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The vaccination debate in the "post-truth" era: social media as sites of multi-layered reflexivity

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journal contribution
posted on 18.02.2019, 09:22 authored by Dino Numerato, Lenka Vochocova, Vaclav StetkaVaclav Stetka, Alena Mackova
This paper analyses the contemporary public debate about vaccination, and medical knowledge more broadly, in the context of social media. The study is focused on the massive online debate prompted by the Facebook status of the digital celebrity Mark Zuckerberg, who posted a picture of his two-month-old daughter, accompanied by a comment: “Doctor's visit -- time for vaccines!” Carrying out a qualitative analysis on a sample of 650 comments and replies, selected through systematic random sampling from an initial pool of over 10,000 user contributions, and utilising open and axial coding, we empirically inform the theoretical discussion around the concept of the reflexive patient and introduce the notion of multi-layered reflexivity. We argue that the reflexive debate surrounding this primarily medical problem is influenced by both biomedical and social scientific knowledge. Lay actors therefore discuss not only vaccination, but also its political and economic aspects as well as the post-truth information context of the debate. We stress that the reflexivity of social actors related to the post-truth era re-enters and influences the debate more than ever. Furthermore, we suggest that the interconnection of different layers of reflexivity can either reinforce certainty or deepen the ambiguity and uncertainty of reflexive agents.

Funding

This research was supported by the Czech Science Foundation (GACR), Standard Grant Nr 17-01116S – “Civic engagement and the politics of health care”.

History

School

  • Social Sciences

Department

  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies

Published in

Sociology of Health and Illness

Volume

41

Issue

5

Pages

82-97

Citation

NUMERATO, D. ... et al, 2019. The vaccination debate in the "post-truth" era: social media as sites of multi-layered reflexivity. Sociology of Health and Illness, 41(50, pp. 82-97.

Publisher

Wiley

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Rights holder

© 2019 The Authors. Book Compilation © 2019 Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness/John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Publisher statement

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: NUMERATO, D. ... et al, 2019. The vaccination debate in the "post-truth" era: social media as sites of multi-layered reflexivity. Sociology of Health and Illness, 41(50), pp. 82-97, which has been published in final form at https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9566.12873. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions

Acceptance date

12/02/2018

Publication date

2019-10-10

Copyright date

2019

Notes

This paper is published in the Special Issue: Digital Health: Sociological Perspectives

ISSN

0141-9889

eISSN

1467-9566

Language

en