Living a Healthier Life Online: On Blending Professional and Experiential Knowledge in Online Self-Help Groups

Living a Healthier Life Online: On Blending Professional and Experiential Knowledge in Online Self-Help Groups

Roar Stokken (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway & Sunnmøre Hospital Trust, Norway) and Gjermund Eikli (Norwegian Net School, Norway)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-866-8.ch010
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The chapter explores how organizations can facilitate online self-help initiatives in a manner that allows mutual aid to flourish between the participants. It takes a theoretical approach on the basis of pedagogy and self-help/mutual-aid research. It first develops an educational model, and then turns to practical aspects and investigates the Norwegian course “Living a healthier life – online.” The initiative is transformed from face-to-face to online as a design-based research project. The two most important elements to pay attention to in the facilitation of online self-help initiatives are found to be socialization and overall assignments: the former to prepare for mutual exchange of knowledge, and the latter to make content relevant to daily life.
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On the basis of Borkman’s seminal article from 1976, the body of self-help literature distinguishes between three kinds of knowledge: professional, experiential and lay. (1) Professional knowledge is developed, applied, and transmitted by an established specialized occupation that has financial and career interest in the topic. (2) Experiential knowledge is learned from personal experience and acquired by living through a problem firsthand. The experientialist is often thought of as the one in possession of a problem, like breast cancer or anxiety. Significant others, such as spouses, siblings or close friends, may also obtain experiential knowledge. This knowledge is not the same as that developed by the one suffering from the condition, but it overlaps somewhat. (3) In contrast to professional and experiential knowledge, lay knowledge is acquired by a bystander that has second-hand information of the problem, often from a combination of rumours, the media, professionals and experientialists (Borkman, 1976, 1999).

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