Post-Fact Fact Sheets: Dissociative Framing as a Strategy to Work Past Climate Change Denial
Shirley, Beth J.
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Purpose: This article presents a new rhetorical model for science and technical communication—specifically climate change communication—which the author is calling dissociative framing, in which climate change can be dissociated from the behaviors necessary to mitigate the human contribution to climate change, while positive associations are formed with those behaviors. This model serves as an alternative to the knowledge deficit model still in use in much science communication and is applicable both for students and practitioners of technical communication. Method: The model was developed by examining Matthew Nisbet’s work on framing in conjunction with Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca’s work on dissociation. I conducted a coded rhetorical analysis of two fact sheets produced by the Utah State University Extension Office with information on how their audience can change personal behaviors to mitigate their personal impact on climate change. I suggest how a dissociative frame would present the information more effectively. Results: A dissociative framing model can provide practitioners in technical and professional communication (TPC) a way to work around science skepticism and motivate action, especially when working with short, community-based genres, and can provide teachers of technical communication with a heuristic for instructing students on how to best engage a skeptical audience. Conclusion: While rural communities in the United States are especially prone to climate skepticism, it is important that they be informed and empowered to make the necessary behavioral changes to mitigate the human impact on climate change. Fact sheets published by extension services provide an excellent opportunity to inform and empower. A dissociative framing model provides a clear way to empower these communities with knowledge of how to mitigate their impact on climate change without diving into the political issues embroiled in climate science.
Shirley, B. J. (2021). Post-fact fact sheets: Dissociative framing as a strategy to work past climate change denial. Technical Communication, 68(2), 41-60.