional context, as they are mediated by social media. To generate behaviour-change the two correlated theories of public engagement and environmental citizenship were tested. Findings indicate that behaviour change and enhanced environmental citizenship are achievable through participation using social media, as several interviewees reported a change or a reinforcement of already existing pro-environmental behaviours as a consequence of the campaign. However, the reported changes were minor and it is difficult to advocate that they could noticeably contribute to the requested reduction targets on carbon emission from behaviour-change of the HE sector.





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