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Effectiveness of online support in building communities

There have been two projects funded by the Australian Research Council under the Linkage Projects scheme for the HeartNET research. The first project evaluated the effectiveness of online support in building communities, promoting healthy behaviours and supporting philanthropy. The second, aimed to identify how newly diagnosed patients use the community to accept and adopt their new identities as heart patients.

In summary, the project involves:

  • establishment of a viable online community;
  • refinement of techniques for building community engagement;
  • development of protocols for safe and ethical involvement;
  • strategies for recognising and encouraging active participants;
  • evidence of positive behavioural change;
  • evidence of positive emotional investment and response;
  • evidence of a philanthropic response to the Heart Foundation;
  • importance of moderation role established;
  • community established as a valued online research laboratory;
  • refinement of parameters of the online gift economy;
  • issues around authenticity and self-protective non-disclosure;
  • interrogation of the complexity of the moderator’s role;
  • investigation of ‘lurking’ and ‘threshold’ behaviour;
  • importance of positive support when developing a heart patient identity;
  • highlights reluctance of single men to engage with online community; and
  • evidence of continuing uncertainty about symptoms of heart events.


Dr Leesa Costello

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