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Inoculating an Infodemic: An Ecological Approach to Understanding Engagement With COVID-19 Online Information

Houlden, S; Hodson, J; Veletsianos, G; Thompson, C; Reid, D; (2021) Inoculating an Infodemic: An Ecological Approach to Understanding Engagement With COVID-19 Online Information. American Behavioral Scientist 10.1177/00027642211050903. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

As the global COVID-19 pandemic has been concurrently labelled an “infodemic,” researchers have sought to improve how the general public engages with information that is relevant, timely, and accurate. In this study, we provide an overview of the reasons why people engage and disengage with COVID-19 information. We use context-rich semi-structured interviews which invited participants to discuss online COVID-19-related content they encountered. This qualitative approach allows us to uncover subtle but important details of influences that drive online engagement. Participants both engaged and disengaged with content for individual and social reasons, with seven themes emerging connected to their engagement including actions in response to information, reasoning for engagement, content, motivating concerns, frequency of engagement with information, site of exposure, and given reason for not engaging. Many of these themes intersected and informed each other. Our findings suggest that researchers and public health communicators should approach engagement as an ecology of intersecting influences, both human and algorithmic, which change over time. This information could be potentially helpful to public health communicators who are trying to engage the public with the best information to keep them safe during the pandemic.

Type: Article
Title: Inoculating an Infodemic: An Ecological Approach to Understanding Engagement With COVID-19 Online Information
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/00027642211050903
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177/00027642211050903
Language: English
Additional information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).
Keywords: COVID-19, misinformation, online engagement, information seeking, socio-ecological model
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10136761
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