1st Edition

Theorizing Mediated Information Distortion The COVID-19 Infodemic and Beyond

By Brian H. Spitzberg Copyright 2024
    312 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    312 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book explores the phenomenon of distortion of information through media via the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ways in which relevant information distortion and virality have occurred in regard to the disease and its risks.

    Positing that the interrelated processes of misinformation, disinformation, fake news and conspiracy theories are related forms of distortion of information through media (DIM) and can only be understood through a multilevel theoretical model that incorporates message-based, individual difference, social network-based, societal and geotechnical factors, Brian H. Spitzberg develops an integrative, well-argued, and well-evidenced framework within which these issues can and should be addressed.

    This book offers a model for further research across such disciplines as communication, journalism/media studies, political science, sociology, cognitive psychology, social psychology, evolutionary psychology, public health, big data analytics, social network analytics, computational linguistics and geographic information sciences, and will interest researchers and students in those areas.

    1. Virus = Language / Language = Virus 2. Meme Level: Constraints of an Attention Economy/Ecology 3. Individual Level: Misinformation Motives 4. Meme x Individual Level: Message Processing 5. Social Network Dynamics Level 6. Societal/Cultural (Media) Ecosystem and Geotechnical Levels 7. Whither Progress?


    Brian H. Spitzberg, Senate Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the School of Communication at San Diego State University, is author or coauthor of over 175 scholarly publications on communication competence, media and the dark side of communication, including meme and misinformation diffusion, assessment, interpersonal communication competence, jealousy, conflict, threats, coercion, violence, and stalking. 

    Spitzberg’s exemplary volume explores and explains the most complex puzzles about misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories, and fake news. It shows, in compelling science and engaging reading, how communication is epidemic, and how false information is its pathogen. Its multidimensional model of meme diffusion offers formal theoretical thinking too seldom seen in social science, that will generate new research and ensure its intellectual longevity.

    Joseph B. Walther, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Communication, Bertelsen Presidential Chair in Technology and Society, University of California, Santa Barbara


    Theorizing Mediated Information Distortion is an essential volume for anyone seeking to understand the far-reaching effects of misinformation on public health and society. Spitzberg's broader theory of meme diffusion and distortion of information is an invaluable resource in the fight against misinformation and a testament to the importance of evidence-based decision-making in the face of uncertainty.

    Scott Caplan, Professor, Department of Communication, University of Delaware, Author of The changing face of problematic Internet use


    A thorough and timely multi-level analysis of how and why information becomes distorted in media—and what can be done to stem the problem. From Covid-19 misinformation to conspiracy theories, Spitzberg addresses key factors in the germination and dissemination of misinformation, including cognitive biases, social network structures, meme diffusion, social media algorithms, pandemic fears, trust in authority, and much more. 

    Benjamin Radford, MPH, M.Ed., Deputy Editor, Skeptical Inquirer science magazine