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Toward dialogue through a holistic measuring framework – the impact of social media on risk communication in the COVID-19

Ruilin Zhu (Management Science, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)
Yanqing Song (School of Public Policy and Administration, Chongqing University, Chongqing, China)
Shuang He (School of Public Policy and Administration, Chongqing University, Chongqing, China)
Xuan Hu (School of Public Policy and Administration, Chongqing University, Chongqing, China)
Wangsu Hu (Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey, USA)
Bingsheng Liu (School of Public Policy and Administration, Chongqing University, Chongqing, China)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 7 December 2021

Issue publication date: 7 December 2022

308

Abstract

Purpose

Despite the huge potential of social media, its functionality and impact for enhanced risk communication remain unclear. Drawing on dialogic theory by integrating both “speak from power” and “speak to power” measurements, the article aims to propose a systematic framework to address this issue.

Design/methodology/approach

The impact of social media on risk communication is measured by the correlation between “speak from power” and “speak to power” levels, where the former primarily spoke to two facets of the risk communication process – rapidness and attentiveness, and the latter was benchmarked against popularity and commitment. The framework was empirically validated with data relating to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) risk communication in 25,024 selected posts on 17 official provincial Weibo accounts in China.

Findings

The analysis results suggest the relationship between the “speak from power” and “speak to power” is mixed rather than causality, which confirms that neither the outcome-centric nor the process-centric method alone can render a full picture of government–public interconnectivity. Besides, the proposed interconnectivity matrix reveals that two provinces have evidenced the formation of government–public mutuality, which provides empirical evidence that dialogic relationships could exist in social media during risk communication.

Originality/value

The authors' study proposed a prototype framework that underlines the need that the impact of social media on risk communication should and must be assessed through a combination of process and outcome or interconnectivity. The authors further divide the impact of social media on risk communication into dialogue enabler, “speak from power” booster, “speak to power” channel and mass media alternative.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Award number: 71904020) and Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (Award number: 2021CDJSKJC03).

Citation

Zhu, R., Song, Y., He, S., Hu, X., Hu, W. and Liu, B. (2022), "Toward dialogue through a holistic measuring framework – the impact of social media on risk communication in the COVID-19", Information Technology & People, Vol. 35 No. 7, pp. 2518-2540. https://doi.org/10.1108/ITP-05-2021-0363

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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