Case 1: The Interface between Air Pollution Science and People

Case 1 explores Chinese medie discourses and education of air pollution in a historical perspective. 

Photo: Mette H. Hansen

Knowledge of air pollution and assessments of risks and responses to deteriorating air quality have been produced and negotiated between scientists, policy makers and inhabitants in China since the mid-19th century. However, little is known about how modern air science met with traditional Chinese air knowledge from the 1850s, and how Chinese indigenous understandings of the effects of "dirty" air continue to prevail.

While  debates on the causes and effects of air pollution before the 21st century mainly unfolded in science journals and in relatively closed political fora, we are now seeing an unprecedented upsurge in  media and popular concern in China with air pollution. Our hyphethesis is that this creates, even requires,  new forms of interactions between policy makers, scientists, industries, and population in China.

In Case 1, we study these interactions with a focus on media debates and new media developments, including the attempts by political authorities and NGOs to develop environmental apps, spreading knowledge about air pollution to the population while, at the same time, gather information from it. Case 1 studies how knowledge of air pollution, and environmental attitudes and behaviours, are promoted through different forms of environmental education.

A genealogy of air pollution

Case 1 will produce the first genealogy of concepts and debates on polluted air as they have developed in China from pre-modern indigenous conceptions, through the intellectual debates spurred by the introduction of European sciences, up to contemporary debates in traditional and new social media..

Map the air pollution app

To further our understanding of the interaction between different stakeholders in a contemporary perspective, Case1 will follow the development of several air pollution apps in Zhejiang province.

The aim of these news apps is to provide the Chinese public with information on air pollution while at the same time generating information back to the government about the environmental activities of people and NGOs.


Content analysis of Chinese  journals on environment going back to around 1850, and of contemporary social and traditional media debating air pollution; interviews with stakeholders involved in developing air pollution apps; study of school text books regarding air and environment (going back to the early 20th century); participant observation in connection with educational events related to air pollution.


Published June 15, 2015 4:22 PM - Last modified Jan. 29, 2019 4:00 PM