Reflexive Dynamics in Patient Self Care Online Communities

Reflexive Dynamics in Patient Self Care Online Communities:

Online support communities are complex, dynamic systems subject to numerous internal and external factors. This project investigates how internal factors (e.g. interactions between individuals in conversation-driven online health groups) interact with external factors (e.g. technology design, demographics), leading to different performance levels (e.g. support matching, information quality). We apply complex adaptive systems (CAS) theory to pursue this research. CAS is a subfield of complexity science, and describes systems in terms of stable patterns of local interactions that generate coherent aggregate behaviors. It has been applied successfully to various human social systems and offers a potentially unifying framework for divergent social technology research efforts.

Josh Introne at Michigan State University and I have been pursuing this thread of research for over five years, resulting in a half dozen or so papers accepted, and as many more in development. We are presently seeking additional funding for the next stage of this work. Briefly, Online support communities are complex, dynamic systems subject to numerous internal and external factors. This project investigates how internal factors (e.g. interactions between individuals in conversation-driven online health groups) interact with external factors (e.g. technology design, demographics), leading to different performance levels (e.g. support matching, information quality). We apply complex adaptive systems (CAS) theory to pursue this research. CAS is a subfield of complexity science, and describes systems in terms of stable patterns of local interactions that generate coherent aggregate behaviors. It has been applied successfully to various human social systems and offers a potentially unifying framework for divergent social technology research efforts.