Interdisciplinary team examines social media’s role in framing facts, influencing behavior during COVID-19 pandemic

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This interdisciplinary group consists of I-DISC Faculty members Eric Baumer and Dominic DiFranzo from computer science and engineering; Haiyan Jia from journalism and Amanada Green from humanities. 

The project will consist of four phases:

Phase one: will be led by Jia and Greene: use qualitative methods from media studies, health humanities, and science and technology studies to better understand how groups like community organizations, local leaders, and online communities describe their framing process. It will also involve content analysis of the groups’ social media, as well as information published by news organizations and governmental and health agencies. 

Phase two: will be lead by Baumer, who studies human interactions with algorithmic systems. This will involve computational analysis of much of that same content. 

Phase three: will be led by DiFranzo, who will take the results of both the qualitative and computational analyses and formulate testable hypotheses. DiFranzo’s research focuses on  human-computer interactions and “design interventions” that encourage pro-social behavior online. He also develops novel tools, platforms, and methods to help researchers study social media. 

Phase four: will involve a process called reflexive engagement. Findings from the previous phases will be brought back to those groups who were initially interviewed, with the idea that they might draw on those results in a future health crisis [Jia]. 

“This is about making a real-world impact,” she [Jia] says. “We want to go back to these groups and say, ‘Here’s what we found, this is what we know about the facts of framing, what do you think?’ The idea is that they might then be able to look back at their communication strategies from 2020, and identify where they could have done better.” 

It’s a project that could only be accomplished with the unique blend of expertise within the group, says Baumer.