AHRC-funded Project Report

Comics in the time of COVID-19: How public health messages are communicated through web-based comics
Comics in the time of COVID-19: Tracking data on web-based comics and evaluating their potential for communicating public health messages

Our pandemic lives are deeply entwined with visual, web-based public health messages, from instructional hand-washing pictograms to infographics about R numbers. Alongside these official public health communications, people have created thousands of web-based comics conveying public health messages. In 2021 Our Bournemouth University-based research team collected a sample of over 15,000 ‘COVID comics’ posted and shared over Instagram between January 2020 and March 2021. We then coded our sample of comics to explore how the medium was used to shape and share public health messages.

 Insights from our analysis reveal how comics can work to help governments and health professionals reach wider audiences, humanise public health messages and challenge infodemics online.

project findings

The full report can be downloaded from the links below.

Authors:
Anna Feigenbaum Administrator
Professor in Digital Storytelling

I am a writer, researcher, teacher and workshop leader specialising in data storytelling for civic good. From digging into dusty archives to data visualising absent deaths, I am drawn to the difficult, the messy, the ethically challenging questions that exist around the edges of debates over how we tell stories with science and data. As a consultant and trainer, I collaborate with charities, NGOs, Public Health organisations, investigative journalists and other researchers to explore empathetic and effective ways to tell data stories. I believe that it is often those without access to big budgets and fancy tools that hold the data stories we most need to change the world.

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José Blazquez Administrator
Lecturer in Media Production

Lecturer in Media Production at Bournemouth University.

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Conor Byrne Author
Research Assistant

I’m Conor, I’m currently studying for my MA in Media and Communications at Bournemouth University whilst also working as a freelance writer. My research interests lie in niche media and internet subcultures 

Research Assistant

I am a PhD candidate researching the ways digital cultures inform the expressive styles of political talk. I love exploring how reality is narrated online and I am moonlighting as a research assistant in two projects on social media and public health.

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Research Assistant

I’m Shannon and I am an International Political Communications student at Bournemouth University. My research interests are health, inequalities and communications. 

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Julian McDougall Contributor
Professor in Media and Education

Professor in Media and Education
Head of the Centre for Excellence in Media Practice at Bournemouth University

Kufre Okon Author
Research Assistant

I am a trainee communications researcher with a background in journalism. My research interest is in health communications targeting disadvantaged groups. I studied international media framing of COVID-19 for my MA. My current research interest is in identifying online media contents which can be powerful triggers of public health behaviour change. 

Jonny Sexton Author
Research Assistant

My name is Jonny, and I am currently working on my postgraduate degree in Media and Communication at Bournemouth University. My background as a freelance illustrator means I know a thing or two about comics, and I am interested in learning about the potential of this medium to communicate meaningful social ideas and concepts.