On September 14, 2019, Observa carried out the Italian citizen consultation at Villa Valmarana ai Nani (Vicenza) with the participation of 93 people (50 male 43 female) from 37 different Italian municipalities.
The ten group tables around which the public consultation was organised produced over 80 hours of recorded audio and almost 600 pages of transcription. The audio transcription underwent a statistical content analysis that amounted to 4.797 turns of speech, resulting in a total of 209.213 words.
A first type of analysis (thematic analysis of elementary contexts) made it possible to identify four main issues, through which discourses were summarised: the first main issue frames scientific information within the field of public communication (e.g. debate, discuss, public, deal); the second issue frames scientific information within the field of daily communication proposed by traditional (e.g. television, Rai, documentary, television news, radio, newspaper, book) or digital media (e.g. Internet, website, Youtube, social, Facebook); the third issue frames scientific information within the field of medical communication (e.g. physician, pharmacist) and the last issue frames scientific information within the field of institutional communication (e.g. ministry, politician, scientist).
The second analysis, that is analysis of the specificities, made it possible to identify relevant words within each debated subject.
a) Climate change is discussed as a present and global issue that regards everyone, but mainly the new generations. To find and understand information, the preferred channels are both traditional media and social networks, which are used also as an amplifier to disseminate information. The workplace is where this topic is often talked about. The prominent international figure is Greta Thunberg, often opposed to Donald Trump;
b) vaccination is discussed as a controversial issue in which personal opinions and scientific evidence are still often intertwined. The issue regards mainly mothers with small children, who – more than fathers – seem to assume the role of care and the responsibility over parental choices. When it comes to responding to a need of information, the preferred channels are direct interactions with trustworthy people, mainly physicians;
c) Genetically modified organisms are discussed as an outdated topic that has reverberated in certain daily contexts (e.g. eat) with both a global and national resonance. The topic seems to concern only a few (e.g. experts) and citizens use mainly digital media to increase their knowledge. No prominent figures emerged regarding this topic;
d) Complementary and alternative medicines, particularly homeopathy, are discussed in contrast to traditional medicine within the broader context of health.
The cognitive dimension, although present, is widely overcome by the experiential dimension. Both in terms of direct and indirect experience, emphasised by the group dynamics in which the discussion took place. In this case, no relevant associations were found.
At least, the last analysis, that is analysis of lexical correspondences, made it possible to identify three semantic dimensions through which discourse is organised:
1) “private-public” continuum: to one side, the information is used for a purely personal use. Conversely, on the other side the information is used for the “public debate”;
2) “passive-active” continuum: the “passive” side sees citizens as excluded and loaded with fear and doubts; on the contrary, the “active” side is representative of an inclusive process of acquiring and appropriating information, in which citizens interpret and transmit messages;
3) “direct-mediated” continuum: the “direct” side represents the process of acquiring information based on interpersonal relationships; conversely while the “mediated” side evokes a form of scientific communication proposed by media or by institutions.