Social media / online communities and healthcare

Study level


Master of Philosophy


Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Dr Jason Watson
Senior Lecturer
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty


How do online communities provide peer support for those with chronic illness, health conditions, or undergoing recovery from substance abuse?

Platforms that connect networks together unleashing latent capacity are becoming commonplace. Examples of these include the personal transportation sector with Uber and the accomodation sector with AirBnB. These sectors are being reshaped by online communities providing peer-to-peer services and co-creating value.

This research will investigate the role of online communities in providing peer-to-peer services in the healthcare context.

Research activities

You will be required to conduct theoretical and systems research into Social Technology, online communities, and their various stakeholders.

The activities will employ multiple methods to understand meanings, look at, describe and understand experience, ideas, beliefs and values of stakeholders.

You will be required to conduct a literature review and then employ empirical methods such as focus groups, survey, interviews, etc.

You may also be required to research existing online communities using various techniques such as virtual ethnography, observation, and/or content analysis.

You should be comfortable learning a range of research methodologies. Activities will be configured depending upon the situation and your level of technical ability. Those with technical skills may perform experiments where concepts are tested via a prototype online community.


You will:

  • derive and model the characteristics of social technology platforms (and their users)
  • provide the community with frameworks that explain human behaviour and experience on social platforms that inform our understanding of social technology, online community design, adoption and impact.


You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.