How does the Covid-19 pandemic and its debates fit into communication theories?
The global pandemic has moved very quickly and has forced political figures and scientists to contradict themselves from one day to the next.
With the digital devices at our fingertips, information is disseminated instantaneously to the entire planet. This means that people can be quickly informed of what is happening in the various areas of the world. Consequently, everyone has the means to give their opinion and to pass on information, whether it is true or false, leading to the circulation of "fake news" and conspiracy theories. Indeed, each person will have a different vision of the information and will have a personal interpretation. This artwork highlights the transmission and reception of information during this global pandemic.
Sources of Covid?
To involve the viewer in the subject, the students introduced a succession of open questions. In addition, the sad and slightly dramatic music allows the viewer to enter the universe, and to feel different emotions, and thus to keep their attention focused on the video.
The video starts by discussing the origin of the virus, as we still don't really know where Covid-19 comes from.
Next, the video asks the question "Will there be a pandemic?”, again contrasting different statements that contradicted each other. At first nobody took this virus seriously, and now we are facing a global pandemic. Even members of the French government kept contradicting each other, leading to many questions, notably when the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, spoke on RTL on 25 February 2020, saying "Should we stop collective events? Should we stop Fashion Week? Should we stop the matches? Should we close the universities? The answer is no". Two and a half weeks later, the President of the Republic announced strict confinement and the closure of universities. We also hear the contradiction of Didier Raoult's statement that the virus was less dangerous now, while a doctor in the emergency service claimed the opposite. We no longer know what to think and who to believe, since even the government does not seem to be sure of its own information.
This contradiction of data is also found in the symptoms, which were still unclear since the beginning of this epidemic. Fever, cough, aches, fatigue, digestive problems, loss of taste, loss of smell? This with a passage in the video using different pieces of paper each bearing a different symptom of this virus.
The same goes for the masks, where the instructions were unclear. At first they were not compulsory, maybe because there was not enough for everyone. Now, it is compulsory to wear a mask. This is a radical change of information over a short period of time.
The video ends with scenes of partying which the young people were sorely missing and a yearning for life to return to “normal.
When will life return to normal?
Cacophony around Covid-19
The Covid-19 pandemic spread widely and led countries to take very firm decisions with dramatic consequences on all sectors such as the economy, health, social or even the environment. This health crisis, which has shaken the whole world, remains the subject of debate and divides public opinion on all subjects: the origin of the virus, health measures, government discourse, economic repercussions and other phenomena. The sometimes cacophonous communications coming from different officials have had enormous repercussions and are creating fears and uncertainties about health, the global economy and people's rights. This phenomenon can be linked to the different communication theories around information transmission that this digital work sought to portray.
The connection with Wiener’s cybernetics is also through the notion of entropy to Shannon and Wiener have opposing definitions. While entropy was rather a good thing in Shannon’s MTC, it was an evil to be combated for Wiener. For Wiener, information systems are indispensable for maintaining order in society. It is important to stress that, for him, communication is circular and disorganisation or entropy is to be considered as an 'absolute evil' that should be fought. In the context of this artwork, the entire flow of information linked to COVID-19 represents a certain disorder because of all the inconsistencies found in the information. Following Wiener, this state of affairs is comparable to a veritable social entropy, in which one can no longer distinguish between what is true and false. The problem is clear: too much information leads to disorder and thus to social entropy.
Symptoms of Covid?
For example, in the context of the symptoms of COVID-19, it is clear from listening to doctors' speeches that it is not possible to draw up a clear list of symptoms that would be universal. Why is this? Quite simply because, depending on the person, the symptoms differ: some have symptoms that others do not have, and vice versa.
Practically all the speeches made by governments, scientists, journalists and citizens are systematically questioned and contradicted by numerous speakers on subjects such as sanitary measures, economic consequences, interpretation of mortality figures, etc. For example, the debates on the second wave in France caused a great deal of inconsistency, especially since members of the government contradicted themselves on numerous occasions. Some affirmed that a new wave of the epidemic will be accompanied by a possible containment while others assured the stability of the current context and the positive long-term consequences of the first containment. The media continuously communicated with the government and with the public in a circular fashion through feedback. Thus, this phenomenon clearly reflects Wiener's cybernetics theory.
In the current health crisis, we are surrounded by contradictory information from the press, the media and even researchers and scientists.
The video montage highlighted the high entropy engendered through the contradictory information surrounding the origin of the virus (animal cause, laboratory or other), its virulence and the efficacy of wearing masks.