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Rethinking the meaning of “landscape shocks” in energy transitions: German social representations of the Fukushima nuclear accident

Upham, P and Eberhardt, L and Klapper, RG (2020) Rethinking the meaning of “landscape shocks” in energy transitions: German social representations of the Fukushima nuclear accident. Energy Research and Social Science, 69. ISSN 2214-6296

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Abstract

© 2020 Elsevier Ltd Sociotechnical sustainability transitions are understood to involve changes in cultural meaning, alongside a wide variety of other changes. One of the most popular conceptual models of such change, the multi-level perspective, exogenously locates slow-changing cultural factors in the ‘sociotechnical landscape’, viewing this landscape as periodically subject to ‘shocks’ that may support the break-through of niche innovations. Here we emphasise that shock to a sociotechnical system has social psychological dimensions, including meaning-related correlates. Accordingly, we apply social representations theory, as a theory of meaning, to provide a social psychological account of energy landscape shock and associated policy change. For illustration we take newspaper representations of the 2011 German social and policy response to the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan. The study illustrates the inter-related role of affect, identity and symbolic meaning-making in the public response to a sociotechnical landscape shock.

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