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Dissertation Information for Esther Rumsey

- Esther Rumsey

- Ph.D.

- Library and Information Science

- Rutgers University (USA) (2001)

- Hartmut Mokros

- Linda Lederman
- Jenny Mandelbaum
- Stephen Haas
- Janet Grossman

MPACT Status: Fully Complete

Title: Making sense of health and illness online: A study of patterns of participation and use on one computer-mediated cancer support site

Abstract: This dissertation addresses the question of how people utilize an online support group to make sense of a life threatening illness. Examined are the stated needs individuals present to this support group, the relationship of needs to individual differences among participants, the response of the support group to these needs, and consideration of the impact that participation has through time on the expressed perceptions of health and illness of a select group of participants. This study takes a constitutive approach to communication, in which the multifunctionality of talk is recognized, and in which meaning is thought to exist not prior to, but in, moments of communication.

This study considers how the interrelated and interdependent functions of talk manifests in the communicative actions of participants of one online support site. This is accomplished through a multi-methodological approach grounded in a natural history of the interaction. First considered is the instrumental function of talk, the means of satisfying wants and needs, through a content analysis of needs expressed by participants in their introductory messages. The analysis then turns to a consideration of the expression of self-identity and relationship through a narrative analysis of the framing definitions presented by participants. Finally, a sequential analysis of the full participation of a single participant explored the regulatory, interactional and imaginative functions of talk. Specifically, the sequential analysis considered the way in which participants explain their situation, influence the explanations of others in the site and are influenced by others' explanations.

The exploration of needs expressed by participants indicates that cancer victims and significant others are equally concerned with making sense of the diagnosis and engaging in treatment decisions. The expressed needs of participants also indicated that both cancer victims and significant others confront emotional and personal concerns related to the diagnosis.

The examination of framing definitions presented by participants indicates that individuals vary in the way they are defining participation within the site, reflecting differing definitions of the illness experience and differing identity and relational needs. These differing definitions are reflected in the expressed needs of the participants and the communication strategies employed by the participants.

Examination of the interactive engagement of a single participant indicates the way in which the participant is influenced and influences the participation of others in the site. The sequential analysis also indicates the selectivity of the participant in terms of response to others and attention to information.

This study provides a means of accessing everyday understandings of health and illness, providing important insights into the way in which individuals struggling with a life threatening illness seek to understand and explain their experience. Thus, this study contributes to the development of a holistic understanding of health communication and important insights for understanding individual interactions in health care situations.

MPACT Scores for Esther Rumsey

A = 0
C = 0
A+C = 0
T = 0
G = 0
W = 0
TD = 0
TA = 0
calculated 2008-01-31 06:11:19

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Students under Esther Rumsey

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