Pnina Fichman, Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering professor of information science, and Shengnan Yang, a Luddy School Ph.D. student in information science, have edited and published a new book, The Usage and Impact of ICTs during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Xiaohua Zhu, a professor of informatics at the University of Tennessee, also was an editor.
Fichman said the book provides a socio-technical account of the use of digital technologies by the public and policy makers during and after the early months of the pandemic. The book includes chapters by Information and Library Science faculty and doctoral students. Fichman co-authored two chapters. There also is a chapter by Noriko Hara, professor of information science and chair of information and library science, and a chapter by Howard Rosenbaum, professor of information science.
“The book is part of our ongoing research in social informatics, providing a compilation of empirical and conceptual social informatics research,” Fichman said.
She said the pandemic accelerated digital transformation across the world. By using social informatics, the study of interdependence among people and digital technologies, researchers investigated that acceleration and the complexities of using technologies to understand how to maximize benefits and minimize harm to society.
“We hope to intrigue more researchers to trace the emerging social change and evolving digital tools in a still-unfolding pandemic era,” Yang said.
Impetus for the book started with a panel proposal during the 2020 Annual Meeting of the Association for Information Science and Technology titled, The Use of ICT during COVID-19. That proposal got the attention of Routledge, a British publishing company that focuses on academic books.
The book provides an international and comparative perspective on the use of digital technologies during the pandemic, and how it varied among countries and cultures in Asia, Europe and North America, including how different governments regulated COVID-19 misinformation. The book targets scholars and students in information and library science, as well as educators and policy makers.
“It is exciting that not only ILS faculty members, but also ILS doctoral students are contributors who investigated the COVID-19 pandemic and Information Technologies through the lens of social informatics. In particular, it is very impressive that the leading editor, Shengnan Yang, is still a Ph.D. candidate, scheduled to defend her dissertation this summer.”
The chapter co-authored by Hara analyzed communication between scientists and the public over Twitter during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rosenbaum’s chapter used algorithms to analyze the different viewpoints regarding COVID-19’s origins, vaccine hesitancy and the effectiveness of wearing masks as well as how algorithmic assemblages shape attitudes.
In one of the chapters co-authored by Fichman, she analyzed an art recreation online community, and argued that the dystopian reality of COVID-19 quarantine pushed ICT use from technological determinism’s utopia to a new level, where blurred context boundaries provided new and imaginative communication opportunities.
In her second co-authored chapter, she analyzed topics in two online depression communities before, during and after the COVID-19 lockdown in China.
Fichman said they worked with the publisher, Routledge, to make the book open access. She added she’s working with Hara on another social informatics book she hopes to publish after her sabbatical.