Book launch! Connected in Isolation

by Eszter Hargittai on November 8, 2022

A while back I posted that I was writing a book about Covid. Today is its official launch date!

I’m super excited about and proud of this work, because I don’t believe we’ll ever be able to capture people’s experiences during a global pandemic the way collecting data about it at the height of initial lockdowns allowed us (my research team) to do. Below the fold I explain what the book covers. In short, it has material of interest to those curious about misinformation, social media, and digital inequality.

Also, how awesome is this cover?! I can’t take credit for it, but am super grateful to its designer Ori Kometani for capturing the experiences of the time so well.

In the Preface, I describe what it was like to do research at the height of lockdowns. This is the one part of the book that draws on an existing publication. I’m glad we wrote down our experiences in the moment, because these would have been hard to convey even just a year later.

The Introduction explains why it matters to study a global crisis in real time. It describes the digital inequality framework for looking at differences in people’s digital media circumstances, skills, and experiences. It also gives details about the methods my team used to gather survey data in three countries: the US, Italy, and Switzerland.

The chapter on the Social Context of Life During Lockdown gives information about the initial days of Covid in the three countries of interest (see above). It talks about worries and home experiences, pivoting to working from home for those who could, discrimination against disabled people, and people’s trust in institutions (or lack thereof) concerning handling the pandemic. This chapter also gives details about people’s knowledge as well as misbeliefs about the virus. Worth noting is that knowledge and misbeliefs are not simply two sides of the same coin. You could be knowledgeable about Covid while also holding misconceptions about it.

In Digital Context of Lockdown, I first look at the challenges of pivoting to school and work online. I show data about the differences in home digital circumstances, people’s varied digital skills, their technology support needs, and particular challenges that disabled faced during this time.

Next, Connecting on Social Media about the Pandemic first gives a broader overview of differences in various platforms and who uses them. Then I look at how people engaged with Covid content on social media at the height of lockdowns. Finally, I link such social media use to feelings of social connectedness as well as Covid knowledge and misconceptions.

The chapter about Information Sources and (Mis)understanding Covid-19 starts by discussing knowledge gaps and the Internet as well as a general overview of who followed Covid news closely. Then it describes the various information sources people consulted about Covid ranging from broadcast television to online-only sources. I show how information sources linked to Covid knowledge and misconceptions.

In the Conclusion, I examine why all this matters by by showing the link between digital context, Covid information sources, Covid knowledge & misbeliefs, and complying with stay-at-home orders. I also discuss why the findings from the book are relevant beyond this particular pandemic case.

The Appendix gives details about the survey data collection, data cleaning, as well as all survey questions used in the analyses.

I hope you get a chance to read it! If someone gets a hard copy and would like a dedication to put inside, I’m happy to send along a book plate.

PS. You can read some very generous endorsements for the book on the MIT Press site.



notGoodenough 11.08.22 at 3:32 pm

Congratulations! It sounds quite interesting, and pertinent to current trends in digital society (and potentially societies in general).


Robert Weston 11.09.22 at 3:22 am

Compliments! This is not my area of expertise at all, but what a timely and important contribution.


Windy 11.09.22 at 4:07 pm

I was looking for references for my research on the digital divide and this email for this book just popped up! Congratulations! I believe this book will be an important and useful resource to understand people’s digital experiences during the pandemic and will encourage more discussion.


Eszter Hargittai 11.15.22 at 10:21 pm

Thank you for the good wishes! I’m very excited to see this out in the world. (If anyone gets a hard copy and wouldn’t mind sharing a picture of the book with me “out in the wild”, please do!)

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