The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of one particular online discussion forum as a potentially authoritative health information source for its users. The…
The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of one particular online discussion forum as a potentially authoritative health information source for its users. The concept of cognitive authority is used as a starting point for understanding information evaluation in this context. The focus is placed on the types of information users seek for from this forum, the ways they assess the credibility of information obtained, and their views on the impact of this information.
The empirical data were collected with a questionnaire survey from the users of a Finnish online forum for girls and young women (n=290). The data were analyzed qualitatively with content analytic techniques and quantitatively by using descriptive analysis.
The forum was found to offer girls and young women the possibility to receive health information from peers. It was viewed as an appropriate source for experiential rather than factual health information and used to find information on sexuality, bodily functions and diets, for example. Author-related cues, argumentation and tone, veracity and verification were recognized as means to evaluate information credibility. Credibility evaluation was found to be linked with conceptions of the forum and the type of information sought. A share of the respondents recognized the information obtained to have influence on their thinking or behavior.
Based on the findings, it can be argued that the members of the online forum – individually or collectively – can act as cognitive authorities for other users. The findings cannot be generalized beyond this online forum, to Finnish girls or young women, or even the users of the online forum. However, they provide insights into the ways young people evaluate user-generated information in a particular online setting and domain of knowledge and as such contribute to research on cognitive authority, credibility evaluation and information literacy.
This study aims to increase the understanding of the early-stage identity-related information needs of transgender people.
This study draws on social constructivism, queer theory and information practice research. In accordance with the queer phenomenological approach which emphasises lived experiences, data was collected by interviewing 25 individuals who identified as transgender. The data was analysed with a focus on how early-stage information needs are formed into conscious information needs.
The formation of early-stage information needs were conceptualised as a chain including a trigger for information seeking, finding the right words and understanding the experience. Especially the bodily changes starting at puberty were strong causes of discomfort causing friction between the subjects' own gendered body and their gender experience, even leading to gender dysphoria. Finding words to describe the experience played an important role in the process of identity formation. In many cases this was difficult because of the lack of accurate and relevant information.
Providing information especially of varying transgender experiences is vital for individuals trying to understand and verbalise their gender identity.
This study provides an understanding of the early-stage information needs described by transgender people and the process of building identities through disorientation. This study suggests that early-stage information needs are a valid concept to help understand how embodied experiences and the friction between the lived experience and the social world can lead to information seeking.