Viral Buzz: Rumor and Its Disruptions in Pandemic Uncertainty


  • Gary Alan Fine Department of Sociology, Northwestern University



Rumor, Knowledge, Disruption, Pandemic, COVID-19


Building on theory and research on rumor dynamics, I examine how the search for and acquisition of information during a time of medical crisis relies on the politics of plausibility and the politics of credibility. In this, I examine how the content and the source of information affects the spread of uncertain knowledge during periods of disaster, recognizing the social dynamics of ignorance, a key issue for domains of knowledge of which the public has little ability to judge. The assertion of multiple truth claims about the current pandemic leads to challenges to previously taken-for-granted realities, but also potentially provides solutions. The dynamic may be different in conditions that require an immediate response and those that evolve over a longer period (fast and slow rumors). Using rumors about the COVID-19 pandemic, I address how epistemic disruption undercuts established norms (disruption-of) but also creates the possibility of desirable change through new negotiations, strengthening community (disruption-for).


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How to Cite

Fine, G. A. (2021). Viral Buzz: Rumor and Its Disruptions in Pandemic Uncertainty. Sociologica, 15(1), 43–53.



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