2011 Poster Sessions : Portraits of Online Health Communities

Student Name : Diana Maclean
Advisor : Jeffrey M. Heer
Research Areas: Graphics/HCI
Online health communities (OHCs) are a growing source of public medical knowledge; they facilitate several health-related tasks including searching for and acquiring new medical information, and seeking emotional support. However, many underlying attributes of OHCs, such as forum discussion type and leadership hierarchy, are not readily apparent during simple forum browsing. Knowledge of these attributes might comprise useful decision making tools for a spectrum of community participants: from leaders, who maintain OHC forums, to potential new members, who might ``window shop" forums before picking a best fit. Prior work demonstrates that visualization is an effective technique for discovering and exploring underlying online community attributes. We present a preliminary study using visualization techniques to interpret and compare community dynamics from selected MedHelp OHCs. We find that our approach successfully uncovers several OHC attributes that vary between disease forums; for example, some OHCs are characterized by Q&A interaction patterns, others by discursive interaction patterns.

Diana MacLean (malcdi@stanford.edu) is a PhD student advised by Jeffrey Heer. Her research interests include medical informatics, data visualization, and social media.