Examining thousands of posts about COVID on social media, the CIC subteam is using qualitative database software to analyze them.
“Periodization”: Generating a misinformation timeline
The Contesting and Inscribing Claims about COVID (CIC) subteam developed a provisional timeline of “image events” [SW1] in social media that provoked measurable “bursts” of social media contestations about COVID related information. The “image event” is borrowed from Strassler (2020), who theorizes this concept as a political process in which publicly circulating images become the material ground of struggles over the nation’s past, present, and future. Using social media, people increasingly engage with politics through acts of making, circulating, manipulating, and scrutinizing images, even as a way of communicating textual content. Contests about COVID on social media take the form of “image events.”
Left: Analyzing bursts of social media contestations and debate about the COVID-19 pandemic beginning in Jan 20, 2020 up to May 17, 2022, the CIC subteam tentatively sketched out the following 12 key events that have marked the experience of the pandemic so far. Credit: Joel Kuipers
As a part of this data collection and analysis, we pose the key question: How have the content and form of the contestations changed over the course of these events?
Coding expressions of misinformation
Analyzing bursts of social media contestations and debate about the COVID-19 pandemic beginning in Jan 20, 2020 up to May 17, 2022, the CIC team tentatively sketched out the following 12 key events that have marked the experience of the pandemic so far. Credit: Joel Kuipers
This screenshot is of the qualitative database software program MAXQDA that examined “most frequent 3-word strings” in social media following the pause in the Johnson and Johnson vaccine rollout in April 2021. The data captured include a striking number of first-person objections: “I don’t…”; and “i don’t want”; but also direct admonitions such as, “don’t panic” “you don’t…” etc.
Screenshot of a MAXQDA project file, showing phrases that have been coded as “skepticism.” Credit: Daria Dzen
Daria Dzen: In my research, I am using the program MAXQDA to code for and look through reddit and other social media posts, to see how redirect on misinformation changed throughout the Covid-19 pandemic by highlighting different key phrases. In doing this, I am seeking to validate distinct periods of the pandemic. Pictured above are important phrases I found from early on in the pandemic related to social media users breeding skepticism and distrust through their posting, with phrases such as “don’t believe,” “you don’t know,” and “How do you know.”
Joel: These are interesting because they suggest a heightened concern with epistemic issues: a concern with “how does one know?” and perhaps a distrust of conventional sources of knowledge.