Comics in the time of COVID-19: Tracking data on web-based comics and evaluating their potential for communicating public health messages

Lead Research Organisation: Bournemouth University
Department Name: Faculty of Media and Communication

Abstract

Our pandemic lives are deeply entwined with visual, web-based public health messages, from instructional hand-washing pictograms to infographics about physical activity during lockdowns. Alongside these official public health communications, people are creating thousands of web-based comics conveying public health messages.

It is critical that we collect and code these comics now. As ephemeral, web-based artefacts we risk losing access to thousands of these creations and their specific circulation contexts. Capturing and coding this data now will allow us to rapidly track their messages, reach and engagement. In particular, focusing on web-comics from the first 6 months of the pandemic, we will be able to evaluate the impacts and potentials of producing and circualting time-sensitive public health messages via the comics medium across social media platforms.

Capturing these web-comics' reach and engagement on digital platforms will also yield insight into how public health messages are shared and interpretted on social media, as well as into how behavioral change is championed and resisted. Coding will be done through a qualitative content analysis of comics' narratives and visuals, as well as an analysis of social media comments, allowing us to evaluate for evidence of behavioural change and real-time resilience-building in relation to public health guidelines.

To maximise the impact of this resource on beneficiaries, key stakeholders from the Graphic Medicine Collective, Information Literacy Group, and Public Health Dorset will help shape data collection and analysis.

Research data will be stored on BU's secure cloud service and on external hard drives. The final, deliverable dataset will be in Excel and CSV formats, compatible with web interface, database and digital cataloguing for ease of adaptation for future activities.

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