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Producing, ratifying, and resisting support in an online support forum


Previous research examining online support forums has tended to focus either on evaluating their effectiveness while paying limited or no attention to the details of the interactions therein, or on features of their social organization, without regard to their effectiveness in fulfilling their stated purposes. In this article, we consider both the interactional features of a forum and participants' treatment thereof as being effective (or otherwise), thus adopting a view of effectiveness grounded in participants' proximate orientations and actions. Our analysis demonstrates some ways in which participants produce ratified displays of empathy in response to troubles expressed by another, as well as considering some designedly supportive actions that are treated by their recipients as unsupportive or antagonistic. Our findings indicate some structural features of such forums that facilitate the production of support, while suggesting that claims of knowledge tend to be treated as a basis of resistance to ostensibly supportive actions.

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