Videos of “Covid, Communication and Culture: Research Insights and Policy Solutions”

On the 12th of May 2021, the Centre for Research in Communication and Culture hosted an interdisciplinary research and policy event to discuss innovative work that helps understand how different aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic are affecting and being affected by various facets of communication and culture. We are now delighted to release the video recordings of the event.

Session 1: “Understanding”
Chair: Prof Lisanne Gibson, Dean of the School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Speakers: Prof. Sabina Mihelj; Prof. James Stanyer

Session 2: “Protecting”
Chair: Prof. Cristian Vaccari, CRCC Co-Director
Speakers: Prof. Andrew Chadwick; Dr Paula Saukko; Prof. Elizabeth Stokoe

Session 3: “Adapting”
Chair: Prof. Ele Belfiore, CRCC Co-Director
Speakers: Dr Adrian Leguina; Dr Thomas Swann; Dr Marcus Collins

Presentations Summaries


News consumption, political polarization, and trust during the COVID-19 pandemic
Sabina Mihelj (with Katherine Kondor and Vaclav Štětkà)
Attempts to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus brought unforeseen levels of disruption to social life. Faced with a fast-changing situation, people turned to the media to find up-to-date information about the little-known virus and about preventative measures. At the same time, medical experts and public health authorities started sounding alarms about the potential negative effects of the media as key drivers of an ‘infodemic’ of misinformation that was threatening to undermine trust and incite harmful behaviour. In this talk we present the results of a comparative study of media use, trust in experts, and information-seeking behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic, drawing on 120 qualitative interviews and media diaries from four countries. 

The enduring appeal of Public Service Broadcasters: the BBC and News and information consumption in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic
James Stanyer
Drawing on weekly survey data, this paper examines news and information consumption in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic. Research during the first wave of the pandemic shows consumption increased but has less to say about how and where the public got its news and information from over a prolonged extreme event: this paper sheds light on this important issue. The paper finds that the public turned to TV and legacy media more than the new media. The public’s information mix did not vary much over the first wave and while other sources were consulted, the BBC remained a dominant source. The BBC was the most trusted source, but trust did not guide use. That said, there were statistically significant differences in use, for example, between those aged 16-34 and 55+.


Online Social Endorsement and Covid-19 Vaccine Hesitancy in the UK
Andrew Chadwick (with Johannes Kaiser, Cristian Vaccari, Daniel Freeman, Sinéad Lambe, Bao S. Loe, Samantha Vanderslott, Stephan Lewandowsky, Meghan Conroy, Andrew R. N. Ross, Stefania Innocenti, Andrew J. Pollard, Felicity Waite, Michael Larkin, Laina Rosebrock, Lucy Jenner, Helen McShane, Alberto Giubilini, Ariane Petit, and Ly-Mee Yu)
In February 2021, the UK had the world’s highest Covid-19 mortality per million of population. And yet, about a fifth of the UK public was either very unsure or strongly hesitant about getting vaccinated. Is there a role for online social endorsement in addressing Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy? What kinds of public communication strategies are required to make this work? Professor Andrew Chadwick reports on recently published research from the Oxford Coronavirus Explanations, Attitudes, and Narratives project (OCEANS). A collaboration involving Oxford, Loughborough, Cambridge, Aston, and Bristol universities, OCEANS comprises scholars in clinical and social psychology, communication, moral philosophy, immunology, vaccinology, medical sociology, medical statistics, and economics. In this arm of the project, based on a survey of 5,000 UK adults the team explored the connections between people’s attitudes, their Covid media diets, and their intention to use social media to encourage or discourage vaccination.

Caught in and working with digital media scripts: Harmful and helpful experiences of people with eating disorders during the Covid-19 pandemic
Paula Saukko (with Helen Malson)
This study investigates the experiences of people with eating disorders (n=31) on harmful and helpful digital media use during Covid-19 lockdowns. Interviews featured three themes: (i) connecting with people enhanced social support but also aggravated social comparisons and pressure to interact, (ii) following mainstream, recovery and body-positive influencers created a contradictory and often triggering stream, and (iii) participants accessed a plethora of helpful and harmful digital mental health care (groups, apps, broadcasts, counselling). In conclusion, digital media offer helpful social support, user-generated content and mental health care but the business model-driven push for more connections, generic content and unregulated services scripted into the platforms create a minefield for people with mental health problems.

Covid: The messaging, the communication, and the conversation
Elizabeth Stokoe (with Emma Richardson)
In this presentation, I will give three brief examples of how conversation analytic research can underpin and shape communication-relevant Covid-19 policy in different institutional settings and domains: 1) the connection between government messaging and public understanding of and adherence to Covid-19 mitigations; 2) how core features of social interaction research shaped guidance about adherence to social distancing and mask-wearing, and 3) how analysis of 999 calls to the police during lockdown has revealed particular challenges for police 999 call-takers in the context of domestic violence.  


Digital Access to Arts and Culture Beyond Covid-19
Adrian Leguina (with Richard Misek)
Since the global spread of Covid-19, video streaming has emerged as perhaps the most popular and effective tool for physically-sited arts and culture institutions to stay ‘open’, and has provided locked-down audiences with opportunities for cultural engagement and shared experience. This project – funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and developed in collaboration with Arts Council England and digital support agency The Space – focuses on providing arts and culture organisations of all sizes and from across the UK with specific, practical knowledge about how to manage their digital programming. Here we present a broad overview of the project, including some initial thoughts on how current crisis-driven innovations in digital delivery could help provide arts and culture organisations with the resilience and agility to adapt to a post-Covid landscape, as well as some methodological challenges on the study of digital engagement and audience diversity.

The viability of self-organised mutual aid during the Covid pandemic
Thomas Swann
As the Covid-19 pandemic spread around the world, people got together under the banner of mutual aid to help one another, often in the absence of any official government support. Looking at these mutual aid practices as self-organised systems, this presentation uses anarchist and cybernetic theories to diagnose some of the challenges faced by those involved. Mutual aid can be a key part of how we get through crises like the Covid-19 pandemic, but only if we learn the lessons of the past, address common problems, and create the right conditions for it to flourish.

Post-Pandemic Pedagogy: Lessons learnt from learning and teaching history during Covid
Marcus Collins
This talk will present preliminary results from a pilot survey of history students and staff at seven UK universities on how Covid-19 has affected learning history at university and how history programmes could and should adapt once Covid-19 has abated. Early indications suggest that staff saw little positive about teaching under Covid-19, with a plurality of them viewing eleven out of thirteen facets of learning as having declined over the past year. Students who had experienced university before and after Covid-19 conversely identified a mixture of beneficial and detrimental changes to their learning. They broadly welcomed Covid-inspired teaching innovations and the shift to coursework while faulting the quality of feedback, interactions with staff and access to study spaces. First-year students, having no pre-Covid experience of higher education, were overwhelmingly satisfied with their learning while sorely missing each other’s company. Less divergence appears in preferences for post-Covid teaching, with staff and students alike expressing a preference post-Covid for in-person seminars and ambivalence over traditional lectures. Conflicting opinions over assessment, however, indicate a fundamental tension in higher education between learning outcomes and the student experience. Since no student favours a return to closed-book exams but many staff think otherwise, whose views will prevail?


Presenters’ Biographies

Ele Belfiore is Professor of Communication and Media Studies and Co-Director of the CRCC. Her research focuses on discursive formations around cultural value, the social impact of the arts, and the working conditions of publicly funded socially engaged artists.

Andrew Chadwick is Professor of Political Communication and directs the Online Civic Culture Centre (O3C).

Marcus Collins is Senior Lecturer in Cultural History. He researches British contemporary history and has a particular interest in the 1960s, the so-called permissive society and the Beatles, on which he has written extensively. 

Lisanne Gibson is Professor of Culture and Society and Dean of the School of Social Studies and Humanities. Her research focuses on the relations between culture and ‘the social’ and her academic career has seen her span across the fields of heritage and museum studies, cultural and cultural policy studies, cultural geography, and sociology.

Adrian Leguina is Lecturer in Quantitative Social Sciences. His research interests lie at the intersection of the sociology of cultural consumption, social stratification, and quantitative research methods.

Sabina Mihelj is Professor of Media and Cultural Analysis and her research focuses on the comparative study of media cultures across both traditional and new media, with a focus on nationalism, identity, Eastern and Central Europe, and the Cold War.

Paula Saukko is Reader in Social Science and Medicine, and her research focuses on diagnostic technologie and digital health, particularly self-tracking devices, but also use of digital media in medicine more generally.

James Stanyer is Professor in Communication and Media Analysis and his research interests lie primarily in the areas of national and transnational political communication.

Elizabeth Stokoe is Professor of Social Interaction and her research focuses on conversation analysis and membership categorisation analysis of interaction in a variety of contexts including healthcare settings, police interviews and hostage negotiation.

Thomas Swann is a Lecturer in Political Theory, researching the connections between anarchist and cybernetic theories of organisation and their application to alternative forms of organising. His book, Anarchist Cybernetics. Control and Communication in Radical Politics, was published by Bristol University Press in 2020.

Cristian Vaccari is Professor of Political Communication and Co-Director of the CRCC. He studies political communication by elites and citizens in comparative perspective, with a particular focus on digital and social media.


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