Group for Experimental Methods in Humanistic Research
at Columbia University

Vaccines in the Medical Imagination

research paper
  • Rishi Goyal
  • Dennis Yi Tenen

Language around vaccine hesitancy reveals the public’s distrust in science, medicine, and government. This distrust stands in the way of effective health policy, crucial in the coming efforts to vaccinate against the COVID-19 virus. Our project seeks to use state-of-the-art computational methods (a) to collect a significant database of anti-vaccine rhetoric, found in online forums, discussion groups, and social media; (b) to analyze vaccine hesitancy as a cultural, linguistic phenomenon so as to better understand its causes and concerns; and (c) to propose new ways of presenting vaccines to the public in a way that increases compliance.

Call for Participation

The Literary Modeling and Visualization Workshop at Columbia University is accepting applications from student participants interested in contributing to it’s first collaborative research project, entitled Vaccines in the Medical Imagination, led by Professors Rishi Goyal (Director of Medicine Literature and Society Program and Assistant Professor of Medicine) and Dennis Yi Tenen (Associate Professor, English and Comparative Literature).

As the United States is under threat of losing its Measles elimination status, this project combines expertise in the Medical Humanities and Computational Literary Analysis to understand the cultural roots of vaccine hesitancy. By investigating the literary tropes surrounding vaccination in popular press and in medicine, we will seek to explore how science and the perception of science are continually shaped by metaphors, which persist within the medical imaginary.

No prior experience in the medical humanities or formal literary analysis is required. We will be meeting weekly to review relevant literature, explore archives, draft, diagram, code, and eventually co-author. Students will have the chance to deepen their existing research skills, as well as to expand into adjacent methods and approaches. You must be generally available on Fridays 1-3pm.

Contact either of the faculty leads if you are interested in participating.