Narrative analysis about facemask wearing at the COVID-19 time: Perceptions of a basic tool with significant socio-cultural implications

Author: Lucia Martinelli – MUSE – Science museum. Italy

Individual and collective responsibility, trust in the institutions and credibility of the public health communication are crucial to motivate citizens to adopt/refuse the mandatory measures aimed at containing SARS-CoV-2 spread. Besides lockdown and physical distancing, facemask wearing is a main public health measure recommended. Although a “simple” protection tool, facemask can be understood as a sophisticated technological devise because of the load of personal and social perception attributed to its use/not use. A better understanding of citizens’ perception toward this personal protection device is required to design effective health communication to motivate the acceptability of the policies to contain present pandemic, as well as future global crisis. With this purpose, focusing on the facemask wearing, in May 2020, we collected observational testimonies from 29 scholars, members of an interdisciplinary research network on health and society, leaving in 20 European countries, South Korea and China. Participants wrote open-ended texts, answering to questions regarding rules adopted in their country, individual/personal attitude and practice, their view about other people behavior, and interpersonal interactions. The narratives (collected as an open source for research purpose: were analyzed thematically with the method of qualitative descriptive analysis. They are valuable commentaries describing national public health regulations, personal facemask use, and behaviors of citizens in various countries. This study highlights how social and personal practices of wearing (or not) face masks are influenced by individual perceptions of infection risk, personal interpretation of responsibility and solidarity, cultural and religious tradition, personal interpretations of social and cultural norms and need of expressing self-identity. Interestingly, the facemask was also described as a visual communication tool and a new way to communicate during times of lockdown and isolation. Finally, wearing (or not) face mask showed to be an ideological symbol and to have a strong political meaning.

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Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Time