A newly published paper on Big Data and Society addresses the diffusion of fake news about minorities’ immunity to COVID-19, and argues that techniques used in COVID-19 testing have a major role in producing them.The paper titled “‘No disease for the others’: How COVID-19 data can enact new and old alterities” asks how long-standing narratives of alterity and current narratives of disease are entwined and re-enacted in the diagnosis of COVID-19.
In particular, it addresses the diffusion of pseudoscientific accounts of minorities’ immunity to COVID-19. While apparently praising minorities’ biological resistance, such accounts rhetorically introduce a distinction between “Us” and “Them,” and in so doing produce new and re-enact old narratives of alterity.
To explain this phenomenon, the article surveys the methods through which the COVID-19 test is administered in most countries worldwide. It argues that techniques used for data collection have a major role in producing COVID-19 data that render contagion rates among migrants, African-American and other minorities invisible. In the conclusion, the article provides two recommendations about how COVID-19 data can instead potentially work towards inclusion.
The article is available open access at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2053951720942542