Typing yourself accountable: Objectifying subjective experiences in an online health forum
In this paper, I outline linguistic and discursive practices online forum participants use to make sense of painful and disturbing bodily experiences which from the participants’ perspectives have not been explained, diagnosed and treated by medical professionals.
By scrutinizing a thread from a Danish online health forum on the topic metabolism using conversation analytic perspectives, I show that participants use practices that objectify their experiences when seeking support and recognition in the forum. Four practices for objectifying experiences understood as undiagnosed symptoms of illness are outlined: (1) Presentation of problem by presenting a medical history of symptom discovery; (2) Presentation of symptoms in a list using medical terms, extreme case formulations (Pomerantz 1986), and elliptic constructions; (3) Presentation of a candidate medical cause supported by evidence and sources; and (4) Presentation of objective facts and other sources as the expected solution.
It is argued that the responses, characterized by agreement and tellings of similar stories, contribute to the objectification of subjective experiences by delivering perspectives that can be used as information sources and for experience based generalization.