Article

14/12/2020

On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced the name of a new disease, COVID-19. As the virus that causes the disease spread across the globe, the world went into crisis mode. The various actors of the COVID-19 crisis include, in part, politicians, scientists, health experts, citizens, journalists, front line workers, first responders, organizations, and so on. Their voices and their related communicative processes play out in the rhetorical arena that emerges from the crisis. Crisis memes are a particularly intriguing and salient part of the COVID-19 public discourse. Combining the theoretical implications of rhetorical arena theory (RAT) with multimodality and its close ties to social semiotics, this paper will analyze the unique nature of memes created during the cycle of a crisis.

14/12/2020

The pandemic now known as COVID-19 crisis, took humanity by surprise. The highly infectious virus designated as SARS-CoV-2, with it epicentre in Wuhan City, crossed international boundaries at an unprecedented pace. Scientific community rose to the occasion, investigated etiology and clinical features, RNA sequence , pathological attributes, prognostic factors, transmission law and preventive measures, etc. of the virus [Harapan, Naoya, Amanda et al., 2020]. Usually, the cycle of generation of scientific knowledge, its publication in specialised journals, validation by international community of experts and then dissemination among the public is a time consuming process [Raza, Singh and Shukla, 2009]. The intensity of pandemic and risk involved reduced the time lag between generation of knowledge and its percolation among the lay public. The scientific knowledge generated in laboratories, within a brief period, shaped perceptions and attitude of both the governments and the lay public. Emergent situations, especially life-threatening episodes also invoked myths, superstitions and conspiracy theories [Van Bavel, Baicker, Boggio et al., 2020]. Media channels publicised scientific information, myths, superstitions and conspiracy theories with equal zeal. However, the study conducted in India suggests that common citizens rejected myths, superstitions and conspiracy theories. In a short period of time common citizens gathered scientific information through multiple channels of media and used it to increase their health security. The authority of science was never so sharply delineated in a highly religious and traditional society. This article looks at the pandemic's disruptive nature, sudden changes in scientific knowledge, rapid crystallisation of perceptions and thereby attitudinal transformation and behavioural changes among the public in India.

14/12/2020

As successive studies have shown that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are ineffective in treating COVID-19, this article investigates how the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, disputes the truth around science to convince the population that these drugs can save lives, preserve jobs and restore economic growth. Using Charaudeau's theory [Charaudeau, 2007, 2010} as a methodological framework, as well as understanding that right-wing populism has embodied post-truth communication as a distinctive feature of contemporary politics, we observed Bolsonaro's weekly Facebook live streams — known as ‘lives’ — for 14 weeks, identifying them as a communicative device that offers Bolsonaro the material conditions to interact directly with his public. Finally, we structured our analysis according to the three most common themes — questioning delays due to an insistence on scientific methodology, overvaluation of personal experiences and emphasis on individuals' freedom of choice — to observe the emotional images and discursive scenarios the Brazilian president stages to produce the intended pathemic effects of his discourse: hope and urgency; trust and distrust; freedom and polarization.

14/12/2020

The study examines the effect of COVID-19 on the fact-checking resources in Tunisia. Through developing monographies, we traced the trajectory of most fact-checking platforms in the Tunisian media and explored their teams and working strategies. We noticed a clear spike in the creation of fact-checking platforms during and after February 2020 and determined that the pandemic created a context in which these platforms emerged and flourished. However, many of these platforms, were a product of journalists' individual initiatives and lacked a clear editorial and strategic inclusion of fact-checking. Besides, we found a lack of prior training and an absence of fact-checkers specialized in science and health communication.

14/12/2020

Twelve researchers from 11 countries used autoethnographic techniques, keeping diaries over 10 weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, to observe and reflect on changes in the role and cultural authority of science during important stages of viral activity and government action in their respective countries. We followed arguments, discussions and ideas generated by mass and social media about science and scientific expertise, observed patterns and shifts in narratives, and made international comparisons. During regular meetings via video conference, the participating researchers discussed theoretical approaches and our joint methodology for reflecting on our observations. This project is informed by social representations theory, agenda-setting, and frames of meaning associated with the rise and fall of expertise and trust. This paper presents our observations and reflections on the role and authority of science in our countries from March 10 to May 31, 2020. This is the first stage of a longer-term project that aims to identify, analyse and compare changes in science-society relationships over the course of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

14/12/2020

This research aimed to analyze the quality of the information conveyed through YouTube videos in Portuguese on the use of two medicines suggested for the treatment of COVID-19: chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. The ‘Brief DISCERN’ questionnaire was applied to assess the quality of the video content as well as baseline characteristics, such as length, views, likes and dislikes, in a total of 90 videos with almost 4,5 million views. Traditional media accounted for 58,89% of videos. Misleading information was present in most of the videos (63,5%). Despite the ease of access, the videos showed problems in the quality of information.

14/12/2020

In this article, we analysed the 100 most engaging contents about COVID-19 on social networks in Brazil, in March 2020, when the disease officially arrived in the country. Within the infodemic context, we analysed the accuracy of the information and the reliability of the websites that guided the debate. Our results show that misinformation/disinformation accounted for 13.5% of the sample and that their average engagement was greater than the one for the information that could be verified in other sources and in accordance with scientific evidence. We also found that professional websites, especially journalistic ones, predominate among sources. The results point to the need to combine science communication strategies with network communication dynamics.

14/12/2020

This study explores how South African newspaper cartoonists portrayed the novel coronavirus during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic. We show how these cartoons respond to the socio-economic and cultural contexts in the country. Our analysis of how cartoonists represent the novel coronavirus explain how they create meaning (and may influence public sentiments) using colour, morphological characteristics and anthropomorphism as visual rhetorical tools. From a total population of 497 COVID-19-related cartoons published in 15 print and online newspapers from 1 January to 31 May 2020, almost a quarter (24%; n=120) included an illustration of the coronavirus. Viruses were typically coloured green or red and attributed with human characteristics (most often evil-looking facial expressions) and with exaggerated, spikey stalks surrounding the virus body. Anthropomorphism was present in more than half of the 120 cartoons where the virus was illustrated (58%; n=70), while fear was the dominant emotional tone of the cartoons. Based on our analysis, we argue that editorial cartoons provide a useful source to help us understand the broader discursive context within which public communication of science operates during a pandemic.

14/12/2020

This study mainly explores the communication preferences of the public; their level of trust in the government; and the factors affecting their risk/crisis perception amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The key findings —derived from the data collected through an online survey and analysis using descriptive statistics, cross-tabulations, and Structural Equation Modeling (SEM), provide insights on how Local Government Units (LGUs) can improve their risk/crisis communication in this current health crisis. Among the key takeaways include the use of social media platforms, like Facebook, and native/local language for effective risk/crisis communication which may, consequently, foster trust building between the LGUs and the public.

09/12/2020

Widening participation in science is a long-held ambition of governments in the U.K. and elsewhere; however numbers of STEM entrants to university from low-socioeconomic status groups remain persistently low. The authors are conducting a long-term school-based space science intervention with a group of pupils from a very-low-participation area, and studied the science attitudes of the participants at the beginning of the programme. Key findings were that young people from the very-low-SES study cohort were just as interested in science study and science jobs as their peers nationally, and had a pre-existing interest in space science. Some participants, particularly boys, demonstrated a ‘concealed science identity’, in that they perceived themselves as a ‘science person’ but thought that other people did not. Boys tended to score higher on generalised ‘science identity’ measures, but the gender difference disappeared on more ‘realist’ measures. In addition, although participants agreed that it was useful to study science, they had little concrete idea as to why. These findings shed light on how science communicators can best address low-SES groups of young people with the aim of increasing their participation in science education and careers. We conclude that interventions with this group that focus on ‘aspiration raising’ are unlikely to be successful, and instead suggest that activities focus on how young people can see science as a realistic path for their future. It would be helpful for in-school programmes to allow young people an outlet to express their science identity, and to give information about the kinds of jobs that studying science may lead to. Further research into whether the gender split on idealist/realist measures of science identity persists over time would be of use.

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