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Action Networks and Discourse Networks

How different societies around the world respond to the call for mitigation of their emissions associated with climate change is a complex process involving a number of different interacting factors. The relevant factors can be broadly modeled as two different types of networks – discourse networks and action networks. Both types of networks have their own systemic dynamics and properties. Since both types of network are social phenomena, they are therefore more than the sum of the individual ideas and individual actions between actors in the field or domain. Social network analysis can be used to analyze the whole topography or morphology of these multi-actor, multi-idea fields.

The Compon project uses both types of networks to examine the social and political dynamics of mitigation policy formation and outcome in a number of societies. Use of the Discourse Network Analyzer (DNA) software enables the examination of the discourse around climate change issues and policies within a society's media and/or legislative records. Pioneered by Philip Leifeld, DNA applies the methods of SNA to study the actors quoted in newspapers and the policy positions they advocate. When analyzed by network analysis techniques, this data reveals the ideational cleavage lines between actors or groups of actors within a media discourse field particular to a given society (Leifeld and Haunss 2012). As such, this quantitative technique provides empirical data to the theoretical position stressing the importance of collective representations of (ideas describing) phenomena developed in Actor-Network Theory through qualitative research methods (Latour 2005). The discourse field includes the ideas from scientific research that claim to accurately describe and predict natural phenomena as well as ideas welling up from less disciplined human processes that cloak such scientific claims in popular preferences and prejudices. This type of interaction has been deeply investigated in research on science and society (Jasanoff 2005). DNA allows the more precise identification of different types of discourse and their degree of support by political actors.

The other type of SNA, termed the policy network method, is used to investigate the relationships between actors active in the climate change policy sphere. The policy network method grew out of the quantitative network analysis developed in the 1960s and first applied to small groups or communities. The policy network analysis (PNA) approach turned that technique to study the policy formation process as influenced by organizations, including agencies within the state and associations with society as an interactive polity. Researchers first used PNA to examine American and German political processes during the 1970s (Laumann and Pappi 1976). They subsequently expanded the approach to compare Germany, the US and Japan (Knoke et al. 1996). As distinct from the newspaper discourse analyzed by DNA, the policy network survey gets responses about their ideas, resources and networks directly from representatives of the groups and organizations involved in the policy influence process. The survey data therefore allows for a precise examination of the discourse (policy stances, beliefs, ideologies) held by organizations as well as their coalition formation, political pursuits and degrees of influence. The use of a standardized basic network survey in multiple cases (nation-states or areas) allows for rigorous cross-case comparison and the search for common causal factors leading to emissions trajectories (from 1990 to present, in sum increasing, reducing, or level) (Broadbent 2010).

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