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The Functions of Narrative Passages in Three Written Online Health Contexts

Franziska Thurnherr / Marie-Thérèse Rudolf von Rohr / Miriam A. Locher
Published Online: 2016-10-20 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2016-0024


This paper investigates and compares the functions of narrative passages in three computermediated health practices centering on advice-giving: (1) email counseling at a UK university, (2) online forums providing peer support for quitters of smoking, and (3) anti-smoking websites by UK governmental, commercial and charitable institutions. We found that the functions of the narrative passages are manifold and often overlapping. They range from seeking advice, giving advice, indicating/seeking agreement, supporting a claim, showing compliance with advice given to reporting on progress and success. In a second step, these insights were linked to how the narrative passages were used for identity construction and relational work. The results show that narratives are employed to create various identities, such as authentic advice-seekers, active self-helpers, successful quitters and advice-givers. Our comparison reveals that narrative functions utilized in all three practices exhibit nuanced differences due to medium factors and interactional goals of the practices. Finally, in these contexts of self-improvement, narratives document stability or transformation in the sense of clients’ improved health and smokers’ change to becoming non-smokers respectively.

Keywords: narrative; computer-mediated communication; identity construction; positioning; mitigation; boosting; expertise; trust; credibility; relational work


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About the article

Received: 2016-03-24

Accepted: 2016-07-24

Published Online: 2016-10-20

Citation Information: Open Linguistics, Volume 2, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 2300-9969, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2016-0024.

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© 2016 Franziska Thurnherr et al. . This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. BY-NC-ND 3.0

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