Sensemaking processes and social representations of COVID-19 in multi-voiced public discourse: Illustrative examples of institutional and media communication in ten countries


The role of communication in a pandemic emergency is crucial because it contributes to the spread of collective interpretations of the crisis that drive community responses. Based on the social representations’ theory approach, and specifically relying on the notions of collective symbolic coping and polemical social representations, the study presents 10 country-based case studies of public communication with the aim of exploring the social representations of COVID-19 during the first wave of the outbreak. Multiple communication sources from 10 countries in 5 geo-cultural contexts (Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa) were selected and analyzed: institutional websites; international/national/local newspapers and news channels; national/international press agencies; and social media platforms. Results highlighted the prevalence of multivocality and polemical social representations, along with outgroup blaming and stigmatization processes, the use of military and naturalistic metaphors, antinomies, and discourse polarization. Implications for effective public communication in crisis management are discussed.


DOI Code: 10.1285/i24212113v7i1p13

Keywords: communication; social representations; COVID-19


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