Mental Health Expertise Online: The enactment of expertise on bipolar disorder on online platforms in English and French

Bipolar disorder is listed among the top ten causes of disability worldwide, yet the knowledge about it is limited, and the authority of experts has been challenged on numerous occasions. The Internet has become important in shaping processes of knowledge production and consumption, and this project examines how expertise about bipolar disorder is enacted on different types of online platforms in English and French. Each online platform possesses different affordances, that is, different functional and relational aspects which frame one’s possibilities for action. How specific affordances are used depends on the position and resources stakeholders have at their disposal, on cultural traditions, and on the intended audiences. This project will contribute to a better understanding of how the Internet has transformed the relations between stakeholders in the field of mental health, and of how distinct cultural perspectives and social values inform online contributions.

In order to retain their authority in front of highly diverse audiences, medical professionals contributing online seek to stabilize the meaning of scientific facts about bipolar disorder, while being more considerate about the effects of this condition upon the lives of people diagnosed and acknowledging the value of their experiential knowledge. Through the development of web 2.0 technologies, such as blogs and social networking platforms, individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder with different types of knowledge and various skills have become highly influential. Despite widespread views that the Internet would have broad democratizing effects, the emerging authority of some people diagnosed with bipolar disorder is not the result of a rebellious use of this medium, but of a dynamic alliance with ‘traditional’ experts and of a good use of the affordances of the medium.

PhD Candidate: Claudia Egher (MSc)
Promotors: Prof. Dr. Sally Wyatt; Dr. Tamar Sharon
Funding: NWO Humanities