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Press Release

Press Release

Doctoral thesis on Misinformation as a Social Phenomenon

Hilda Ruokolainen
Hilda Ruokolainen

Lic.Soc.Sc. Hilda Ruokolainen’s doctoral thesis in Information Studies will be put forth for public defence at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Business and Economics, and Law at Åbo Akademi University. 

The thesis is entitled Misinformation in Encounters: A Qualitative Study of Misinformation as a Social Phenomenon. 

The public defence of the doctoral thesis takes place on 16 June 2023, 1 PM, in auditorium Armfelt, Arken, Tehtaankatu 2, Turku, and online. Professor Ian Ruthven, University of Strathclyde, Great Britain, will serve as opponent and Professor Kristina Eriksson-Backa, Åbo Akademi University, as custos. 




Misinformation is often regarded as negative information online, an issue which can be corrected with fact checking and improved information literature. However, there is a need for a more nuanced understanding of misinformation as a part of our everyday information environment in order to better address problems with misinformation. 

This thesis adopts the definition of misinformation as inaccurate, incomplete, vague, or ambiguous information that is affected by social, cultural, historical, contextual, and situational factors. It studies the misinformation people encounter, what factors affect it (specifically, what role encounters play in this process), how misinformation can be studied qualitatively, and how to address misinformation more efficiently. Misinformation is studied in two contexts where support with information is needed: asylum seekers and youth. 

The research created new theoretical contributions to study and analyse misinformation as a social phenomenon. The methodological findings revealed that a combination of direct questions and indirect discussion elicit rich data on misinformation. The empirical findings revealed different types of misinformation connected with authorities and official structures (outdated, incomplete, or conflicting information and perceived intimidation). Moreover, different strategies connected to encountering, trust, and respect can be used when giving support with information to make misinformation less challenging. 

The study highlighted the importance of encounters, and the framework for caring encounters was used to analyse the social factors creating and forming misinformation. Caring encounters mitigate misinformation, whereas uncaring encounters or a complete lack of encounters make it challenging for people to access, understand, and use information. The findings can be used to improve information support and services by focusing on appropriate ways to encounter people in different situations. 


Hilda Ruokolainen is born in 1988 in Lahti, Finland. She can be reached by phone 050 475 0221 or email hilda.ruokolainen@abo.fi.

The doctoral thesis can be read online through the Doria publication archive. 

Click here for a press photo of the doctoral student.


Instructions on how to follow the doctoral defence remotely

To follow the defence, you need the Zoom software or the Google Chrome browser. You do not need to create a Zoom account to follow the defence. If you install the application, you participate by clicking on the meeting link, after which you should allow the link to open in the Zoom app.