Affect is increasingly the object of study in research communication, and inducement of affect by means of different communication techniques is encouraged as a means for mobilizing the public. But a focus on affect in purely instrumental terms risks overlooking the multifaceted ways in which affect is used in research communication. Studying open letters on climate change penned by scientists provides an interesting context for an empirical and theoretical exploration of the intricate ways of using affect in research communication. Two analytical lenses which constitute two strands of research commonly seen as incompatible due to their different units of analysis – affect as linguistic representation and affect as practice – are combined to elucidate the aligning potentials of affect in communicative acts. Affective alignments as representation or practice are significant because affective connections made between actors, objects, actions and understandings are ways of looking at the indirect mobilization of the issue communicated. In relation to research communication, this analytical approach further reveals shifting science-society relations, where social alignments are responding to the nexus of practices in which researchers are situated. Attention to the use of affect in open letters reveals specific configurations between affect, cognition and action as scientists prescribe specific affective states – anxiety and concern – as integral to the understanding and action on climate matters. Furthermore, affect both aligns and separates scientists from other actors in society. Most notably, open letters position politicians as dissociated from scientists and civil society due to their lack of anxiety.
Subject classification (UKÄ)
- Communication Studies
- Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
- Environmental communication
- Actor alignments