Images speak —they can tell us, for example, what their creators saw. This image was taken by a photographer on the island nation of Kiribati. It is in the eye of the beholder that images develop their full meaning.
Images speak —they can tell us, for example, what their creators saw. This image was taken by a photographer on the island nation of Kiribati. It is in the eye of the beholder that images develop their full meaning. V. Sokhin/laif

Headline: Narratives and Images of Sustainability

Duration:
to

Which narrative patterns shape discourses of sustainable development, and how do they reinforce or weaken their impact? How have these narratives developed, and who conveys them within the political arena? Can the goals that we ascribe to ourselves and others in connection with the subject of sustainability be traced back to fundamental value orientations? And if so, to which? And, where discourse does not suffice - Can the arts 'step in' to support their symbolic representation? These are some of the central questions that are explored in the IASS research project "Narratives and Images of Sustainability". Its research activities include the analyses of content from diverse thematic fields as well as dialogues with various actors interested in sustainability communication from the media, local politics and the scientific community.

Values and narratives of sustainability

The findings of the project's initial explorative phase suggest that the history and topicality of sustainability discourse is shaped by a few basic values, namely preservation/security, innovation and justice. The researchers are now investigating whether this is in fact the case, and how well these conflicting values translate into "narrative" speech, on the basis of case studies focussing primarily on international ocean governance and German mobility policy, which are the subject of study in other IASS projects.

The search for "glocal" stories

Discussing sustainability is made all the more difficult by the interactions of the global and local dimensions of this planetary crisis. The need to present the global dimension of sustainability not as an abstract idea but within the context of local realities is a particularly pressing challenge - especially when sustainability is understood as a question of social rights and freedoms rather than mere protection against external (environmental) dangers. Researchers working on this project study linguistic and artistic solutions that have been used in successful communication products - be it in the media, in theatre projects, or in science itself. These solutions are discussed and disseminated in academic publications and lectures for various target groups.