Health information politics: Reconsidering the democratic ideal of the Web as a source of medical knowledge

Astrid Mager


This paper challenges the democratic ideal of the Web as a new public sphere in the medical context. Drawing on a mix of methods it investigates how different Web site providers configure and position their diabetes sites in the multitude of online health information, search engine results in particular. Building on insights gained from critical new media studies and medical sociology, it shows that a range of power relations and information politics are involved in these practices, triggering information visibility hierarchies and a commercialisation of online health information, partly overlapping with off–line contexts. To conclude, it argues for reconsidering the democratic ideal of the Web and focusing on market dynamics involved in the production of medical Web information co–produced by Web site providers and search engine algorithms.


Internet; online health information; Website providers; search engine; information politics

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