Interesting article in today's Guardian about the proliferation of blogs written by those suffering from serious illness. These somewhat ironically named 'health' weblogs provide support and information for fellow sufferers but are also cathartic for the writers and provide a strong sense of identity and perspective.
These pathographies can be seen as following a trend set by journalists John Diamond, Ruth Picardie and Ivan Noble who died last week. Clive Seale, in his fascinating book Media & Health, explores how 'heroic narratives of the self', such as those penned by journalists Diamond and Picardie, undermine Susan Sontag's claim that cancer has is not subject to the same romantic idealisations as tuberculosis. He contrasts the ability of columnists to defiantly 'speak out about their individuality' with the way in which 'ordinary heroes' are constructed by the media (inspirational stories charting exceptional emotional transformation by women and underlying personal strengths in men).
Now that blogware has enabled 'ordinary heroes' to speak out and circumvent stereotypical media constructions of illness, will there be material consequences as a result of this power shift? Seale suggests that the media has at times valorised complementary medicine 'that assist in the task of breaking up the authority of orthodox medical expertise' -- a trend bucked by Diamond's advocacy of orthodox medicine. He also suggests that commercial interests are starting to target consumers directly through advertising with consequences for the way health care is structured. Will this encourage active management of illness by patients or will it be exploitative? This is starting to look like a lecture handout, so I'll stop at that.