The Blogosphere and its Enemies: The Case of Oophorectomy

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oophorectomy, hysterectomy, experts, blogosphere, Habermas

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The blogosphere is loathed and feared by the press, expert-opinion makers, and representatives of authority generally. Part of this is based on a social theory: that there are implicit and explicit social controls governing professional journalists and experts that make them responsible to the facts. These controls don't exist for bloggers or the people who comment on blogs. But blog commentary is good at performing a kind of sociology of knowledge that situates speakers and motives, especially in cases of complex professional and administrative decision-making, as well as providing specific factual material that qualifies claims of experts and authorities. In many contexts the commentaries are examples of Habermasian demands for justification, to which there is a response. A major topic in women's health, and on the blogs, is the effects of hysterectomy, especially accompanied by oophorectomy, the removal of (normally healthy) ovaries. Physicians make extreme claims on web pages about the lack of consequences, or their manageability through hormone therapy, which they claim is supported by research. Blog posters, and a blog opposed to hysterectomy generally, claim that there are numerous damaging effects, and deconstruct the claims of experts. Blog posters fill in the claims with personal experiences and analysis of the conduct of physicians and nurses, as well as the motives of women who deny symptoms. Physicians provide their own critique and analysis of the blogs, to which they attribute great influence. A later meta-analysis and new longitudinal research affirms the bloggers, and explains why much of the research cited by experts is wrong.

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The Sociological Review, v. 61, issue 2 Suppl., p. 160-179