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Reading Between the Lines: Applying Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis to Online Constructions of Breast Cancer

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The Internet offers rich opportunities for examining the construction of health and illness through multiple visual and textual modes. Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis (MCDA) is a method that provides researchers with the tools to critically examine online constructions of health and illness. We discuss our use of MCDA to analyse four Australian breast cancer websites. We examine how breast cancer is constructed through the online presentation of information and support services. We also discuss four key points of MCDA: meaning is multimodal, language is never neutral, meanings are infused with power relations, and underlying choices and assumptions need to be analysed. We illustrate these points by examining how these websites construct the message that women can “live well with breast cancer.” MCDA enables a critical examination of visual and textual constructions of health and illness within spaces that are central to the communication of health information, knowledge, and experience.
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Keywords: Internet; MCDA; breast cancer; critical psychology; health information; visual method

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, Australia 2: Discipline of Public Health, University of Adelaide, Australia

Publication date: July 3, 2015

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