Project

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Language and health online

Applicant Locher Miriam
Number 143286
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Department of English Basel University
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline German and English languages and literature
Start/End 01.10.2012 - 31.01.2016
Approved amount 349'451.00
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Keywords (7)

health; relational work; therapy; smoking; interpersonal pragmatics; persuasion; computer-mediated communication

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
This linguistic project investigates e(lectronic)-health interaction in asynchronous, written computer-mediated communication. By exploring this interface from a particularly linguistic perspective, we endeavor to contribute to a better understanding of e-health practices. The project consists of two parts: “Persuasion in smoking cessation online” and “Relational work in email counseling”, which pursue joined as well as individual research questions.
Lay summary
In the last decades the Internet has evolved to become an important source of information for health concerns (cf. Richardson 2005). There are many professional information sites, peer-support sites for patients, mailing lists, etc. This makes online health communication an important research field for different disciplines. The linguistic study of online health practices sheds light on how language is used to create meaningful exchanges between professionals and patients and between lay people. A linguist study of these practices is especially pertinent because e-health is predominantly a written mode, relying crucially on language. We are focusing on two areas of health practices that share an element of persuasion: Anti-smoking campaigns and smoking cessation help sites as well as email therapy contain aspects of “attempt[ing] to evoke a specific change in the attitudes or behaviors of an audience”, which is the definition of persuasion provided by Jowett et al. (1999: 28). We wish to study these ‘sites of persuasion’ as an interactive process from a linguistic perspective.

       Professional health Internet sites usually have either a mandate to inform and enlighten a particular target population (cf. e.g. the national and governmental sites) and/or they have the clear aim to contribute to risk prevention and change in behavior of the target group. In a similar vein, online therapists strive to help their patients find their way through a problem by means of the ‘talking cure’, although – crucially for our project – carried out in the written mode. Language is thus exploited for persuasion to achieve these goals. While persuasive strategies on smoking cessation might be expected to be more straightforward than in the non-directive genre of therapy, it is our goal to learn what linguistic persuasion strategies emerge in the different practices. Our methodological approach is positioned within interactional discourse analysis in that we study language in use and wish to explore the variation that we encounter. We are particularly interested in interpersonal pragmatics, i.e. the study of language in use that focuses on the relational side of the practices involved. A combination of the study of the relational aspect of language with language use for persuasive means is an important combination for our research of e-health communication. It is important to stress that we are going to operationalize persuasion by looking at linguistic surface strategies as found in the practices that contain a persuasive orientation rather than looking at psychological effects of persuasive acts in the readers.

       To investigate the interactive process of persuasion in the frames of smoking cessation and therapeutic discourse, we will address the following overarching questions:

(1) What characteristic activities are employed in the different practices (e.g. conveying information, giving advice or reflecting on interactants’ interpretations of events or relationships, inviting introspection, …)?;

(2) What linguistic strategies are employed to achieve these activities?;

(3) What is the relation between the patterns of linguistic strategies and the creation of interpersonal effects (e.g. solidarity, empathy, power, the therapeutic alliance)?

The close collaboration and continual exchange of results between both parts of the project will provide important insights into the dynamic, discursive construction of two online health communication practices from a distinctly linguistic perspective, will add to linguistic theory in the field of interpersonal pragmatics, and will be useful for practitioners.

 

Detailed information can be found here: http://language-health-online.unibas.ch/?Home 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 17.01.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Linguistic expert creation in online health practices
Marie-Thérèse Rudolf von Rohr, Franziska Thurnherr, Miriam A. Locher (2019), Linguistic expert creation in online health practices, in Patricia Bou-Franch, Pilar Garcés-Conejos Blitvich (ed.), Palgrave Macmillan, London and New York, 219-250.
Persuasion in smoking cessation online: an interpersonal pragmatic perspective
Rudolf von RohrMarie-Thérèse (2018), Persuasion in smoking cessation online: an interpersonal pragmatic perspective, Albrecht-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg / Universitätsbibliothek Freiburg, Freiburg i. Br..
'As it’s our last exchange next time…' The closure initiation in email counseling
Franziska Thurnherr (2017), 'As it’s our last exchange next time…' The closure initiation in email counseling, in Linguistik Online, 87(8/17), 213-236.
Special Issue on Language and health online: Typing yourself healthy
Miriam A. Locher, Franziska Thurnherr (ed.) (2017), Special Issue on Language and health online: Typing yourself healthy, Linguistik Online, Bern.
Typing yourself healthy: Introduction to the special issue on language and health online
Miriam A. Locher, Franziska Thurnherr (2017), Typing yourself healthy: Introduction to the special issue on language and health online, in Linguistik Online, 87(8/17), 1-24.
The functions of narrative passages in three written online health contets
Thurnherr Franziska, Rudolf von Rohr Marie-Thérèse, Locher Miriam A. (2016), The functions of narrative passages in three written online health contets, in Open Linguistics, 2, 450-470.
"You will be glad you hung on to this quit": Sharing information and giving support when stopping smoking online
Rudolf von Rohr Marie-Thérèse (2015), "You will be glad you hung on to this quit": Sharing information and giving support when stopping smoking online, in Smith C.A., Keselman A. (ed.), Chandos/Elsevier, Waltham, MA:, 263-290.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Symposium on Language and Health Online: Typing yourself healthy Talk given at a conference Language and Health Online: Trust, Credibility, Information- and Advice-Giving 15.04.2016 University of Basel, Switzerland Rudolf von Rohr Marie-Thérèse; Locher Miriam; Thurnherr Franziska;
Symposium on Language and Health Online: Typing yourself healthy Talk given at a conference "I can see a massive improvement in mself": Identity and Relational Work in Email Counseling 15.04.2016 University of Basel, Switzerland Thurnherr Franziska;
Symposium on Language and Health Online: Typing yourself healthy Talk given at a conference Interpersonal Pragmatics and Persuasion in Smoking Cessation Online 15.04.2016 University of Basel, Switzerland Rudolf von Rohr Marie-Thérèse;
Approaches to Digital Discourse Analysis ADDA Talk given at a conference Linguistic expert creation in online health practices 18.11.2015 University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain Locher Miriam; Rudolf von Rohr Marie-Thérèse; Thurnherr Franziska;
Personal Narrative Online Talk given at a conference 'beau, me and hubby quit cold turkey too': The functions of 'narratives' in two written online health contexts 26.06.2015 Universität Bayreuth, Germany Locher Miriam; Thurnherr Franziska; Rudolf von Rohr Marie-Thérèse;
i-Mean Identity and Language Conference Talk given at a conference 'How can people be so angry with me when I'm so harmless?' or how language impacts identity construction in email counseling 09.04.2015 University of Warwick, Warwick, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Locher Miriam; Thurnherr Franziska;
4th International Conference Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice ALAPP Talk given at a conference Studying identity construction in written health practices with a mixed methodology approach 10.09.2014 Université de Geneve, Genf, Switzerland Locher Miriam; Rudolf von Rohr Marie-Thérèse; Thurnherr Franziska;
12th Communication, Medicine and Ethics Conference COMET Talk given at a conference Email writing as identity construction? How writing constructs clients as moving from advice-seeker to active participant in email counseling 26.06.2014 Università della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano, Switzerland Thurnherr Franziska;
12th Communication, Medicine and Ethics Conference COMET Talk given at a conference Persuasion through identity construction in advice giving in online smoking cessation 26.06.2014 Università della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano, Switzerland Rudolf von Rohr Marie-Thérèse;
Digital Humanities: Neue Herausforderungen für den Forschungsplatz Schweiz SAGW Poster "Relational Work" und Identitätskonstruktion in Email-Therapien 28.11.2013 SAGW Bern, Switzerland Thurnherr Franziska;
Digital Humanities: Neue Herausforderungen für den Forschungsplatz Schweiz SAGW Talk given at a conference "Relational Work" und Identitätskonstruktion in Email-Therapien 28.11.2013 SAGW Bern, Switzerland Thurnherr Franziska;
11th Communication, Medicine and Ethics Conference COMET Talk given at a conference 'Everyone's quit journey is different': Comparing persuasion on two smoking cessation websites 11.07.2013 University of Melbourne, Australia Rudolf von Rohr Marie-Thérèse;
11th Communication, Medicine and Ethics Conference COMET Talk given at a conference 'Together, we will look for the path ahead and the life you can make whole again.' The relationship between therapist and client in email counseling as the driving force for change 11.07.2013 University of Melbourne, Australia Thurnherr Franziska;
i-Mean Identity and Language Conference Talk given at a conference Welcome back hon- you know you have made the right decision' - The persuasive nature of user identities in a smoking cessation forum 18.04.2013 University of the West of England (UWE) Bristol, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Rudolf von Rohr Marie-Thérèse;
i-Mean Identity and Language Conference Talk given at a conference The Re-Negotiation of Identities in Email Counseling 18.04.2013 University of the West of England (UWE) Bristol, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Thurnherr Franziska;
Swiss Workings in English Languages and Linguistics SWELL Talk given at a conference ‘How can I support you?’ Identity Construction and Relational Work in Email Counseling 15.02.2013 Universität Zürich, Switzerland Thurnherr Franziska;
X Encuentro Hispano-Suizo de Filólogos Noveles Talk given at a conference La persuasión en sitios web antitabaco- ‘It becomes so much easier with the right information' 05.10.2012 Universität Basel, Switzerland Rudolf von Rohr Marie-Thérèse;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
Symposium on Language and Health Online: Typing yourself healthy 15.04.2016 University of Basel, Switzerland

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
A linguistic perspective of email counseling Workshop 10.04.2017 Cardiff, Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Symposium on Language and Health Online: Typing yourself healthy Talk 15.04.2016 University of Basel, Switzerland
Symposium on Language and Health Online: Typing yourself healthy Talk 15.04.2016 University of Basel, Switzerland
Symposium on Language and Health Online: Typing yourself healthy Talk 15.04.2016 University of Basel, Switzerland


Self-organised

Title Date Place
Symposium on Language and Health Online: Typing yourself healthy 15.04.2016 University of Basel, Switzerland

Abstract

This linguistic project investigates e(lectronic)-health interaction in asynchronous, written computer-mediated communication. By exploring this interface from a particularly linguistic perspective, we endeavor to contribute to a better understanding of e-health practices.Health serves as our site of research. We investigate how health issues are communicated and how specific health related activities such as persuasion and advice are constructed. We are specifically looking at health discourses that are performed online - hence, they are computer-mediated. This means that any part of the communication between provider and providee is done electronically.Finally, the project concerns itself with the language that is used to convey the communication. We research the linguistic constructions of these computer-mediated health discourses. Our focus, therefore, lies in how providees are encouraged to type themselves healthy with the help of the providers.The project consists of two parts: “Persuasion in smoking cessation online” and “Relational work in email counseling”, which pursue joined as well as individual research questions.Detailed information can be found here: http://language-health-online.unibas.ch/?Home
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