Narrative, online community, and health belief systems : the forms and functions of YouTube vlogs on Bipolar Disorder
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] With the advent of widespread, user-driven video sharing on Internet sites like YouTube, a recognizable folk genre of the vlog has sprung up, with its own set of identifiable traditions and influences. This dissertation engages in a narrative analysis of YouTube vlogs about a particular mental illness, bipolar disorder. The vlogs in this study serve the purpose of information sharing, community identification and formation, and fighting against stigma of mental illness. Analysis of the use of these vlogs within this group reveals how they demonstrate the health belief systems of the vloggers and their audience. These uses of this form of video communication are made possible because of an underlying belief in narrative as a form of agency and as a tool of healing for mental illness, both for those talking and those listening. This belief is combined with an underlying belief that the Internet in general, and YouTube in particular, is a context that is and should be a democratic venue for free expression. This dissertation presents and analyzes the narratives that are posted by persons who identify themselves as having bipolar disorder, as well as what has evolved in response to these narratives, where users exchange comments, create their own videos, and, ultimately, form a viable online community.
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