Public and private faces in web spaces: how Goffman's work can be used to think about purchasing medicine online

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Medicines and drugs are subject to national, state or federal regulation. The misuse, illegal consumption and purchase of drugs and medicines is not a new phenomenon, but it is one which the Web may enable or magnify, opening up as it does access to online information and purchasing. People can use the Web to discuss buying medicines online and provide new opportunities to avoid stigmatisation and manage their illnesses and medicine purchasing in a private or backstage spaces. This paper discusses how Erving Goffman’s analyses of social behaviour and interaction are useful for understanding digital interactions and can be fruitfully applied to the specific problem of understanding the act of buying medicines online. Goffman’s connections to symbolic interactionism, and the development of his ideas regarding dramaturgy and interaction as performance, as well as his concepts of the presentation of self and stigma are investigated to show how these ideas are pertinent for scholars interested in studying the Web and digital communication. The paper also draws on recent studies which have applied Goffman’s concepts to the digital realm before proceeding to propose how Goffman’s ideas can be used to understand new health behaviours, such as the purchasing of prescription medicines via the Web, via the presentation and discussion of initial findings of a study concerning the observation of online forums.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20130019
Pages (from-to)20130019
JournalWorking Papers in the Health Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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