Exploring the childhood vaccine controversy among Italian Facebook users

Presenter: Assoc. Professor Francesca Comunello (Sociology of Culture and Communication, LUMSA University)
  • Date: Monday, 30 April 2018 to Monday, 30 April 2018
  • Time: 01:30PM to 02:30PM
  • Location: Elsie Locke 611A, Ilam Campus, University of Canterbury
  • Ticket: Free

Between ‘debunking’ and ‘echo-chamber’ effects: In 2017, Italy experienced a measles outbreak (with an increase of over 230% in the first 3 months, according to the Italian Ministry of Health), up to the point that the USA issued a warning to visitors about the spread of such a harmful disease. Global media largely covered the event, connecting it with the dramatic decrease in vaccination rates observed in the country. Several commentators highlighted the role of social media in spreading misinformation, giving voice to anti-vaccination movements.

On the one hand, digital and social media represent a growing source for the large share of the population that turns to the internet in order to gather and share health-related information (Observa, 2016); on the other hand, stating that social media “caused” the measles outbreak (in a deterministic way) is a simplistic explanation.

In this seminar, I focus on the motivations and on the perceptions of Italian Facebook users who are actively engaged in spreading «official» or «alternative» scientific information, adopting as a case study the childhood vaccines controversy. The majority of research addressing misinformation on social media is based on quantitative analysis. While this research provides relevant insights, scholars should also better explore users’ motivations and perceptions. Therefore, my group’s research provides an in-depth analysis of the main communicative practices, and of the sense-giving processes, carried out by Facebook users dealing with scientific topics, both from an «official» and from an «alternative» standpoint. Major attention is devoted to motivation, perception, social negotiation. As we are interested in platform-specific actions, we also experimented with using an original modus operandi which merges together a semi-structured interview with the cognitive walkthrough approach.

More Events