I have several main areas of research: health information behaviors in the context of chronic illness, health-related social media use, and research methods. I also engage in digital humanities research and development.
Health Information Behaviors in the Context of Chronic Illness
When people develop a chronic illness, the illness can have significant impacts on many aspects of their lives, affecting them in profound ways physiologically, emotionally, mentally and socially. My work focuses on understanding how people deal with these changes: how their cognitive representations of health, illness, and wellness change; the role that information plays in the changes, and what information systems and/or patient education resources might facilitate this change. Find out more here.
Health-Related Social Media Use
Social media can potentially be of great benefit to people in terms of health, by connecting people to others with similar health histories; helping people to learn about health care providers, medications, and treatments; and enabling people to read about other people’s health-related experiences. However, health consumers may also encounter various challenges, such as information overload due to the sheer volume of information and redundancy; information quality; and negative interactions or information exposure. My research in this area focuses on how people interact with others and in online spaces in general; and how online experiences affect patients’ lives.
Whenever we conduct research, we make decisions about the methods that we use. There will be paradigms, assumptions and biases that come with the methods that we choose. I am interested in the uses of different methods within and across disciplines and what they may suggest about inherent underlying philosophies and motivations, as well as in the affordances and potential issues of methods.
Examples: Methods Review of Online Support Groups
My work in the digital humanities has evolved from my love of language and my interest in the psychological, social and cultural processes that may be embedded in it. As a result, the projects that I have been involved in usually involve text mining and visualization of affective and social language in texts. An example of this work is the Visually Exploring Slave Narratives website, which enables users to visualize, chapter-by-chapter, the use of words with affective connotations and social roles of the persons who are mentioned in the texts. The interface is available here.