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Journal Articles:

This article adopts a critical sociological perspective to examine the expectations surrounding the uses of social networking sites (SNSs) articulated in the domain of clinical literature. This emerging body of articles and commentaries responds to the recent significant growth in SNS use, and constitutes a venue in which the meanings of SNSs and their relation to health are negotiated. Our analysis indicates how clinical writing configures the role of SNSs in health care through a range of metaphorical constructions that frame SNSs as a tool, a conduit for information and a traversable space. The use of such metaphors serves not only to describe the new affordances offered by SNSs but also posits distinct lay and professional practices, while reviving a range of celebratory claims about the Internet and health critiqued in sociological literature. These metaphorical descriptions characterise SNS content as essentially controllable by autonomous users while reiterating existing arguments that e-health is both inherently empowering and risky. Our analysis calls for a close attention to these understandings of SNSs as they have the potential to shape future online initiatives, most notably by anticipating successful professional interventions while marginalising the factors that influence users’ online and offline practices and contexts.

Social networking sites have swiftly become a salient venue for the consumption and production of neoliberal health discourse by individuals and organisations. These platforms offer both opportunities for accruing coping resources for individuals and a means for organisations to promote their agendas to an online audience. Focusing specifically on diabetes, this article aims to examine the representation of social actors and interactional styles on three organisational Pages on Facebook. Drawing on media and communication theories, we situate this linguistic analysis in relation to the communicative affordances employed by these organisations as they publish content online. Diabetes sufferers are represented as an at-risk group whose vulnerabilities can be managed through forms of participation specific to the respective organisation. More popular diabetes Pages draw on the opportunities for social interaction afforded by Facebook and combine informational and promotional content to foster communication between the organisation and its audience. By encouraging reflexive management of diabetes risks, these Pages contribute to the construction of ‘biological citizens’ who interweave habitual interactions on social networking sites with responsible self-care, consumption of health information and health activism.

  • Hunt, D., Gunter, B. and Koteyko, N. (2015). 'UK policy on social networking sites and online health: from informed patient to informed consumer?'. Digital Health, 1. http://dhj.sagepub.com/. DOI: 10.1177/2055207615592513 

Background: Social networking sites offer new opportunities for communication between and amongst healthcare professionals, patients and members of the public. In doing so, they have the potential to facilitate public access to online healthcare information, peer-support networks, health policy fora and online consultations. Government policies and guidance from professional organisations have begun to address the potential of these technologies in the domain of healthcare and the responsibilities they involve for their users.

Objective: Adapting a discourse analytic framework for the analysis of policy documents, this review paper critically examines discussions of social networking sites in recent government and professional policy documents. It focuses particularly on who these organisations claim should use social media, for what purposes, and what the anticipated outcomes of use will be for patients and the organisations themselves.

Conclusion: Recent policy documents have configured social media as a new vehicle for harvesting patient feedback on healthcare encounters and communicating healthcare service information with which patients and the general public can be ‘empowered’ to make responsible decisions. In orienting to social media as a vehicle for enabling consumer choice, these policies encourage the marketization of health information through a greater role non-profit and commercial organisations in the eHealth domain. At the same time, current policy largely overlooks the role of social media in mediating ongoing support and self-management for patients with long-term conditions.

  •  Hunt, D. (2015). 'The many faces of diabetes: A critical multimodal analysis of diabetes pages on Facebook'. Language and Communication, 43: 72-86.

Health communication published on Facebook has become a popular source of medical information and large organisations now utilise Facebook to disseminate multimodal representations of health and illness. Drawing on a sample of posts to two popular diabetes-related Facebook pages, this paper aims to examine the multimodal representation of people with diabetes and consider the implications of this emergent context of health communication. These posts draw upon visual and linguistic features of social intimacy to synthesise personal relationships with their audiences and to foster user involvement with their authoring organisations. The promissory vision of living well with diabetes offered on these pages is thus also designed to serve the agendas of organisations who are dependent on user participation to generate revenue.

  •  Koteyko, N. and Hunt, D. (2016). ‘Performing health identities on social media: an online observation of Facebook profiles’. Discourse, Context and Mediadoi:10.1016/j.dcm.2015.11.003 (pre-print version). 

The increasing role of online technology in mediating our accounts and experiences of health and illness is now well recognised. Whereas earlier research has examined the language of support groups and institutional websites, attention is increasingly turned to the uses of social networking sites/SNSs for health. Our study examines the role of Facebook in the lives of users with type 1 and type 2 diabetes and the multimodal discursive practices they employ in their ongoing representation of life with a long-term condition. Through the longitudinal observation of 20 individual Facebook profiles, we focus on the dynamics of our participants׳ interactions, the interactional activities they performed on Facebook (individual contributions, group contributions, and ׳likes׳), and the multimodal resources they used to achieve these. The analysis reveals Facebook users׳ sensitivity to the varied social contexts that are collapsed within their networks as well as the strategies they employ to perform publically acceptable identities. Salient multimodal actions performed by participants include constructing personal expertise in relation to diabetes management, displaying the individual׳s integration into wider diabetes-related networks, presenting mundane aspects of self-management verbally and visually, and adopting a playful stance. The analysis situates diabetes-related SNSs practices within the contexts of representation and production, problematizing optimistic policy and professional rhetoric that anticipates a Health 2.0 revolution.

 

 Talks and conference papers

  • Hunt, D. (2015) Diabetes self-management and biological citizenship on Facebook'. British Sociological Association Annual Conference, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK, April 2015.
  • Koteyko, N and Hunt D. (2015). 'Personalising diabetes: Organisational messages on Facebook pages'. Invited talk at the University of Newcastle, Critical Discourse Group. 7th February.
  • Koteyko, N. (2015). Analysing the use of metaphors in clinical literature. Language Centre Professional Development event, 16th January.
  • Koteyko, N. and Hunt, D. (2014) ‘“Excellent tools but only if they are used appropriately”: Metaphors of social networking in clinical literature’. Fifth international conference Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis Across Disciplines, Loránd Eötvös University, Hungary, August 2014.
  • Hunt, D. and Koteyko, N. (2014) ‘Metaphors of social networking in clinical literature’. Invited talk at the University of Leicester SAPPHIRE research group, University of Leicester, UK, April 2014.
  • Koteyko, N. and Hunt, D. (2014) ‘Metaphors in the field of the Internet and health: A review of claims about social networking sites in clinical literature'. Invited talk at Metaphors in Health Communication workshop, Lancaster University, UK, February 2014.
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