Twitter and the Struggle to Transform the Object: A Study of Clean Coal in the 2017 Australian Energy Policy Public Debate
This paper investigates unusually high spikes in Twitter engagement in Australia in February 2017 invoking the 2014 Peabody Energy global public relations campaign Advanced Energy for Life (AEFL) trope clean coal. Focusing on peak Twitter events, it asks: What caused the spike, what was amplified and signified by the dominant tweeters, and what was the content and tenor of discussion generated? Applying discourse analysis to an archive of Australian-based Twitter activity, the research argues that despite widespread ridicule of clean coal as oxymoronic by contemporary publics, the increased engagement provided unintended impetus for the PR campaign objectives. The research contributes to greater understanding of the reach, influence, and limitations of Twitter-based public debate.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Media Centre. . (2017). Census reveals the ‘typical’ Australian [Media release] Retrieved from: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs%40.nsf/mediareleasesbyCatalogue/5E54C95D3D5020C6CA2580FE0013A809?OpenDocument
Ariel, B. (2016, March 21). #auspol: The Twitter hashtag Australia can't live without. Mashable Australia. Retrieved from https://mashable.com/2016/03/21/twitter-australia-auspol/#MKJh1x9OFEqD
Bruns, A. (2017, August 8). Beyond the cult of numbers: We need a more sophisticated approach to social media metrics for editorial decision-making. Walkley Magazine. Retrieved from https://medium.com/the-walkley-magazine/beyond-the-cult-of-numbers-128f76d78aaa
Bruns, A., Burgess, J., Banks, J., Tjondronegoro, D., Dreiling, A., Hartley, J., Leaver, T., Aly, A., Highfield, T., Wilken, R., Rennie, E., Lusher, D., Allen, M., Marshall, D., Demetrious, K., & Sadkowsky, T. (2016). TrISMA: Tracking Infrastructure for Social Media Analysis. Retrieved from Tracking Infrastructure for Social Media Analysis website: https://trisma.org/.
Butler, J. (2017, September 2). Scott Morrison brought a lump of coal and waved it around in parliament. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/02/08/scott-morrison-brought-a-lump-of-coal-and-waved-it-around-in-par_a_21710206/
BuzzFeed. (2019). BuzzFeed. Retrieved from https://www.buzzfeed.com/about.
ClimActs. (2017). The clean coal fairyTM (every polluter’s fantasy). Retrieved from: https://climacts.org.au/2017/02/16/the-clean-coal-fairy-every-polluters-fantasy/
Davis, B. (2013). Hashtag politics: The polyphonic revolution of #Twitter. Pepperdine Journal of Communication Research, 1. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/pjcr/vol1/iss1/4/
Demetrious, K. (2016). Stoking expectations: Public relations and the politics of "bogans." In D. Marshall, G. D’Cruz, S. McDonald, & K. Lee (Eds.), Contemporary publics: Shifting boundaries in new media, technology and culture (pp. 181-197). London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Demetrious, K. (2017). Contemporary publics, Twitter and the story of PR: Exploring corporate interventions to promote “Clean Coal” in Australia, Journal of Public Interest Communications, 1(1), pp. 94-113. doi:10.32473/jpic.v1.i1.p94
Fairclough, N. (1992) Discourse and social change. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press.
Farrell, H., & Drezner D. W. (2007). The power and politics of blogs. Public Choice, 134,15-30. doi:10.1007/s11127-007-9198-1
Fehrenbacher, K. (2016, October 10). What Donald Trump didn’t mention about clean coal. Fortune. Retrieved from http://fortune.com/2016/10/10/donald-trump-clean-coal/
Gartrell, A. (2017, February 20) Green bank could fund coal under Malcolm Turnbull rule changes. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/green-bank-could-fund-coal-under-malcolm-turnbull-rule-changes-20170219-gugb4i.html
Harmsen, N. (2017, February 9). AEMO to blame for load shedding during SA heatwave, Australian Energy Regulator finds. ABC News. Retreived from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-29/aemo-to-blame-for-load-shedding-during-sa-heatwave-report-finds/8481954
Hay, J. L. (2009). Challenges to liberalism: The case of Australian energy policy. Resources Policy, 34(3), 142-149. doi:10.1016/j.resourpol.2008.05.001
Hopke, J. (2015). Hashtagging politics: Transnational anti-fracking movement Twitter practices, Social Media + Society, 1(2), 1-12. doi:10.1177/2056305115605521
Iggulden, T. (2017, February 20). 'Clean coal' cheaper than renewable energy to lower emissions, lobby group claims. ABC News. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-21/clean-coal-cheaper-than-renewable-energy-says-lobby-group/8288620
Ihlen, O., Raknes, K, Somerville I, Valentini C, Stachel C, Lock I, Davidson S, Seele P. (2018). Framing “the public interest”: Comparing public lobbying campaigns in four European states. Journal of Public Interest Communications, 2(1), 107-128. doi:10.32473/jpic.v2.i1.p107
Long, S. (2017, February 1). Clean coal explained: Why emissions reductions from coal remain a pipe dream. ABC News. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-02/clean-coal-explained/8235210
Ludlow, M., & Potter, B. (2017, February 3). Turnbull wants to change rules to use clean energy fund for coal projects. The Financial Review. Retrieved from https://www.afr.com/news/politics/turnbull-wants-to-change-rules-to-use-clean-energy-fund-for-coal-projects-20170203-gu4oua
Marshall, P. D. (2016). Introduction: The plurality of publics. In P. D. Marshall, G. D'Cruz, S. McDonald, & K. Lee (Eds.). Contemporary publics: Shifting boundaries in new media technology and culture (pp. 1-15). London, UK: Palgrave MacMillan.
McHugh, B. (2017, February 14). The role of clean coal technologies in reducing emissions. ABC News. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2017-02-15/scientists-say-for-all-energy-sources-including-coal/8267880
Mercer, A., De Rijke, K. and Dressler, W. (2014). Silences in the boom: Coal seam gas, neoliberalizing discourse, and the future of regional Australia. Journal of Political Ecology, 21(1), 279-302. doi:10.2458/v21i1.21137
Mirowski, P. (2009). The neo-liberal thought collective. Renewal, 17(4), 26-36. Retrieved from https://www.questia.com/magazine/1G1-237057729/the-neo-liberal-thought-collective
Mirowski, P., Walker, J, & Abboud, A. (2013). Beyond denial. Overland, 210, 80-84. Retrieved from https://overland.org.au/previous-issues/issue-210/feature-philip-mirowski-jeremy-walker-antoinette-abboud/
Morgan, R. (2016). Twitter: a bird in the hand for 5.4m Australians. Retrieved from http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/6859-twitter-active-users-australia-march-2016-201606210913
Murphy, K. (2016, November 10). Turnbull signals Australia won't follow Trump's lead on Paris climate agreement. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/nov/10/turnbull-signals-australia-wont-follow-trumps-lead-on-paris-climate-agreement
Peabody Energy Corporation. (2014). Advanced Energy for Life campaign launched to build awareness and support to end “world’s number one human and environmental crisis” of global energy poverty (no longer available online, in possession of author).
Peeples, J., Bsumek, P., Schwarze, S. J., & Schneider, J., (2014). "Industrial apocalyptic: Neoliberalism, coal, and the burlesque frame." Communication Studies Faculty Publications. Paper 14,1-39. Retrieved from: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/68ae/443cb22f850b1a8ff03935a65f1f9ee2ea18.pdf
Pini, B., Mayes, R., & McDonald P. (2010). The emotional geography of a mine closure: A study of the Ravensthorpe nickel mine in Western Australia. Social & Cultural Geography 11(6), 559-574. doi:10.1080/14649365.2010.497850
Pini, B., McDonald, P. & Mayes, R. (2012). Class contestations and Australia's resource boom: The emergence of the 'Cashed-up Bogan.' Sociology 46(1), 142-158. doi:10.1177/0038038511419194
Raisborough, J., & Adams, M. (2008). Mockery and morality in popular cultural representations of the white, working class. Sociological Research Online 13(6), 1-13. doi:10.5153/sro.1814
Revers, M., (2014). The augmented newsbeat: Spatial structuring in a Twitterized news ecosystem. Media, Culture & Society, 37(1), 3-18. doi:10.1177/0163443714549085
Schneider, J., Schwarze, S., Bsumek, P. K., & Peeples, J. (2016). Under pressure: Coal industry rhetoric and neoliberalism. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Sensis. (2016). Sensis Social Media Report 2016: How Australian People and Businesses are Using Social Media. Retrieved from https://irp-cdn.multiscreensite.com/535ef142/files/uploaded/Sensis_Social_Media_Report_2016.pdf
Tumasjan, A., Sprenger, T. O., & Sandner, P. G., & Welpe, I.M. (2010). Predicting elections with twitter: What 140 characters reveal about political sentiment. Paper presented at the Fourth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media. Munich, Germany.
Vincent, P. (2015, January 14). Terry Mann's 'Straya remake of Outkast's Hey Ya! is a bogan anthem. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/terry-manns-straya-remake-of-outkasts-hey-ya-is-a-bogan-anthem-20150114-12ny3v.html
By submitting to the Journal of Public Interest Communications, the author(s) agree to the terms of the Author Agreement. All authors retain copyrights associated with their article contributions and agree to make such contributions available under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY NC) 4.0 upon publication.
This agreement takes effect upon acceptance of the Submission for publication in JPIC.
- I hereby grant to the University of Florida (“the University”) the non-exclusive right to retain, reproduce and distribute the Submission in whole or in part, in print and electronic format and in any medium. This agreement does not represent a transfer of copyright to the University.
- The University may make and keep multiple copies of the work for purposes of security, backup, preservation and access; and may migrate the work to any medium or format for the purpose of preservation and access.
- I represent and warrant to the University that the work is my original work and that I have the authority as sole author or I have the authority on behalf of my co-authors to grant the rights contained in this agreement. I also represent that the work does not, to the best of my knowledge, infringe or violate any rights of others.
- I further represent and warrant that I have obtained all necessary rights to permit the University to reproduce and distribute the work, including any third-party material. Alternatively, I represent that my use of any third-party material is allowed because the material is not in copyright or I have performed a fair use analysis and reasonably believe my use is permitted. Any content owned by a third party is clearly identified and acknowledged within the work.
- I grant these same rights to the George A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida. Additionally, I grant the right to both the University and Smathers Libraries to enter into agreements with third-party entities and the rights necessary to host, print, index and abstract the Submission.
Open Access and Self-Archiving
JPIC follows an open-access publishing model, meaning that all articles will be publicly accessible on the Internet immediately upon publication. I understand that I may share the submitted manuscript (preprint) of the Submission on the Internet at any point before or after publication, with a citation and link to the final version of record to be added as soon as the issue is available. I may disseminate the final peer-reviewed version at any point after publication.
Creative Commons License
JPIC applies a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY NC) 4.0 to encourage sharing and reuse of content and to maximize the impact of published research. By publishing in JPIC, I agree that the terms of this license will be applied to the Submission. Smathers Libraries (email@example.com) may be able to offer additional information.
By granting this license, I acknowledge that I have read and agreed to the terms of this agreement.