Coronavirus (948) Definition of infodemic (25) Agnotology & Ignorance (2)

27 August, 2020

Very interesting post from Peter Jones about "agnotology" [ - yet another new field (according to Wikipedia: "the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data. It was coined in 1995 by Robert N. Proctor, a Stanford University professor, and linguist Iain Boal."). Clearly mis/disinformaiton/fake news/lies/rumours are all forms of agnotology. It is great to know that such a useful term has been sitting on the shelves since 1995 - it can certainly be used today!

Misinformation and disinformation are different ways of getting it wrong - the first is an accident, while the second is on purpose - to distort the truth for ideological or political reasons, to lie for personal gratification or profit... There are separate cures available (or at least proposed) for each. While knowledge may be the cure for misinformation, some would argue that jail is the ideal cure for disinformation - jail, or some other form of punitive action like public scorn, prohibitions on publication (on Twitter/Facebook, in journals...), etc.

As to using a Shannon/Weaver approach to communications in this respect, this has been proposed by others, but it is not at all clear why the mathematics of communication should have any relationship to the content or meaning of the message being communicated. Shannon certainly stayed away from the latter, and yet this is what the infodemic is all about.



Chris Zielinski

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HIFA profile: Chris Zielinski: As a Visiting Fellow in the Centre for Global Health, Chris leads the Partnerships in Health Information (Phi) programme at the University of Winchester. Formerly an NGO, Phi supports knowledge development and brokers healthcare information exchanges of all kinds. Chris has held senior positions in publishing and knowledge management with WHO in Brazzaville, Geneva, Cairo and New Delhi, with FAO in Rome, ILO in Geneva, and UNIDO in Vienna. Chris also spent three years in London as Chief Executive of the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society. He was the founder of the ExtraMED project (Third World biomedical journals on CD-ROM), and managed the Gates Foundation-supported Health Information Resource Centres project. He served on WHO’s Ethical Review Committee, and was an originator of the African Health Observatory. Chris has been a director of the World Association of Medical Editors, UK Copyright Licensing Agency, Educational Recording Agency, and International Association of Audiovisual Writers and Directors. He has served on the boards of several NGOs and ethics groupings (information and computer ethics and bioethics). UK-based, he is also building houses in Zambia. chris AT

His publications are at and and his blogs are and