Understanding Persuasive Environmental Communication and Imagery

Dates: 10-14 July, 09:30 – 12:30

Abstract: This graduate-level course will explore science and environmental communication from a persuasive angle. The focus is on theories and best practices as they relate to communicating effectively about contemporary complex issues, such as climate change, species loss, access to potable water, etc. The seminar tackles the question of how do we encourage audiences to think about, value and act on behalf of the environment. It will examine the following themes: 1) the social construction of the environment and environmental problems; 2) how the environment is communicated in mass media; 3) theories of persuasion and how mass communication can change attitudes related to the environment; and, 4) theories of behavior change and how persuasive communication can facilitate environmentally friendly behaviors. A common touchpoint running through each theme will be the role of visuals. Special attention will be paid to theories of information processing and visual depictions of the environment and environmental issues, for example in advertising, infographics, and data visualization images.

Lucy Atkinson’s research looks at the connections between mass media, civic engagement and consumer culture. She focus most closely on environmental and political communication and how they foster forms of sustainable citizenship. Her research takes a social-scientific approach to questions about environmental communication and sustainability, and the ways in which consumer behavior and communication campaigns might help mitigate the effects of environmental crises like climate change, while supporting social justice and civic engagement. It is firmly rooted in a normative concern for a well-functioning society and the ways in which individuals can enact their political and civic values in the marketplace rather than via formal political institutions. She focus on the ways message components (like visual elements, argument frames, source factors) in environmental communication campaigns interact with other message components to influence environmental attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.
Atkinson’s work has appeared in top-ranked flagship outlets, like the Journal of Advertising and the International Journal of Communication, and in highly regarded specialty publications, like Environmental Communication and Science Communication. Outside of academia, her work has been covered in international and national news media, including the Guardian (UK) newspaper, National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition and the Dallas Morning News. She has received research funding from the Mass Communication & Society division of AEJMC, the Association for Consumer Research, the University of Michigan at Dearborn, the Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society, and the Arthur W. Page Center at Penn State. She has taught classes in advertising history, public relations, journalism, research methods, media effects and consumer behavior. In 2016 she was named a recipient of the UT System Regent’s Outstanding Teaching Award and in 2017 she was named a Provost Teaching Fellow. Before pursuing her doctorate, she worked for several years as a newspaper reporter in New York and as a public relations consultant in Madison, WI.


Early bird offer (24th April – 19th May) Standard Price (20th May – 9th June)
Student 25€ 50€
Academia 50€ 100€
Other 75€ 150€

A certificate of participation will be issued upon attendance of 75% of the course classes.

Maximum number of participants: 20
Requirements: Laptop



For doubts or questions related with registration, please email susana.cunha@mil.up.pt or call 220 408 400.