Sparrow and Finch Gardening How a garden-like approach to information can help us combat misinformation

How a garden-like approach to information can help us combat misinformation

 This trend is at risk due to misinformation about vaccines , which has led some people to be hesitant in getting a vaccine.

When people try to address vaccine misinformation, efforts are often ignored. This is because vaccine hesitancy, like all misinformation, is a complex problem. To address it, we need to think about a wide variety of different contributing factors that are systemic and interact with one another. We can say that this problem is ecological.

Information is a dynamic environment that is becoming more complex. The metaphor of gardening can help us to understand the information ecosystem.

The seeds of vaccine science

In a metaphorical sense, vaccine science is the seed. This seed is affected by many factors.

In a garden, the soil is the individual beliefs and knowledge. It must be fertile to allow the seeds to grow. In an information ecosystem, the furtiveness of soil for ideas about vaccine efficacy and safety will depend on personal history and experience education values, and a worldview.

Most interventions on misinformation are aimed at individual consumers of information or platforms such as social media. (Shutterstock)

Community and relationships can be helpful or damaging to garden visitors. The amount of growth and success a plant is capable of achieving depends on them. Influencers are pollinators and pests who can either help or hinder the information about vaccines. Community members, our colleagues, and the people we’re exposed to through social media algorithms can also be influencers.

Read more: How Canadians can use social media to help debunk COVID-19 misinformation

Government regulations and policies are the gardeners who help to weed out bad ideas before they take root. Policies that guide how social media platforms should respond to misinformation , or policies that influence media consolidation , for example, antitrust regulations, are important with respect to weeding misinformation out of the information ecology.

Policies which strengthen or weaken the public education play a part in this. Citizens must have a solid understanding of science and have access to media that provide accurate information about vaccines.

Culture is like the sun or rain. It surrounds us all and can either help information flourish or make it wither and vulnerable to misinformation. Cultural metaphors such as the market of ideas, which assumes that competition in information leads to the best possible ideas thriving, can unintentionally create fertile grounds for misinformation.

In this metaphor, misinformation is an invasive species. Once established, it can be difficult to remove.

Consider the entire information environment.

Most interventions that target misinformation are aimed at individual consumers of information or social media platforms. They rely on individuals to debunk misinformation when they come across it. They also stress the importance of digital literacy and information for each individual.

Read more: The first step to curbing COVID vaccine misinformation is finding out who is most vulnerable. Our research sheds some light

These interventions are undoubtedly important; however, without government and culture-based interventions,vidual and platform solutions are less effective – we need all parts of the information ecology to come together. Returning to the garden as a metaphor, if we have good soil, and helpful pollinators, but no gardener to pull weeds, and no light or water, our seed will not grow.

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