Title

Internet use shaping health and well-being information-seeking occupations in individuals with spinal cord injury

Start Time

6-10-2012 3:10 PM

End Time

6-10-2012 3:40 PM

Session Type

Event

Abstract

In the ever-connected world of today, many of our occupations including information seeking are mediated by the internet. This growing popularity is accompanied by a rapid acceptance of the internet as a legitimate source of information. Increasingly, individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) also turn to the internet for information about the condition, its course, treatment options, support groups and more (Letts et al, 2011). Easy-to-use commercial web search engines have contributed to a feeling of empowerment for individuals with SCI, but this empowerment comes at a cost; that of being provided information which is not as unbiased as it seems. The purpose of this case study was to explore how the use of the internet, in particular information-seeking about health and well-being, shaped the occupations of a young man, Prashant, with high-level SCI. In-depth interviews using text-based internet media, chats and emails, were conducted. Simultaneously, I conducted a review of literature regarding internet use related to health and well-being activities by individuals with SCI. Further interviews focused on these review results. In-vivo codes (Marshall& Rossman, 2011) were generated and themes were developed. To ensure the veracity and trustworthiness of the findings, member checks were also conducted. The major finding of this study was the power of commercial web search engines to popularize certain discourses at the expense of others and how these shaped Prashant’s occupations over the seven years since his injury. Themes linked to this finding included: “search for a cure”, “perceived support” and “becoming me”. The internet has allowed Prashant, who has been mostly home-bound, to go ‘places’, be a contributing member of his community and ‘have a life’. At the same time occupational possibilities (Rudman, 2010) for him are being shaped in a manner incompatible with the taken-for-granted autonomous view of the internet. The internet’s diffusion, penetration and immediacy have considerable influence on the continuous developments of the monopoly of information and its biases (Segev, 2010) and consequently occupations. Prashant’s occupations have been significantly shaped by the prevalent popular discourses about SCI available on the internet. Given the ubiquity of the internet and its mediation of occupations, it is imperative for occupational scientists to think about potential changes in occupations and the ways occupational possibilities are being governed by the internet.

Questions for discussion period:

  1. What are the challenges to internet-based qualitative research methods specifically pertaining to data collection?
  2. What are the related biases of commercial web search engine results?
  3. Describe linkages between occupations of well-being and internet usage.

References

Letts, L., Colquhoun, H., Levac, D., Faulkner, G., & Gorczynski, P. (2011). Preferred methods and messengers for delivering physical activity information to people with spinal cord injury: A focus group study. Rehabilitation Psychology, 56(2), 128-137. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0023624

Marshall, C. & Rossman, G. (2011). Designing qualitative research. Los Angeles, CA: Sage

Rudman, D.L. (2010). Occupational Possibilities. Journal of Occupational Science, 17 (1), 55-59. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2010.9686673

Segev E. (2010). Google and the digital divide : The bias of online knowledge. Oxford: Chandos Pub. http://dx.doi.org/10.1533/9781780631783

Comments

Research paper

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Oct 6th, 3:10 PM Oct 6th, 3:40 PM

Internet use shaping health and well-being information-seeking occupations in individuals with spinal cord injury

In the ever-connected world of today, many of our occupations including information seeking are mediated by the internet. This growing popularity is accompanied by a rapid acceptance of the internet as a legitimate source of information. Increasingly, individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) also turn to the internet for information about the condition, its course, treatment options, support groups and more (Letts et al, 2011). Easy-to-use commercial web search engines have contributed to a feeling of empowerment for individuals with SCI, but this empowerment comes at a cost; that of being provided information which is not as unbiased as it seems. The purpose of this case study was to explore how the use of the internet, in particular information-seeking about health and well-being, shaped the occupations of a young man, Prashant, with high-level SCI. In-depth interviews using text-based internet media, chats and emails, were conducted. Simultaneously, I conducted a review of literature regarding internet use related to health and well-being activities by individuals with SCI. Further interviews focused on these review results. In-vivo codes (Marshall& Rossman, 2011) were generated and themes were developed. To ensure the veracity and trustworthiness of the findings, member checks were also conducted. The major finding of this study was the power of commercial web search engines to popularize certain discourses at the expense of others and how these shaped Prashant’s occupations over the seven years since his injury. Themes linked to this finding included: “search for a cure”, “perceived support” and “becoming me”. The internet has allowed Prashant, who has been mostly home-bound, to go ‘places’, be a contributing member of his community and ‘have a life’. At the same time occupational possibilities (Rudman, 2010) for him are being shaped in a manner incompatible with the taken-for-granted autonomous view of the internet. The internet’s diffusion, penetration and immediacy have considerable influence on the continuous developments of the monopoly of information and its biases (Segev, 2010) and consequently occupations. Prashant’s occupations have been significantly shaped by the prevalent popular discourses about SCI available on the internet. Given the ubiquity of the internet and its mediation of occupations, it is imperative for occupational scientists to think about potential changes in occupations and the ways occupational possibilities are being governed by the internet.

Questions for discussion period:

  1. What are the challenges to internet-based qualitative research methods specifically pertaining to data collection?
  2. What are the related biases of commercial web search engine results?
  3. Describe linkages between occupations of well-being and internet usage.