Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

Patient Advocates in the Internet Age: a threat to traditional notions of authority in health care?

November 7, 2010


The Internet, with its many modes of publication, has facilitated the growth of high profile patient advocates by giving them a powerful platform from which to be heard. Their success in garnering a sizable audience of chronic health sufferers is playing a central role in challenging traditional notions of authority in the health care field.

This paper will specifically look at the example of thyroid disease to demonstrate how the more prominent patient advocates make use of these publication methods and how this has cemented their position as a new form of authority in the health care arena. Research including a review of relevant academic research and study of advocates’ blogs, websites and message boards has provided the insights and evidence for this paper.

By looking at the cultural and technological context which has given rise to this development, this paper seeks to demonstrate that the patient advocate is a new form of authority, challenging traditional notions of authority in health care by harnessing publication methods on the Internet to speak to and actively engage with an audience. Medical authority will be defined for this purpose using a philosophical and sociological framework.

This paper contributes to the body of related existing academic literature which has examined the impact of the Internet on traditional models of health care. By specifically focusing on the examples of patient advocates in the area of thyroid disease, this paper will demonstrate that traditional notions of authority in health care are being challenged.

Keywords: Internet, authority, patient advocate, health care, medical, thyroid, doctor.

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ARIN6902: Just what does the Internet mean for Protest Movements?

March 22, 2010

As I mentioned in my initial post, Protest Movements in relation to the Internet is an incredibly broad topic. So this next post will attempt to give a very broad overview of the topic and provide context for the focus of the blog itself: cultural protest.

Just why is this topic so broad? Firstly, there are considerations of what the Internet comprises (ie. endless websites, apps, RIAs, widgets, feeds, social networks), then you need to analyse definitions of “protest” and activities therein (“hacktivism”, and, Facebook groups, Twitter posts, email campaigns) and lastly, there is a need to take a look at what actual topic or issue is that is being “protested” – democracy in Iran, disliking the fashion sense of a colleague or perhaps a particular musical genre (Norwegian death metal anyone?).

Let’s start off by connecting the dots. The Oxford English dictionary, that  esteemed gatekeeper of knowledge and grammar, defines protest as both a noun and a verb:

noun 1 a statement or action expressing disapproval or objection. 2 an organized public demonstration objecting to an official policy or course of action.

verb 1 express an objection to what someone has said or done. 2 take part in a public protest. 3 state emphatically in response to an accusation or criticism: she protested her innocence.

So, taking the next step, “protest movement” implies a group of participants who are, to varying levels, unified in terms of just what is being protested against. It also suggests organisation, collaboration and action.

Now that we have that clear, we can look at the typical overarching topics that protest movements revolve around…and as can be expected, there are some very thorny topics indeed (not surprisingly, they are the topics your parents and those silly etiquette guides always told you never to discuss at dinner): sexual orientation, politics, religion, sport, culture, war…the list goes on.

And what sort of activities do people who engage in protest movements get up to? Well, they range from the benign to the definitely illegal, the maybe-illegal and the downright ingenious. The activities that get the most attention seem to be the ones that target large, international corporations or government agencies: in 1998, the Pentagon and Mexican government websites were affected by a “virtual sit-in” where hundreds of activists protesting the treatment of natives from an area of Mexico initiated denial of service attacks so that the websites became inaccessible. Other notable events in this vein constitute defacement of a website – unauthorised people gain access to the website and post messages on the homepage to gain attention and notoriety for their cause. More recently and locally, the website for the Melbourne International Film Festival was shut down due to denial of service attacks by Chinese protesters, who were against the inclusion of a prominent filmmaker from the Muslim Uyghur minority and is critical of the Chinese government.

Somewhat more benign and perhaps dumbed-down are the thousands of Facebook groups set up protesting anything from the discontinuation of a chocolate bar to the cancellation of Friends on UK Channel E4. Hadley Freeman at The Guardian picks up on this dumbing down of protest, suggesting that in many cases, it is simply a case of reactionary campaigning, where those that sign up are only doing it for the sake of it.

Let us now take a look at how the Internet has facilitated protest movements. The obvious points are that forms of publication on the Internet act as a mobilising and galvanising force, allowing for movements to organise themselves, spread their beliefs and to be active. The large potential audience of the Internet and its networked nature allow the development of dedicated and determined protest movement members. It also provides protest members with a gathering location that is not physical.