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Meaningful disinformation: narrative rituals and affective folktales

Bastos, M. T. ORCID: 0000-0003-0480-1078 & Tuters, M. (2023). Meaningful disinformation: narrative rituals and affective folktales. Big Data & Society, 10(2), article number 2053951723. doi: 10.1177/20539517231215361


In this paper we review the epistemological boundaries of disinformation studies and argue that they are informed by network and transmission models where the unit of analysis (i.e., disinformation) is assumed to follow contagion growth patterns typical of population models. This framework reduces disinformation to a behavioral problem that downplays the participatory and ritualistic dimension of disinformation, which we argue cannot be reduced, and therefore cannot be corrected, by targeting individual behavior. We review seminal contributions to information and communication studies to foreground disinformation as de facto alternative social contracts that organize the overflow of information in meaningful narratives. We conclude by arguing that disinformation studies would benefit from tracing the resonance of narratives informed by lived experiences to achieve a higher-level principle that can negotiate conflicting realities.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Publisher Keywords: Disinformation, behavioral models, social platforms, rituals, consensus, reality
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries > Media & Communications
SWORD Depositor:
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