Public participation and self-care practices – How runners negotiate medical expertise online
Author: Patricia Campbell
Recent STS literature has called for increased public participation in techno-scientific decision making, including formal processes such as consensus conferences, and informal processes, such as a broader recognition of laypersons’ expertise. However, in all of this policy-driven discussion, little attention has been paid to the everyday context of laypersons’ participation with expertise. Using the model of coproduction, this paper investigates the ways in which laypersons negotiate their care in an online social collective, using the injury forum of the online running community, Running Mania, as a case study. While Rabeharisoa and Callon (2004) conceptualize coproduction as an active collaborative effort of knowledge and know-how production between experts and laypersons, I argue that even in the absence of direct expert involvement, collective reflexivity toward medical expertise and sharing of experience produces new knowledge and can thus be considered a form of public participation. The coproduction, in this case, occurs as the mediated medical expertise articulates with lay experience within the collective. The ethnographic methods include observations of the injury forum and 17 interviews with participants recruited from among the website users. The results indicate that the sharing of experiential expertise that occurs online provides a space in which users may contextualize mediated medical expertise in light of their running practice, particularly in cases of controversial treatments or uncertain diagnoses. The online forum allows users to participate in the coproduction of an intermediary discourse on the body that combines the knowledge of both the expert patient and the lay expert. Users’ interactions illustrate how this articulation between running and caring practices results in knowledge that often challenges or reconfigures medical expertise. This study is complete and forms part of my dissertation that will go to defense Fall 2015.