Journal Article

Empathic communities: balancing emotional and factual communication

Jenny Preece

in Interacting with Computers

Published on behalf of British Computer Society

Volume 12, issue 1, pages 63-77
Published in print September 1999 | ISSN: 0953-5438
Published online September 1999 | e-ISSN: 1873-7951 | DOI:
Empathic communities: balancing emotional and factual communication

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  • Human-Computer Interaction


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The Web empowers a diverse population of users and this is reflected in both the demography and interests of today’s on-line communities. Many of these communities provide an essential social function by enabling people with medical or personal problems to discuss their concerns with others. Physicians can provide the facts, but other patients can tell you what it really feels like and what to expect next, in a way that only someone with personal experience can. A study of the messages from an on-line medical support group shows that empathy is an essential ingredient in participants’ discussions. Better tools are needed to empower patients to help themselves by finding information and contacting other patients in bulletin board communities. Suggestions about the nature of these tools are discussed. In particular, supporting a balance between empathic and factual communication is stressed.

Keywords: Bulletin board; EmpathyI; Information exchange; On-line community

Journal Article.  6583 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Human-Computer Interaction

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