Typing yourself medically ill: Objectifying subjective experiences in an online health forum

In this paper I focus on how ordinary people who interact in an online forum on metabolism objectify subjective bodily experiences. This phenomenon is described, analyzed and discussed by making use of ethnomethodological conversation analysis (EMCA) and membership categorization analysis (MCA) adapted to online forum interaction.

The project illuminates two methodological and theoretical related issues: 1) it shows how participants interactionally and collaboratively arrive at a common understanding of how to understand a subjectively experienced problem by using the methods available to them in an online forum, i.e. both personal experiences, medical knowledge as well as the social validation of this knowledge and experience, and 2) it outlines ordinary people’s lay understandings of experienced health problems. The “biomedical model” of illness is overwhelmingly oriented to in the language used in the attempt to make sense of bodily experiences, i.e. participants “objectify” pain. However, participants also express a frustration that their subjective experiences are not acknowledged and considered. The project focuses on how ordinary people may use forums to try to change that.

Elisabeth Muth Andersen