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Credibility and Responsibility in User-generated Health Posts: Towards a Co-construction of Quality Knowledge?


In the context of the growing number of sites related to health issues and online conversation, statistical research tends to confirm that com- munication through health message boards has a significant role to play in the era of online counseling (Eysenbach/Diepgen 1999; Mulholland 1999; Anderson et al. 2003; Gooden/Winefield 2007; Kim/Yoon 2011). Previous studies have explored how people discussing health issues use health-related online communities or doctor-answer support facilities to access information and support. In fact, one of the main worries concerning these spaces has been the uncontrolled information that is provided by users with no defined roles and who do not/cannot take responsibility for what they say. This research questions whether health forums may represent a new means of co-construction (Fage-Butler/Nisbeth Jensen 2013, 2014) and self-appropriation of (quality) knowledge based on credibility. Authentic examples from health forum boards are analysed by means of Discourse Analysis in order to understand how participants construct attitude and commitment toward advice, opinions and suggestions (Bybee et al. 1994; Van der Auwera/Plungian 1998; Nuyts 2001; Hyland 2002; Marín Arrese 2004; Cornillie 2009) and establish credibility. Finally, a survey is undertaken in order to understand whether this credibility works, and if so how it affects people’s beliefs and behaviour in relation to their health.