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Risk and Resilience in rapidly redefined information environments. ( Lloyd and Hicks)

By Ian G Evans, on 16 July 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to radically refine people’s information experiences. The study, Risk and Resilience in Redefined Information Environments, which is being carried out by Professor Annemaree Lloyd and Dr Alison Hicks at UCL’s Department of Information Science, investigates how information literacy practices and literacies of information help people to mitigate risk and develop resilience during a time of upheaval.

The ongoing health crisis has produced complex and multi-layered information environments that span a range of new information sources including scientific, medical, mental health and government advice. This information is further tailored, repackaged and communicated by multiple actors across multiple information channels, including social media, peer review and governmental websites. New ways of interacting with others (in work, education or everyday situations), which are being encouraged as a result of government social distancing policies, further impact how information is shared and disseminated within a community.

The multiplicity, complexity and range of information environments created in response to the pandemic is problematic and has the potential to create social, economic, health and educational risks. New challenges also emerge, including confusion about where to find information when traditional methods and strategies, or established information landscapes are disrupted, or when there is a need to become informed about an unfamiliar topic. Risk may also be created when people are forced to develop rapid new ways of determining the veracity and trustworthiness of rumours and hearsay that they find through websites, social media channels and amongst friends and family. These information problems may further cause people to cut themselves off from or avoid information as a way to manage overload or mediate stress, anxiety and mental health issues. In effect, these ongoing uncertainties can have implications in terms of people’s capacity to understand crisis information environments and build information practices that scaffold informed decision making and broader questions of resilience.

The Risk and Resilience study is a two-phase study that is being carried at UCL’s Department of Information Studies. The study is currently being conducted with participants across the UK and aims to develop a detailed understanding of the risks that people face during the pandemic, including in everyday, workplace and caring contexts; the information sources and information literacy practices that are used to mitigate risk; and the barriers and challenges that enable or constrain the development of resilient information practices.

The findings of this study will enable information researchers to develop clearer insight and understanding of how people develop knowledge of and mitigate risk, construct information landscapes and develop resilience strategies during times of crisis and upheaval. It will establish foundational knowledge about people’s information practices from which to develop future responses for information, civil contingency, emergency services, welfare and public health professions.

If you are interested in participating in this study or would like further information about the study, please contact Professor Annemaree Lloyd annemareelloyd@ucl.ac.uk or Dr Alison Hicks a.hicks@ucl.ac.uk

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