Viral Discourse

UK/HK/China

Health Communication Network

An international group of researchers interested in language and communication issues related to the current public health crisis

How to make sense of communication and interaction in a pandemic

Since mid February 2020, when I first heard that the coronavirus pandemic had started to hit Northern Italy (where my parents are based) and was heading for to the UK (where I am based), I have perceived a sense of urgency in trying to make sense of the implications of this crisis for our socialContinue reading “How to make sense of communication and interaction in a pandemic”

How to construct COVID-19 as a national security threat in public discourse?

COVID-19 is costing humankind dearly. It is without a doubt that the global pandemic has altered the way we live in terms of social norms, economic structures and political priorities, and some of these changes may stay with us for a long time. On 30th January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreakContinue reading “How to construct COVID-19 as a national security threat in public discourse?”

#HateIsAVirus: Talking about COVID-19 ‘Hate’

A recent report by moonshot found that there has been a 300% rise in hashtags on Twitter that “encourage or incite violence against China and Chinese people”. The tech company analyzed 193,000 COVID-19 related tweets between Feb 21 and Apr 17, 2020, and generated the top 10 English hashtags that potentially encourage violence or ‘hate’.Continue reading “#HateIsAVirus: Talking about COVID-19 ‘Hate’”

Face masks and cultural identity on YouTube

Unlike hand washing, about which there is unanimous agreement when it comes to fighting coronavirus, the practice of wearing face masks is still a contentious, emotional issue, evolving into a complex moral question about civic responsibility and altruism in many countries. The question of whether to mask or not is interpreted by some as evidenceContinue reading “Face masks and cultural identity on YouTube”

The pandemic of capitalism

Guest author Dr Christian Chun, University of Massachusetts, Boston In the past 30 years or so, our lives have become more endangered by the rapid and dire changes to our environment, dramatically evidenced in the recent wildfires around the world due to increasing global warming and ensuing droughts. It had been estimated by scientists thatContinue reading “The pandemic of capitalism”

Order out of chaos: Covid-19 threat levels and the manufacture of competence

When I was teaching in China in the 1980s, no matter what essay topic I would set for my students, there was always a good portion of the class that chose to write about ‘The Four Modernizations’, which was the key Party policy at the time and the theme of a massive and constant propagandaContinue reading “Order out of chaos: Covid-19 threat levels and the manufacture of competence”

When the internet gets ‘coronified’: Pandemic creativity and humor in internet memes

Since its outbreak in late 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic has become a global health crisis of unprecedented magnitude in a matter of a few months and claimed thousands of lives. The pandemic forced billions of people around the world to stay home in quarantines and lockdowns and quickly adapt to sudden changes in living andContinue reading “When the internet gets ‘coronified’: Pandemic creativity and humor in internet memes”

Is the war rhetoric around Covid-19 an Anglo-American thing?

Reading the news reporting on Covid-19 in the British media, one cannot but be struck by the use of metaphors of war. We are literally ‘bombarded’ with them every day. As soon as it became obvious that the new coronavirus poses a serious threat to the public health in Britain, newspapers across the country wereContinue reading “Is the war rhetoric around Covid-19 an Anglo-American thing?”

What counts as evidence? Universal face mask use in the COVID-19 crisis

On April 3, 2020, the United States Centre for Disease Control (CDC) changed its advice on the universal use of face masks by citizens in public. While the CDC had been discouraging universal use of face masks, it now recommends it. On April 4, the World Health Organization (WHO) made a similar about-face. Around the world, thereContinue reading “What counts as evidence? Universal face mask use in the COVID-19 crisis”


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