The Digital Culture and Communication section of ECREA
Purpose and the Perspective of the Study
The purpose of the study was to research digital media practices of environmentalists who live in the city of Antalya (Turkey). We believe that environmentalism has emerged against the neo-liberal consumption policies. Environmentalists, whose aim is to protect nature with sustainable consumption practices have begun to be identified by establishing a new ecological habitus. Horton categorized environmentalists as ‘Radicals” and ‘Reformist’. According to his distinctions, Radicals prefer to live in nature while Reformists mostly realize green consumption practices (2003).
The new possibilities of global networks also have been used by environmentalists. As Castells demonstrates, people have their own system of mass-communication and mass-self communication. The new forms of communication allow individuals to generate their own content, to self-direct, and self select in reception (Castells, 2007). Couldry emphasizes the new media actors. He finds that not only the “what” of media is changing, but also the “who” of media is changing. In addition, the emergence of mobility made possible the opportunities to express oneself in the global arena (2012). Another important feature of the digital media is its ability to be interactive. Digital prosumption allow individuals to participate in media production, and the media consumer becomes a media producer (Eden, 2015).
Ethnographic research was conducted with 11 people (snowball technique) who defined themselves as environmentalists. Antalya was chosen due to its natural features. It was observed that environmental activists prefer Antalya for reasons such as its mild climate, intact natural resources, areas of outdoor activities, being close to the airport, and tourism opportunities. The research questions included: The definition of environmentalist identity, the digital technologies that were owned, the reasons for using digital space, the digital practices of everyday life organization.
The findings on environmentalist identity showed that those who identify themselves as environmentalist were well- educated middle-class individuals. Even though there were two forms of identity as Radicals (environmentalist activist) and Reformists, there was no clear and sharp distinction between them. Radicals prefer to live in forest while Reformists try to transform their lives by their sustainable choices in the city. Radicals have emphasized the necessity of social change for environmental protection while Reformists have primarily emphasized individual changes over social change. Both opposed the human-centred destruction of nature. Both were influenced by local and global environmental activist groups. Environmentalists viewed Antalya as a city that strengthens their environmentalist identity for reasons such as vivid local culture, intact nature, variety in local plants etc.
It seems that everyday practices of Reformists and Radicals was separated. However, the distinction between them was not very clear. Practices such as house building, clothing, alimentation, heating, second hand clothing, looking for natural resources and bicycling in order to reduce carbon emission, growing organic food and living in nature were mainly performed by Radicals. It was observed that the Reformers mainly prefer to live in city and perform environmentally friendly green consumption practices in terms of heating, hygiene, clothing and alimentation. The common practice was that the Veganism or being vegetarian were adopted as the basic nutritional practice, and waste practices for sustainable consumption also were applied.
Use of Digital Space
Environmentalist owned and used communication technologies such as laptops, tablets, GPS, mobile phone etc. Environmentalists use the digital space for communication, global public sphere, online community and offline events, job-related activities and in organization of everyday practices.
Communication purposes: WhatsApp, E-mail groups and Facebook being used mostly in organization of offline and online events. An example for an offline event: A “yurt” has been built by the donations collected through Facebook. Participants used Facebook to communicate and collect donations from around the world. The money was used to built the yurt in order to host guests in forest.
Radicals prefer to communicate within their own networks, where in some cases online participation was protected. Reformers were using the communication field mostly for socialization.
Forming and building communities: Radicals mostly prefer to communicate within their own networks, which in some cases, the online participation is protected. These networks-communities- were formed through online and offline practices. In some cases, they were using special software programs within their networks.
Use of global public sphere: Global communication networks allow environmentalists to be connected at all times in global public sphere. Participants who were implementing customized and personalized digital media practices seem to have established their own public spaces, and acted with mobility in the global arena. Global and local ecologists websites, social media, YouTube channels etc. were being followed. Events, protests and court announcements were also disseminated in the digital space.
For example, one of the participant shared an information in relation with his environmentalist activist condition on Facebook, and prepared a video with people around him, and uploaded the video on Twitter. This protest video went around on the digital public sphere and people made their own supporting videos about it, and uploaded on the social media.
Environmentalists were organizing various activities for business purposes in Antalya as well. It can be said that these activities have been aimed at strengthening the environmental identity. Among examples, they were sharing photos of outdoor activities that they perform on social media or other example of prosumption participant said “I wanted to share the knowledge and experience of ecological life by hosting people for eco-tourism seminars or individual retreat”. Participant was promoting ecological house at Airbnb.
Organization of everyday life: It was observed that there were different practices according to the place where environmentalists were living. Radicals preferred to live in nature. They practice agriculture, follow sustainable consumption, choose voluntary simplicity whereas Reformists were trying to transform their life in the city. They were practicing terrace gardening and looking for sustainable and environment friendly products. Radicals and Reformists were using digital media space in their daily life for searching, socializing, participating, producing and purchasing in the sense of green practices. Some of the means of communications were: Web page, video capture, live broadcast, social media pages etc.
An example for searching- knowledge- quotation: Reformist participant shared an image from BBC-Earth for world animal day. Radical participant shared the event of Vandana Shiva in Earth Festival on Facebook. An example for Reformist on socialization; a photo of the popular outdoor activity such as rock climbing was shared or photo of vegan food prepared by the participant was shared on Facebook. Another example of prosumption: Radical participant told us that they made a video about the process of building their earthbag house, and shared it in global digital space. Participant said “We want to share that what we want for ourselves is possible for everyone. We made a video while we were building our Çuva. We had our own website and uploaded it there. We shared it in the social media. And then it spread out”. One participant was broadcasting what she called “Forest TV” on Instagram where she was showing the natural life around her environment. Participants also talked about the websites they follow for green consumption which promote outdoor products, vegan restaurants and technological products with green labels.
Results of the Study
Environmentalist identity has formed itself in two ways: Radicals and Reformists. Nevertheless, there was no clear and sharp distinction between them. Geographical structure of Antalya was also influential in the formation of environmental identity as it increased business opportunities. Reformists were more inclined to green consumption whereas Radicals choose voluntary simplicity in their life. It was observed that the digital technologies that were owned by environmentalists was sufficient to operate in digital space. However, Radicals who live in forest had internet access problems due to lack of net infrastructure. Digital media space was used for disseminating and sharing common knowledge, values, feelings, experience and interests in general.
Radicals and Reformists used digital media in a prosumptive way. It was seen that digital use of Radicals was especially for the purpose of forming communities, communicating within their own network, and being visible in the global public sphere. Reformists use of digital media was mainly in relation with their job related activities and socialization. Radicals and Reformists were using digital media space in their everyday life for searching, socializing, participating, producing and purchasing. However, the differences between the usage of both groups were observed in accordance with their needs and purposes in daily practices.
An example for some practices: Digital space was not used by Radicals for purchasing whereas Reformist used it constantly for purchasing. In the sense of socialization, Radicals were using digital space to share nature around them. Reformists were using digital space to share their green practices such as rock climbing, photos of the vegan food etc. Radicals production of digital contents were mainly in relation with their environmentalist identity whereas Reformists production seemed to be more in relation with their jobs.
Castells, M. (2007). Communication, power and counter-power in the network society. International Journal of Communication. 1. 238-266.
Couldry, N. (2012). Media, society, world: social theory and digital media practice. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Eden, S. (2015). Blurring the boundaries: prosumption, circularity and online sustainable consumption through Freecycle. Journal of Consumer Culture. 1–21.
Horton, D. (2003). Green distinctions: the performance of identity among environmental activists. The Sociological Review. 51(2). 63-77.