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Abstract Detail

Economic Botany

Struwe, Lena [1], Calamia, Alex [2], Pitt, Mackenzie [3], Nucci, Mary L. [3].

The love and hate of weeds - an interdisciplinary analysis of opinions in media, metaphors and biological facts.

Weeds are spontaneously occurring plants that are unaided by humans in their survival, in fact, they are often hated for competing with human interests. Weeds are also beloved cultural memories, important medicinal plants, and have large positive (or negative) ecological effects. This study focused on how weeds were portrayed in a selection of geographically disparate US daily newspapers during the last five years (The New York Times [NYT; NY], Washington Post [DC], Chicago Daily Herald [IL], Orange County Register [Santa Ana, CA), St Louis Post Dispatch [MO]). To find articles we searched for articles that only included the word “weeds”, as using the keyword “weed” had a high correlation with articles related to marijuana (not our focus). Our focus was to identify potential correlations in expressed media opinions and value statements between geography, specific biological topics, and main financial and societal interests in the particular geographic region of the newspaper (agriculture, financial sector, political center, etc.). Each article was first evaluated and coded based on whether it included the word 'weeds' only as a metaphor (e.g., 'stuck in the weeds'), or if it included actual weedy plant news and discussion. All articles were also coded for the implied positive/negative value of weeds in society, and articles about actual plants were coded for presence of special topics (law and policy, agriculture, urban weeds, invasive species, gardening, edible species). Preliminary results show great difference in the number of articles mentioning weeds from different types of newsp apers and different geographic regions. Preliminary data from NYT shows that 'weeds' is used as a metaphor (i.e., not for biological organisms) in 20% of articles, with 43% of these in articles related to politics. When used as metaphors, 'weeds' are used as a negative term in 18% of cases, neutral in 71%, and positive in 10%. Most articles in NYT focus on actual living weedy plants, and of these, 62% have a negative connotation, 22% as neutral, and 16% as positive. The difference in the negative value of the word ‘weeds’ between its use as a metaphor versus living plants (62% versus 18% in preliminary analyses) is striking. Are we, the media and the public, more positively inclined to the idea of weeds than to actually having weeds in our home garden? This research was partially done by undergraduates in an interdisciplinary science communications class at Rutgers University.

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1 - Rutgers University, Dept of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources & Dept of Plant Biology and Pathology, 59 Dudley Road, New Brunswick, NJ, 08901, USA
2 - Rutgers University, Dept of Environmental Sciences, 14 College Farm Road, New Brunswick, NJ, 08901, USA
3 - Rutgers University, Department of Human Ecology, 55 Dudley Road, New Brunswick, NJ, 08901

science literacy.

Presentation Type: Poster
Session: P, Economic Botany: Contributed Posters
Location: Exhibit Hall/Savannah International Trade and Convention Center
Date: Monday, August 1st, 2016
Time: 5:30 PM This poster will be presented at 5:30 pm. The Poster Session runs from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm. Posters with odd poster numbers are presented at 5:30 pm, and posters with even poster numbers are presented at 6:15 pm.
Number: PEN005
Abstract ID:382
Candidate for Awards:None

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