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Social Networks and Popular Understanding of Science and Health

Sharing Disparities

Brian G. Southwell

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A data-driven analysis of how different people share information about health through social media.

Using social media and peer-to-peer networks to teach people about science and health may seem like an obvious strategy. Yet recent research suggests that systematic reliance on social networks may be a recipe for inequity. People are not consistently inclined to share information with others around them, and many people are constrained by factors outside of their immediate control. Ironically, the highly social nature of humankind complicates the extent to which we can live in a society united…

A data-driven analysis of how different people share information about health through social media.

Using social media and peer-to-peer networks to teach people about science and health may seem like an obvious strategy. Yet recent research suggests that systematic reliance on social networks may be a recipe for inequity. People are not consistently inclined to share information with others around them, and many people are constrained by factors outside of their immediate control. Ironically, the highly social nature of humankind complicates the extent to which we can live in a society united solely by electronic media.

Stretching well beyond social media, this book documents disparate tendencies in the ways people learn and share information about health and science. By reviewing a wide array of existing research—ranging from a survey of New Orleans residents in the weeks after Hurricane Katrina to analysis of Twitter posts related to H1N1 to a physician-led communication campaign explaining the benefits of vaginal birth—Brian G. Southwell explains why some types of information are more likely to be shared than others and how some people never get exposed to seemingly widely available information.

This book will appeal to social science students and citizens interested in the role of social networks in information diffusion and yet it also serves as a cautionary tale for communication practitioners and policymakers interested in leveraging social ties as an inexpensive method to spread information.

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Social Networks and Popular Understanding of Science and Health

Brian G. Southwell

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Reviews

Readers of Social Networks and Popular Understanding of Science and Health: Sharing Disparities are likely to come away better informed and inspired.

Southwell’s thoughtful and empirically-based critique of how social media may actually exacerbate inequalities makes a significant contribution to the literature but also has profound implications for policy and practice.

It took years for us to get over the assumption that the whole world is watching. Now, Southwell is helping us get over the 'small world' assumption—that we’re all equally networked. This book gathers dozens of studies on how, when, where, and why information does and doesn’t travel, and what we know about overcoming the resultant inequalities.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
152
ISBN
9781421413242
Illustration Description
2 line drawings
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1. Introduction
2. Evidence of Inequality in Information Sharing
3. A Catalogue of Information-Sharing Behaviors
4. Who One Is Matters: Individual-Level Factors
5. Where One Is Matters

Acknowledgments
1. Introduction
2. Evidence of Inequality in Information Sharing
3. A Catalogue of Information-Sharing Behaviors
4. Who One Is Matters: Individual-Level Factors
5. Where One Is Matters: Community-Level Factors
6. What Information Matters: Content-Level Factors
7. The Consequences of Information Sharing
8. Remedies and Realism
References
About the Author
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Brian G. Southwell, Ph.D.

Brian G. Southwell is a senior research scientist at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute headquartered in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. He also holds faculty appointments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University.