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How to build consensus in a health-oriented online community: modeling a ‘pro-ana’ forum

How to build consensus in a health-oriented online community: modeling a ‘pro-ana’ forum

Casilli, Antonio A., Rouchier, Juliette and Tubaro, Paola (2014) How to build consensus in a health-oriented online community: modeling a ‘pro-ana’ forum. Revue française de sociologie, 55 (4). pp. 731-763. ISSN 0035-2969 (Print), 1958-5691 (Online)

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This article presents an agent-based model of a health-related internet forum. If recent literature demonstrates the relevance of network approaches to gain insight into consensus-building within online groups of peers, the dynamic process of mutual adjustment of participants’ health orientations has been seldom explored. Our model is informed by qualitative data collected via semi-structured interviews with internet users living with eating disorders—often stigmatized due to the controversies surrounding “pro-ana” (anorexia) websites. The discussion threads that unfold in the forum, expressing a range of health orientations from extreme “pro-pathology” to “pro-recovery” ones, initiate a mix of conflicting and supportive reactions that can trigger change in members’ orientations over time. We develop a computer simulation of message exchanges in a forum, describing micro behaviors through a simple mechanism of influence. We then complexify the macro setting, considering the effects of turnover (the possibility of exiting and/or entering the forum), and different rates of active participation of members to discussions. Our model shows that under empirically plausible conditions, moderate pro-recovery orientations are more likely to emerge than radical ones refusing medical mediation. These results lead to policy recommendations to design successful health information campaigns, and advocate against access restrictions or filtering of these online communities.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: [1] Acknowledgements (funding): The article is part of the research project “Ana-Mia Sociability: An Online/Offline Social Networks Approach to Eating Disorders” (ANAMIA), supported by the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche (grant ANR-09-ALIA-001).
Uncontrolled Keywords: eating disorders, online health communities, e-health, social influence model, agent-based computer simulation
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > ZA Information resources
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business
Faculty of Business > Networks and Urban Systems Centre (NUSC) > Centre for Business Network Analysis (CBNA)
Faculty of Business > Department of International Business & Economics
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Last Modified: 29 May 2019 09:20

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