Epistemic Responsibility and the Sociomateriality of Epistemic Practices in a Diabetes Online Community

Investigators: Bernardi, Roberta

Start/end date: 01/04/19 - 31/03/2020

Funder: British Academy


Online health communities provide health information and peer-support to people with a chronic illness and compensate for the lack of personalised care in the health service. Yet, when it is not supported by evidence, user-generated content (UGC) of online communities can present health-related risks. A key problem that this research addresses is why some users more than others are less critical in evaluating UGC. This research investigates the “epistemic responsibility” of an online community of people with diabetes. Epistemic responsibility concerns our desire and actions to form a justified true belief. Through a sociomaterial perspective, this research examines how the features of the community website influence individual users’ and their community’s ability to evaluate UGC responsibly. The project will increase patients’ and healthcare professionals’ awareness of the benefits as well as limitations of UGC and advise on how online communities can encourage a critical deliberation of contrasting views. Initial findings from this project have shown the impact of online health communities on the patient-doctor relationship (see Bernardi and Wu, 2022).