UNI SP4 Study Period 4 2014

NET102 What My Doctor Didn't Tell Me

Internet Studies 102 : The Internet and Everyday Life
Topic 1.4: Health: What My Doctor Didn’t Tell Me

So much of people’s lives appear to be centred around health: the food we eat, exercise, sports, emotional and mental health, visits to the doctor or chemist, and feelings about the body. Health is another sphere of the everyday that is closely connected to how we see ourselves and others, through which power works (authority of medical institutions and its practitioners), around which whole industries have flourished and also find common ground with others. In this topic, we see how the Internet has played a major role in reconfiguring some of these relationships and practices.

Perhaps the most immediate change we can see in terms of health is the way people now use the Internet to find out more about a medical condition or topic, where previously they would be more reliant on their doctor, chemist, hospital, and printed books and pamphlets available from health institutions. How does this affect people’s relationships with their doctors and medical institutions? The Internet is used by institutions involved in health (governments, hospitals, chemists) to disseminate information and administer health care, is their authority diluted by the other sources freely available or do people still accord them more respect? People also seem to be seeking other benefits from their use of the Internet for health, they join online communities, e.g. discussion forums, to discuss their ailments and ask for advice. There is also the economic side of things, particularly the avenues offered by the Internet for spreading information and attracting attention from potential consumers (online pharmacies, e-medical centres and the like). What are the implications of these developments for everyday use of the Internet for health?

What you need to do to learn about this topic:


Eysenbach, G. (2008, August 25). Medicine 2.0: Social Networking, Collaboration, Participation, Apomediation, and Openness. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 10(3): e22. doi: 10.2196/jmir.1030. This is partly a projection, partly a description of the author’s observations regarding the development of “Medicine 2.0”. What would such trends imply in terms of community, power, economy and identity?


Select a particular health topic that interests you for any reason (it could be a friend or relative’s medical condition, for instance). Find out more about the topic using the Internet. While you are doing this, note down the main ways you’ll begin looking and your process of selecting useful sites. How would you say your knowledge of the topic has changed in the course of this research? What are the criteria by which you’d select sites? Finally, briefly describe 2-3 of the most useful sites and Internet applications and the ways in which they’d be useful to people visiting them.


Your experiences with using online resources to look up health or medical issues. Do you know of any situation where someone has found information on the Internet that has not matched the advice given by their doctor? What do you think of the use of the Internet by non-medical professionals to seek advice and information about illnesses and other health issues? How much do you think the medical and health professionals where you are need to, and have, kept pace with developments on the Internet?


If you choose this topic for the essay, in addition to the above, you will also need to read:

Nettleton, S., Burrows, R., & O’Malley, L. (2005). The mundane realities of the everyday lay use of the Internet for health, and their consequences for media convergence. Sociology of Health & Illness, 27(7), 972-992. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2005.00466.x. In E-Reserve. This article reports on some field research the authors have done on how people use the Internet. According to the authors, what are the main attitudes of people, both lay and health professionals, towards the use of the Internet for health? Their research was conducted in 2002, how much do you think what they say still applies?

Fox, S. and Duggan, M. (2013). PEW Internet and American Life Project: Health online 2013. http://www.pewinternet.org/files/old-media/Files/Reports/PIP_HealthOnline.pdf

White, M. and Dorman, S. M. (2001). Receiving social support online: Implications for health education. Health Education Research: Theory and Practice, 16(6), 693 - 707. http://her.oxfordjournals.org/content/16/6/693.full.pdf

Each of these six topics covered in Module 1 has a particular question for the Questions and Answers assignment, you will need to complete these questions and then submit the best three of them as part of your assignment. You may also choose this topic for your essay. Your participation in discussions and activities for this, and the other topics, contribute towards the body of work that you will select from for the Portfolio. Also, review the material in this topic for your final assignment, particularly paying attention to the role played by the Internet in terms of economics, power, identity, community, time and space (Module 2).

NEXT: Topic 1.5: Faith and Spirituality Online »