‘The internet both reassures and terrifies’: using the story completion method for health research


In this presentation, I will discuss a project in which I used the story completion method to elicit participants’ understandings, experiences and feelings about improving their health and finding information about health. Three story stubs were created, each one inviting the participants to respond to a scenario involving a hypothetical person who was dealing with a situation in which they wanted to improve or otherwise change something about their health and wellbeing and work out how best to achieve this. The objective was to investigate what sources of information people would think of for their narratives and to contextualise these sources in the complex biographical and social dimensions of people’s everyday lives. I was interested in the role played by digital technologies in the broader sociocultural environments in which these technologies may be used – or resisted, or taken up but then discarded. These broader dimensions include identifying the emotional aspects of seeking health information to deal with a problem or challenge, the social relationships and connections involved, the role played by the affordances of health information technologies and sources (what they allow or invite people to do) and the sensory experiences of health, illness and embodiment. I will discuss the findings and end with sharing poems created from the narratives for each story.

Deborah Lupton is a new SHARP Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, working in the Centre for Social Research in Health and the Social Policy Research Centre. She is the author/co-author of 16 books, the latest of which are Digital Sociology (Routledge, 2015), The Quantified Self (Polity, 2016), Digital Health (Routledge, 2017) and Fat, 2nd edition (Routledge, 2018). Her forthcoming book Data Selves will be published in late 2019. She is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and holds an Honorary Doctorate awarded by the University of Copenhagen.

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