Management Seminars: Roberta Bernandi (University of Bristol)

28 May 2019, 12.00 PM - 28 May 2019, 1.30 PM

Roberta Bernandi (University of Bristol)

1.01 Howard House

Title: Online Health Communities as Social Spaces for Experimentation: Individual and Collective Epistemic Practices of Knowledge Co-production


Online health communities (OHC) are collectives of individuals that use Internet forums to share health-related information and empower patients to make informed health decisions. By extending knowledge and innovation production beyond the traditional boundaries of expert organizations and professional practice, OHC can present epistemic dangers by challenging the epistemic authority of experts based on unsubstantiated knowledge claims. At the light of the benefits as well as potential dangers of knowledge peer-production in OHC, this research investigates the epistemic practices of a diabetes online community. Drawing on a virtue epistemology perspective, findings show that individual participants to this study and the community as a collective were motivated and capable of enacting virtuous epistemic practices. Yet, the study also demonstrated the ambivalence of apparently virtuous epistemic practices, which could have unintended consequences and conceal epistemic vices. This study contributes to the literature on knowledge co-production in OC within and beyond healthcare: first, it shows how individual members of an OC can act as epistemic autonomous agents and behave in an epistemically safe and responsible way; second, it demonstrates the collective agency of an OC in facilitating epistemically responsible practices; third, it draws implications concerning the epistemic consequences of OC sites and their materiality; finally, it guides both patients and healthcare professionals on the epistemic practices patients should adopt when using OHC as a source of peer support and health self-management. 

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