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Narratives of illness in a Chinese virtual hospital: From narrating to stance-taking

Issue: Vol 16 No. 1 (2019)

Journal: Communication & Medicine

Subject Areas: Healthcare Communication Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/cam.37444


This study explores 60 individual narratives of illness presented in the initiating messages of threads that are posted in a well-known virtual space, ‘Tianya Hospital’ (天涯医院), in China. ‘Tianya Hospital’ is a discussion board where website users discuss their own or their loved ones’ health problems with other participants, who may be either health experts or patients with similar illnesses. Adopting the approach of mediated discourse analysis, the study aims to find out what is narrated (i.e., narrative presentation categories), what stance is taken and what the patterns and functions of the narrative presentation and the stance taking are. Some narrative presentation categories identified in this study are to some degree associated with existing face-to-face medical consultation phases, while others are related to a ‘timescale’ frame and the ‘sick role’ concept. The findings also show that the online narratives present not only the description of health problems, but also epistemic and affective stances. Some features of the narrative presentation organization and the stance taking in narratives can perform particular functions, such as serving to legitimize patients’ or patients’ caregivers’ complaints about healthcare services

Author: Yu Zhang

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