The Health Discourse Research Group with the Applied Linguistics Research Group cordially invite you to our next research seminar with invited speaker Dr Olivia Knapton, (King’s College London, UK) on Thursday 17th January 2019 , in Stuart Hall Level 1, Room 3 (Open University Milton Keynes Campus) between 2-3:30pm.

The title of the talk is:

The interactional negotiation of space in small stories of anxiety” 


In recent years, a growing bank of studies from social/cultural geography and social psychology has shown the importance of the subjective experiences of space in anxiety disorders. This presentation investigates how those experiences of space are discursively negotiated in small stories of anxiety. The data come from three media broadcasts (two television programmes and one podcast) that are discussing anxiety. The speakers are all public figures telling small stories about their experiences, which, broadly defined, are the narratives we tell in conversational interaction. In the session, there will be time to explore some of the data with the aim of discussing how people with anxiety discursively construct the management of their physical space, including the (perceived) movement of objects, other people and the self, and the practices that serve to organise the immediate, spatial environment. The analysis also touches on how spatial gestalts can be used to perform discursive functions such as entertaining, building rapport and indexing identity.



The schedule of events and workshops for 17/18:

Wednesday, Nov. 15th, 2-3.30, Charles Pinfold Meeting Room, Level 4

Shut Up and Write Workshop 
Wednesday, Dec. 6th. 2-3.30, Stuart Hall, Level 2, Room 3

Data blitz: a series of bite-sized talks on current research projects 
Tuesday, 30 Jan. 2-3.30, Stuart Hall, Ground Floor Conference Room

Research ethics workshop: snapshots of ethics conundrums in research 
Tuesday, 27th Feb. 2-3.30, Stuart Hall, Ground Floor Conference Room (cancelled due to Strike Action) 

Guest talk by Olivia Knapton (King’s College London)

“Constructing space in narratives of anxiety” 
Tuesday, 15th May 2-3.30, Stuart Hall, Ground Floor Conference Room

Guest talk by Marco Pino (Loughborough University) & Ruth Parry (Loughborough University) “Discussions Between Patients and Professionals on End of Life Issues"


Health Discourse Research Group’s 16/17 events:

    • 25/10/16 – 2.30pm Stuart Hall Conference Room. At our last meeting, we discussed ‘Negotiating being ill’ and questions around what it means to be a patient. One of the interesting strands emerging from this discussion was to do with the demands that ‘patienthood’ places specifically on people with chronic conditions and/or disabilities and we would like to continue the discussion of this at the next session. We’d like to suggest Foster’s short 2016 paper “Keep complaining til someone listens’: Exchanges of tacit healthcare knowledge in online illness communities” as a starting point for our discussion, and of course do bring your own experiences, research and readings to the session.


    • 28/11/16 – 10.00am – 5.30pm CMR15.Workshop of the BAAL Health & Science Communication SIG “Experiences of illness and death: learning from the discourses of realities and fictions” Registration: Eventbrite (note: not free)



    • 07/03/17- 2.00pm Stuart Hall Conference Room. “ASSIST Data Session“: At this meeting members of the group working on the ASSIST project will update the group on progress so far and will present sample data for group coding and analysis. (The aim of the ASSIST project, led by Kate Lister and Myria Pieridou, is to (i) investigate the language that students feel comfortable using, when talking about their disabilities and (ii) identify gaps between the language students use to describe their own disabilities and the social-model language currently used by the Open University with a view to suggest specific improvements).


    • 28/03/17 – 2.00pm Stuart Hall Conference Room.

Guest Talk by Professor Tess Fitzpatrick(University of Swansea):

“Words and meanings in cancer care: lexical perspectives on communication between patients and health professionals”


Communication between patients and health professionals can be impaired by the use of specific vocabulary, including ‘cryptotechnical vocabulary’ (the technical use of common words). We present data from this on-going study, in which 300 members of the public answered questions about words and phrases typically used in cancer consultations. Preliminary findings reveal a number of terms that are persistently problematic in use, and identify patient groups most susceptible to misunderstandings. In addition to inaccurate and incomplete definitional knowledge among lay participants, we analyse differences in connotations evoked, and consider the impact of this on communication events. We outline plans for an interventionto enhance health professionals’ awareness of lay interpretations, and to provide strategies for noticing and addressing misinterpretations.The study is part of an on-going collaboration between healthcare professionals and applied linguists, which aims to enhance mutual understanding of factual and affective features in communication associated with cancer treatments.

    • 25/04/17 – 2.00pm Stuart Hall Conference Room.

Guest Talk by Gilles Merminod (Swiss National Science Foundation / University of Lausanne)

Organspende, don d’organes, donazione di organi.

Voicing organ donation in a multilingual country


Since 2007, the Swiss federal government has to communicate information about organ donation and transplantation medicine in three languages (German, French and Italian). Such a multilingual state of affairs undoubtedly affects how health institutional bodies communicate. Considering campaigns issued by the Federal Office of Public Health between 2007 and 2016, I would like to reflect on the practical matter that is to speak about the same health issue (organ donation) in different languages (German, French and Italian) to an audience considered as a whole (the Swiss population). Further to the detailed discourse analysis and cross-linguistic comparison of a poster campaign, I would like to discuss the limits and possibilities of multilingualism in public communication about health issues, especially in terms of ethical responsibilities.

    • 23/05/17 – 2.00pm Library Presentation Room.

Maria Leedham and Alison Twiner (The Open University):

Researching writing practices in social work: text collection and analysis in the WiSP project”

The production of written texts is a high-stakes activity in professional social work, playing a central role in all decisions about services and simultaneously used to evaluate social workers’ professional competence. Social work writing (often referred to as recording or paperwork) is frequently the target of criticism in reviews and public media reporting. Despite its significance, little empirical research has been carried out on writing in professional practice. ‘Writing in professional social work practice in a changing communicative landscape’ (WiSP) is a 2-year, ESRC-funded project which aims to address this gap. Involving 50 social workers from a range of social work domains, including children’s, adults and mental health, the project explores the range of written texts produced, the writing practices of social workers and the perspectives of social workers on the nature and place of recording in everyday professional practice.

This paper will discuss some of the work-in-progress complexities and discussions the research team is addressing around preparing an ‘anonymised’ corpus of sensitive texts, and in particular where the funding body requires the data to be shared through the UK Data Archive. Issues addressed will include the extent to which ‘jigsaw identification’ is avoidable, service user/client awareness of the texts written about them, and use of a comparable corpus of medical case notes. Focus within this session will therefore predominantly be on the text and corpus elements of the WiSP project and examples of sensitive and less sensitive case notes will be discussed.

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