Languages vary in how they describe agency and the future. With my collaborators I investigate some key differences and how they matter for corporations and their engagement with social and environmental issues.
Are We Approaching the Future, or is it Approaching Us? Using Space to Frame the Future in English and German (with Shion Nakamura)
In sensitizing audiences to the long-term consequences of actions taken today, policy makers often harness the physical realities of space and motion to make the future appear more concrete. Two notable frames are the time-moving frame (“the future is approaching”) and the more agentic ego-moving frame (“we are approaching the future”). A study conducted amongst English speakers and German speakers finds that time-moving messages increase the motivational relevance of the future more than ego-moving messages. Specifically, when the message is conveyed using a time-moving frame, audiences are more supportive of costly actions today to mitigate the long-term future consequences of climate change. Moreover, the effects are more pronounced in the German-speaking sample, and German speakers are inherently more disposed to conveying the future using a time-moving frame.
Motivating the Future: A Cross-Linguistic Study
I analyze qualitatively and quantitatively four decades of reports from three national space agencies: DLR (Germany), JAXA (Japan) , and NASA (USA). The analysis reveals the different ways in which the future and agency are conveyed across distinct languages. Subsequent analysis suggests that these differences are consequential for resource acquisition.