Thousands of headlines in the past few months alone have referenced the uncertainty that we are going through, and “during these uncertain times” is a part of nearly everything written about the pandemic. However, uncertainty is not new. In fact, it individuals have experienced (and tried to manage) uncertainty since the advent of time, so, what, if anything, makes this pandemic moment unique? Prof. Walid A. Afifi, a Fellow of the International Communication Association, is among the worldwide leaders in the study of uncertainty. In this discussion, he will overview some of the decades of research on uncertainty across disciplines and geographic boundaries, and reflect on both the uneven distribution of uncertainty across communities and on the implications therein. He will also share preliminary data from a four-wave national study collected in the United States across a three month period spanning early stages of the covid pandemic, and introduce for the first time a framework that identifies four broad coping strategies for community-wide and chronic experiences of uncertainty.
Walid A. Afifi (PhD, University of Arizona) is a Professor in the Department of Communication and Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). He is an author on over 75 articles, chapters, and books, served as Chair of the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa (2013-2016), served as Chair (2016-2018) of national Task Force on academic-community collaboration with members of oppressed communities, and is a leading voice in the Communication discipline to create more inclusive spaces. His program of research revolves around uncertainty and information-management decisions and has led to the development and refinement of the Theory of Motivated Information Management. That work has increasingly focused on immigrant communities and/or communities experiencing trauma. He was recently elected as a Fellow of the International Communication Association (the first Palestinian so honored) and recognized by UCSB for “extraordinary commitment to the general growth and development of students and the quality of student life.” He is a proud father to two daughters.
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