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Bachelor – Mediedesign NTNU Gjøvik

Min bachelor i mediedesign ved NTNU Gjøvik.

18 Journal of Technical

18 Journal of Technical Writing and Communication Vol. 45 No. 1 2015 Such studies are rife with paternalistic language. Winkelman and Choo’s (2003) study, for example, suggests that provider-sponsored virtual communities for patients with chronic illnesses may socialize them into communities of practice that encourage knowledgeable patients to become knowledge workers in that particular community. Lester, Prady, Finegan, and Hoch (2004) expressed «surprise» at finding «That thousands of patients and their caregivers had already created an impressive variety of online health resources.» Because of the growing interest in «partnerships» with peer-to-peer communities, a community that is currently unmoderated by any medical entities provides a pristine environment of sorts to study what the processes of true peer-to-peer interaction, education, and social support are. Methods Internet research is still being defined as a method (Hine, 2008) and some advocate for an evolving approach to studying this particular field site: «The hyperlinked, co-produced and evolving characteristics of the web necessitate reconsideration of traditional research methods, and the development of new ones» (Schneider & Foot, 2005, p. 157). Within the field of technical communication, Gurak and Silker (1997) note that ethnography, rhetorical analysis, and surveys may be useful methods for technical communicators to study computer-mediated interactions. The research for this study follows this call combining ethnographic field methods for data collection and fantasy theme analysis, a type of rhetorical analysis, to analyze this data. Upon receiving IRB approval, a total of 3,158 text-based messages posted on the Introduction forum and Type 2 forum of the Tu Diabetes website between March 16 th and March 30, 2009, were collected and analyzed. E-mail interviews also were conducted with the site organizer, Manny Hernandez, and three active members of the site. As Moran (2002) notes in his fantasy theme analysis of historical documents of the first English commercial report of North America, this type of analysis has been little explored in technical communication (Moran, 2002). And while researchers have used other types of narrative analysis on research into online health communities specifically (Barton, 2008, for an example), there is not an extensive body of work that employs fantasy theme analysis (see McCabe, 2009, for an example). This form of rhetorical analysis, however, provides a method that Arduser, Lora Warp and Weft: Weaving the Discussion Threads of an Online Community encourages a thicker reading of the community at hand and an emphasison narratives that construct a group identity seems a natural cousin to rhetorical common places and the narrative stories of ethnographies. Fantasy theme analysis was first employed in the 1970s by speech scholars for analyzing speeches and by Bormann (1972, 1982) in the analysis of smallgroup communication. The method is based on Symbolic Convergence Theory (sct), which assumes that through communication «Human beings converge their individual fantasies, dreams, and meanings into shared symbol systems»(- Bormann, 1980, p. 189). These shared systems are embodied in the common themes in the stories members of the group tell. Members of the group create a shared reality in their interactions when telling and responding to these narratives. Individual narratives that resonate with the group’s values converge and chainout into the group to create the shared reality. The unit for analysis in this method is the fantasy theme, the «dramatizing message that depicts characters engaged in action in a setting that accounts for and explains human experience» (Bormann, Cragan, & Shields, 2001, p. 282). These narrations, or dramas, are the spaces to learn something about group values. Like Burke’s dramatic pentad, there are a central person, characters, a plot, and scene that are expressed in the narratives of group members. While the content of the theme is expressed in the message itself, Bormann argues that the difference between the content of the original message and a fantasy theme is that «the theme has become part of the group consciousness through the dynamic communication process of chaining and sharing» (Bormann, Cragan, & Shields, 1994, p. 281). These themes, in turn, converge into fantasy types and these types into an overall rhetorical vision for the community, which «provides a coherent view of what constitutes the social reality of the particular group» (McCabe, 2009, p. 6). Analysis TuDiabetes.com grew out of the Diabetes Hand Foundation, which was started by Manny Hernandez in 2007. Hernandez says that it is the first social network focused on diabetes. The name was suggested by Hernandez’s wife. It made sense because he is Hispanic and it is a wordplay: «’Tu as in Your’ but also Tu, with a sound similar to ’Too’ (you too have diabetes) because we are all affected by it directly or indirectly» (Hernandez, 2009). The site’s logo also has a dual meaning. Of course, the hand relates to the idea of touched, 19 26 MARLENE ANGELICA SJONSTI-BJØRNSEN BACHELOR MEDIEDESIGN NTNU I GJØVIK

Table 1. The number of discussion threads on each forum on April 2, 2009 20 Journal of Technical Writing and Communication Vol. 45 No. 1 2015 but the red blotch on the middle finger is a type of signal for people with diabetes, one they will all recognize as the droplet of blood used to test your blood sugar levelsa daily ritual associated with the disease. The theme repeats itself in the red dot in the site’s name (tudiabetes.com) on the homepage. As of April 3 rd , 2009, Tu Diabetes had 7,894 members from around the world. Members include people with Type 1, Type 2, Type 1.5, and gestational diabetes as well as friends and family members of people with the disease. According to Hernandez’s interview response: When someone joins, they receive an automatic message describing the kind of things they can expect to find in the community. Included in the message is a link to our New Member Guide and a link to our Terms of Use (which the new member agreed to during the sign-up process). After the person has joined, our Welcome Committee typically greets them. This entails, at themost simple level, a «welcome» message posted on the member’s profile page (each member has a comment wall on their page) and typically linksto areas of interest to the person based on the answers they included ontheir profile questions. For example, if Table 1. Forum name Number of discussion threads Type 3............................................................................ 2604 General..................................................................... 1145 Type 1........................................................................ ..915 New to Diabetes?..................................................... ..554 Insulin Pumpers......................................................... ..472 Diabetes News......................................................... ..247 Food, Recipes, Eating Habits for Diabetics............. ..240 Treatment, Cure........................................................ ..191 Constinouous Glucose Monitoring.......................... ..176 TuDiabetes News..................................................... ..173 Children with Diabetes............................................. ....88 Diabetes, Sports and Fitness................................... ....69 Type 1.5.................................................................... ....58 TuDiabetes Tech Questions..................................... ....56 Alternate Ways of Treating Diabetes...................... ....22 Pre-Diabetes............................................................. ....21 Type 3....................................................................... ....14 Animals and Diabetes................................................ ....11 Gestational Diabetes, Diabetes and Pregnancy.......... ......0 Arduser, Lora Warp and Weft: Weaving the Discussion Threads of an Online Community someone is exploring insulin pumps of cgms [continuous glucose monitoring system] as therapy options, the people welcoming the new member would mention/link the resources inthe community about these topics. Table 1 lists the forums on the Tu Diabetes site and the number of discussion threads on each of these forums as of April 2, 2009. It is offered as a general characterization of the level of activity on the site because, obviously, the content of such a social networking site is dynamic, changing daily if not hourly. The discussion threads work much like an e-mail exchange in that they represent the interactions between participants in a discussion on a particular topic (the forum). Some of these discussions generate little response. As the tables in Appendix A show, there is a fairly wide variety in the number of responses, going from 0 to 707. Other discussions pick up traction, or chain out, in the community that makes up the readers and writers of the thread texts. Threads that initiate numerous responses indicate a «chain of reactions» that Bormann calls a fantasy theme (1985, p. 131). In this study, therefore, I looked at discussion threads that indicated a shared reaction based on the number of responses to the original posting (3). Because most postings seemed to generate numbers in the single or double digits, I decided that the threads that elicited numbers in the triple digits would be most likely to contain such themes. Three discussion threads from the time period of the study fit into this category: • You know you’re diabetic when (707 responses) • What are your worst five diabetic habits? (104 responses) • Can’t seem to get my levels to normal (135 responses). The narratives of these threads play out the themes of shared experience, which include the divide between patient and doctor and the archetypal image of the patient as willfully noncompliant. When woven together, these themes help create the community’s rhetorical vision of their relationship with their disease, their doctors, and the rest of the world of non-diabetics. The foundation of thisvision rests in the term control and the various battlegrounds the struggle for control takes place. We Don’t Need No Stinking Doctor While the persona dramatis of the previously mentioned discussion (3) I should note that I have not edited or revised the language of these posts. 21 THE JOURNAL OF TECHNICAL WRITING AND COMMUNICATION TIDSSKRIFT 27

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