Virtually Informed: The Internet as (New) Health Information Source (25-26 Jan, 2008)

September 1, 2007

*Call for Papers for the conference:
Virtually Informed: The Internet as (New) Health Information Source *
Conference of the research project /”Virtually Informed – The Internet
in the medical field” /investigating the role and impact of the World
Wide Web as a health information source in the Austrian medical context.
Organised by the Department of Social Studies of Science (Institut für
Wissenschaftsforschung), University of Vienna.
Dates: 25-26.01.2008
Location: University of Vienna, AAKH Campus

The increasing availability and use of the Internet as a new information
and communication source in the medical context has become a central
issue in both academic and policy debates. Notions like the “informed”
or “empowered” patient express the central role of medical information
for living “the right way”, the high expectation that the Internet would
support patients to take more responsibility for their own health as
well as the hope for quite fundamental re-orderings in doctor-patient

This rather optimistic vision of the empowering potential of the
Internet is however challenged in multiple ways. Policy makers as well
as parts of the medical establishment regularly question the quality of
the information provided, doubt people’s capacity to properly evaluate
the “flood of information” and propose quality criteria to direct the
user to “reliable” health information. Doctors sometimes appear to be
frightened of losing their “knowledge monopoly”, thus creating
difficulties for patients to express their own positions. Finally there
are hints that patients themselves may prefer to take on the “passive
patient role”.

This conference aims to explore these issues from various perspectives
in order to obtain a more fine-grained understanding of the phenomenon.
While much research on particular aspects of online health information
and its implications has been done already, an integrated and
comparative approach is still lacking. We thus would like to draw
together and relate issues of patients’ possibilities for and limits to
acquiring online health information, potential re-ordering of
hierarchical doctor-patient relations, and policy imaginations of the
role of the Internet in the medical field as well as actual policy
interventions. Furthermore, we want to discuss how far criteria such as
gender, education, age, the degree of affectedness and Internet skills
influence and shape these developments.

In this call-for-papers, we invite empirical research and theoretical
reflection on the following thematic strands:

* How do people search for, structure and evaluate health
information when they get online? What possibilities and barriers
do they experience when surfing through the health-related Web
space? In how far may their experiences and imaginations about
“the Web” itself frame their explorations?
* What role does the Internet play in patients’ dealings with their
medical conditions? What connections do they make between the
“virtual” health information and their “relation” with the doctor?
* How do diverse policy makers frame the Internet as a health
information source, how is the “future” patient conceptualized in
the context of these developments and what needs for action do
they draw from the answers to these questions?
Crossing these three areas, we also want to encourage discussion of the
methodological issues related to this type of research.
*Plenary lectures *addressing the key issues will be alternated with
parallel sessions which aim to bring together empirical and theoretical
work conducted in these areas.

*Invited speakers:*
Samantha Adams (Erasmus University Medical Center, NL)
Ulrike Felt (University of Vienna, AUT)
Flis Henwood (University of Brighton, UK)
John Law (Lancester University, UK)
Sarah Nettleton (University of York, UK)
Andrew Webster (University of York, UK)
Sally Wyatt (Virtual Knowledge Studio KNAWL, NL)
*Presentation abstracts* should contain title, speaker(s), affiliations
and contact details, the topical strand to which it relates, and an
abstract of a maximum of 500 words. Please use the template to be found
under www.univie.ac.at/virusss <http://www.univie.ac.at/virusss> as the
basis for your submission and *send it electronically* to
virinfo.wissenschaftsforsch@univie.ac.at by *15 October 2007*.
*Decisions *will be mailed to you by 25 October 2007.

If accepted, we expect to receive a *working paper of approximately 3000
words* by 7 January 2008. All working papers will be distributed in
electronic form to all participants two weeks prior to the conference.
This should enable a more detailed discussion and support the workshop
character of the event.

For further questions contact Mag. Astrid Mager, Mag. Lisa Gugglberger
or Bakk. Bernhard Höcher at virinfo.wissenschaftsforschung [AT] univie.ac.at


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