Monday, July 14, 2008

Korea's Beef "Infodemic"

This is a follow-up to my earlier post on President Lee Myung Bak's speech to the National Assembly, in which he warned that Korea must guard against "infodemics." President Lee may have, intentionally or not, given a big boost to the international use of this recently-coined term. The term was apparently coined by David J. Rothkopf, who used it in a 2003 Washington Post article to describe how the circulation of misinformation about the SARS epidemic had implications more far reaching than the disease itself. By "infodemic," Rothkopf meant the following: "A few facts, mixed with fear, speculation and rumor, amplified and relayed swiftly worldwide by modern information technologies, have affected national and international economies, politics and even security in ways that are utterly disproportionate with the root realities." He further noted that "Infodemics are emerging as one of the most virulent phenomena known to man, able to transit continents instantly. In virtually every respect they behave just like any other disease, with an epidemiology all their own, identifiable symptoms, well-known carriers, even straightforward cures. Yet to date many in power seem unable to contain them or unwilling to acknowledge their existence." Continuing the epidemic analogy, Rothkopf suggested that infodemics can be cured, stating that "... if information is the disease, knowledge is also a cure. We should react to infodemics just as we do to diseases. Understand how these ideas are introduced into the population, how they spread, what accelerates their spread, what their consequences are, and what localized outbreaks may be contained. That does not mean repressing information. It means effectively managing each outbreak and presenting the facts fully and quickly to critical audiences."

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