Accepted paper:

Definitions and classifications in discursive practice: The construction of geoengineering on Wikipedia


Nils Markusson (Lancaster University)
Tommaso Venturini (École Normale Supérieure Lyon)
Andreas Kaltenbrunner (Barcelona Media)
David Laniado (Barcelona Media)

Paper short abstract:

Paper long abstract:

Geoengineering is a highly contested option in our deliberations on how to deal with anthropogenic climate change. The dominating framing of geoengineering sets it up as an alternative to mitigation and adaption, and as consisting of two main kinds of technology: solar radiation management (SRM) and carbon dioxide removal (CDR), but also these basic definitional and classificatory claims are contested. Critical mapping of how geoengineering is defined and classified is needed.

Wikipedia offers a new opportunity to study the construction of definitions and classifications in discursive practice. The encyclopaedia genre with its discrete, labelled entries provides conceptual quanta that can serve as reference points when mapping the discourse. The hyperlinked network of links and texts of the medium allows us to analyse the construct of geoengineering on Wikipedia as a fractal topology that reveals subtle definitional and classificatory structures.

Two datasets were created tracing the geoengineering construct, shedding light on its internal structure and boundary to its context. The results show that geoengineering is indeed a distinct entity on Wikipedia, but also that it is constructed along a gradient where some articles are closer to the core of the concept than others. The analysis shows a tendency towards asymmetrically associating geoengineering with SRM rather than CDR technologies, whereas the latter are more closely interconnected with climate mitigation and adaptation. Moreover, the SRM and CDR categories themselves are shown to be problematic. The mediation of the geoengineering controversy by Wikipedia thus allows us to critically challenge dominating definitions and classifications.

panel G2
Digital mediation and re-mediation: What prospects for a future STS?