After two (!) years my last PhD-related article just went online! It’s been published by the popular online journal First Monday, which is – normally – known for a quick review process. But well, good things take time, as the saying goes. Since my PhD “Mediated Knowledge” (download here) deals with the computer-mediated communication of online health information you may ask whether the article is not outdated by now. That’s what I was asking myself, at any rate..

But the answer is no. Even though the empirical data may seem quite “old”, and Web 2.0 health communication has become more widespread in the meanwhile, the base line of my arguments – the “politics of online health information” challenging the democratic ideal of the web – is still valid and more relevant than ever (not least because Google managed to further enlarge its market share and hence influence over online knowledge since then). Got interested? Then check out my article “Health information politics: Reconsidering the democratic ideal of the Web as a source of medical knowledge” on First Monday and decide for yourself!

Thanks go to my HUMlab colleagues for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of the paper, Mike Frangos first and foremost!!!

search engines matter

Finally, another article deriving from my PhD work has been accepted by a peer-review journal :) It’s the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) journal Policy and Internet. The article with the title “Search Engines Matter: From educating users towards engaging with online health information practices” will be published in May 2012, in the special issue on eHealth. I’d like to thank the guest editors Rik Crutzen and Gordon Gao, as well as the managing editor David Sutcliffe, who was a great help in the whole peer-review process! Further I’d like to thank my Viennese colleagues, who contributed to the empirical work for the article, my HUMlab colleagues for having supported me during my stay in Sweden, and Mike Frangos, who commented on earlier drafts of the paper and helped me with editing the English!!

I’ve posted the abstract below and will add the link to the article once it has been put online.

While the internet is often discussed as empowering or endangering patients due to broadening access to medical and health-related information, little is known about the way patients actually get informed about medical conditions and how the technology shapes their practices. This article draws on 40 user observations and 40 qualitative interviews to explore how users employ the web to obtain knowledge about a chronic disease in the Austrian context. Following concepts from the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) it elaborates how users’ individual medical preferences and search engines’ mechanisms of pre-filtering information co-shape online health information practices. This analysis exemplifies that search engines are no passive intermediaries, but rather actively shape how users browse through, select and evaluate health information in the context of their own bodies of knowledge. Accordingly, new skills are required on the part of users, but also on the part of medical professionals and policy makers. Both policy makers and doctors are invited to engage with users’ highly individual search practices and establish more dialogue-oriented and technology-focused health policy measures, rather than trying to educate users with standardized quality criteria for websites not responding to users’ online routines and needs, as will be finally concluded.