Part 4.1: Individual, collective, other

February 4, 2021

We are now at the stage where we start to dig into the patterns and ask what they might be telling us. 

Let’s start by looking at two triads that look at possibility and responsibility, involving similar factors from different angles. The first triad is more positively-oriented; it is an expectation of good things to come. It has three large clusters of stories close to individuals, governments, and at the centre, the latter suggesting a combination or collaboration of all three. Business is a minor outlier here. 

Responsibility, the core idea behind the second triad is a bit more ambitious: it isn’t just an expectation, but an obligation, for good as well as bad. Government is not present here, but the tension is instead between individual, collective, and commercial. There is a slight emphasis on collective action with significant clusters of stories emphasising individual behaviour or the connection between multiple elements. Business practices are, once again, a very small outlier. 

Now, let’s add a third triad to the mix:

You might have noticed that we have moved in tone, from positive, to ambiguous, to more negative. This is the negative side of responsibility – essentially, blame. The patterns of blame in this triad show that there is an emphasis on everyone’s actions (or failures to act), indicated by the large cluster of stores in the centre, and equally or more on government’s lack of action. There is also a significant cluster connecting business and government, which could potentially refer to the aspect of regulating or controlling business practices and interests. Comparing this triad to the ones that came before we can make the following observations:

  • Government is consistently seen as a major influencer in the area of climate change. 
  • To put it bluntly, people expect nothing of big businesses. This might suggest that even practices that are consistently anti-environmental could be seen as expected; business as usual. 
  • However, in the space that combines government and business, there is perhaps an expectation on reigning in or regulation that can be explored. 
  • The emphasis on individuals is greater in the first two, more positive, triads, but there is lower willingness to emphasise individuals when it comes to blame. 

But it also raises questions:

  • What forms does collective action take in context, beyond government?
  • Where are people seeing the intersection between individual and collective?
  • Do people who have positive expectations from businesses see responsibility differently?
  • Is there a more individualistic slant in the stories emphasising individual responsibility and individual potential?

Next Series: Part 4.2: Individual, collective, other

Previous Series: Part 3: Small actions

In the next installment of this series, we are going to look at interrelations between triads in order to address these questions, and start diving into the context of the stories as well.

And as always, don’t forget our ongoing climate change MassSense.


Bee image by Boba Jaglicic on Unsplash

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