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  3. Analysing the informational ecosystem : an illustration with vaccine controversies

Analysing the informational ecosystem : an illustration with vaccine controversies

Florian Cafiero

Over the last few decades, computational social sciences have produced remarkably well-developed analyses of how controversies emerge and develop, particularly on the internet and social networks. But faced with the potential limitations of these studies, which sometimes only observe the circulation of information in a single, potentially biased arena, voices have been raised calling for these studies to be integrated into a broader field, and for the development of work directly designed to understand the informational ecosystem as a whole. We extend this proposal here, advocating a simultaneous understanding of the media ecosystem, from the production of information to its reception, and of the underlying social structures in which this ecosystem unfolds. We take as an example the controversies surrounding vaccine safety, a subject that has been the subject of numerous studies, particularly in France, reputed to be one of the countries with the highest levels of vaccine hesitancy. We show that over and above media controversies and social movements, which we can observe in detail by analysing data from the internet, this attitude to vaccines stems from a combination of the specific nature of French medical research, which produces legitimate arguments criticising vaccination, and a higher level of perceived corruption than in other countries, making distrust of vaccination just one of a number of instances of distrust of institutions.