Risk and the pandemic

While news about COVID-19 is everywhere, a year after it became a global headline, I’m seeing relatively little in the way of public writing on risk assessment and evaluation. Some organizational assessments from early on are out there, and plenty of guidance exists on how to manage and/or quantify personal risk. The CDC and similar bodies have put out lots of recommendations that are constantly met with public debate. But less common are analyses of how global perceptions of risk as a social endeavor have changed in the last year. I don’t just mean that the idea of risk is socially constructed (a la Grabill & Simmons), but that risk itself is networked element.

I’ve heard many people say–and I’ve said myself–“Oh, I trust so-and-so. They’re part of my bubble.” This is a way of establishing rhetorically that I have taken a risk but that I believe it to be a justifiable one. Of course, “trusting” someone in this sense also means trusting everyone they trust … and everyone they trust … and so on. Risk is viral. Literally. I’m eager to see some studies on how people’s understandings of risk have shifted over the past year as “risk of exposure” and “risk of being a carrier” have become such a prominent part of our everyday vocabularies and lives.


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