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Three maps and three misunderstandings: A digital mapping of climate diplomacy

Tommaso Venturini, Nicolas Baya-Laffite, Jean-Philippe Cointet, Ian Gray, Vinciane Zabban, Kari de Pryck

This article proposes an original analysis of the international debate on climate change through the use of digital methods. Its originality is twofold. First, it examines a corpus of reports covering 18 years of international climate negotiations, a dataset never explored before through digital techniques. This corpus is particularly interesting because it provides the most consistent and detailed reporting of the negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Second, in this paper we test an original approach to text analysis that combines automatic extractions and manual selection of the key issue-terms. Through this mixed approach, we tried to obtain relevant findings without imposing them on our corpus. The originality of our corpus and of our approach encouraged us to question some of the habits of digital research and confront three common misunderstandings about digital methods that we discuss in the first part of the article (section ‘Three misunderstandings on digital methods in social sciences’). In addition to reflecting on methodology, however, we also wanted to offer some substantial contribution to the understanding of UN-framed climate diplomacy. In the second part of the article (section ‘Three maps on climate negotiations’) we will therefore introduce some of the preliminary results of our analysis. By discussing three visualizations, we will analyze the thematic articulation of the climatic negotiations, the rise and fall of these themes over time and the visibility of different countries in the debate.