HSC SIG Workshop 2019: ‘Argumenting Health Communication in the Digital Era’

The 2019 workshop of the British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL), Health & Science Communication Special Interest Group (HSC SIG) was hosted by the University of Brescia (Italy) and has now passed. Read a report of the event here.


In recent years, discourse analysts have taken various approaches to the study of health communication. As the main approaches to health discourse taken over the past several decades, Conversation Analysis, Interactional Sociolinguistics and Narrative Analysis are breaking new grounds and opening up new horizons and contexts in health communication. Moreover, the so-called ‘digital era’ is undoubtedly affecting health behaviours and healthcare practices, and digital technologies require both discourse analysts and healthcare professionals to expand their perspective beyond traditional doctor–patient communication. New tools, tests and apps are accelerating changes and improving outcomes in health, healthcare and wellness. Technology is growing at an incredibly fast rate, which can help solve the issues of rising healthcare costs, demographics, access to data and so forth, on condition that the entire health communication system is able to keep up with it. The way discourse about health travels “beyond the clinic” needs to be explored, not just across physical settings but also across multiple semiotic modes and media.

Keynote Speakers

  • Prof. Srikant Sarangi, Professor in Humanities and Medicine and Director of the Danish Institute of Humanities and Medicine/Health (DIHM), Aalborg University (DK), on “Modes and modalities in technology-mediated healthcare: A critical appraisal”.
  • Prof. Sara Rubinelli, President of the European Association for Communication in Healthcare (EACH) , University of Lucerne (CH), on “Knowledge co-creation in online communities towards a better health services delivery and medical care
  • Prof. Pier Luigi Lopalco, MD, Professor of Hygiene and Preventive Medicine, University of Pisa (IT), on “Effective public health communication in the era of social media
  • Dr. Eugenio Santoro, Head of the Laboratory of Medical Informatics, Department of Public Health, IRCCS – Mario Negri Institute – Milano

HSC Workshop 2018

This event has now passed.  Read a report of the event here: HSC SIG_Report_2018

Workshop of the British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL)

Health & Science Communication Special Interest Group (HSC SIG)

“Mixing it up: Multi-methods, media and modalities”


 Wednesday 21st November 2018

Hosted by the School of Education, Communication & Society, King’s College London


With the recent surge in use of technology and apps for personal health monitoring, researchers working on health and science communication have seized opportunities to explore new forms of digital and algorithmic data.  This is no surprise; communication scholars have always kept up with changes in the ways that public and professionals communicate, updating methods and designing projects to accommodate images, videos, online forums, social media and so on. Through these data, the study of health and science communication reaches so much further than the spoken or written language that we use.  While bringing together multiple methods or exploring multimodal data poses certain challenges, there is also strength in variety, offering insights that could not be found through explorations of text alone.

The aim of this workshop is to highlight the multiple and varied methods of research that are currently being used by researchers in health and science communication. There will be papers that analyse multimodal data, that adopt mixed methods approaches, that draw on several data sets or that are innovative in the methods they employ. We hope to bring together researchers from applied linguistics, medical sociology, media studies and social psychology with the intention of exploring how variety in methods can help shed new light on issues in health and science communication.

 Keynote Speakers

  • Dr Gabriella Rundblad, King’s College London
  • Professor Jeff Bezemer, UCL Institute of Education

HSC Workshop 2017

BAAL Health & Science Communication SIG Workshop, November 2017

“Chronic Disease and Language: Understanding Social and Linguistic Representations to Improve Treatment and Prevention”

Hosted by the Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University

This event has now passed. Read a report of the event here: HSC SIG_Report_2017

‘Chronic disease’, ‘long-term condition’ and ‘non-communicable disease’ are often used interchangeably to refer to conditions that can be managed, but not cured. Despite the synonymous use, these terms frame differently the conditions they describe – foregrounding the duration of the disease or its mechanism of operation. This ‘what’s in a name’ example is a good if crude illustration of how language can shape our thinking about chronic disease. As chronic diseases become more widespread among populations worldwide, they are also increasingly the target of government initiatives for treatment and prevention and therefore, increasingly the focus of text and talk. From a discourse studies perspective, texts do not simply describe the reality of a chronic condition. By drawing on some types of knowledge and not others, incorporating the voices of some actors but not others and highlighting certain aspects of a condition and not others, they help construct the reality of that condition. Research has revealed how health-related information leaflets, media articles, policy documents and more recently, social marketing campaign advertisements explicitly or implicitly prioritise certain causes, propose solutions, allocate responsibility and ultimately, construct particular understandings of chronic diseases and what needs to be done about them. A finding that runs through much of the literature is about the prevalence of an individualised discourse and/or a victim-blaming style and stigmatisation of the affected individuals.

In recent years, the focus on early intervention and prevention of chronic diseases has intensified in parallel with a growing understanding that solving chronic disease problems would require multi- or trans-disciplinary research and taking a much broader view of the drivers of health beyond the individual level. We therefore welcome papers that study chronic diseases and representations in contemporary texts adopting various methodological and theoretical approaches (including, but not limited to discourse, framing, metaphor, narrative) with the aim of understanding how language shapes (and potentially limits) the ways that individuals and institutions can think, speak and behave. The aim of the workshop is to bring together researchers from the fields of the social sciences, humanities and beyond to share findings relating to the key challenges and opportunities that representations pose to treatment and prevention targets. Proposals are invited for 20-minute paper presentations as well as posters.

Keynote Speakers

  • Dr Shona Hilton, Deputy Director, Medical Research Council (MRC)/Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office (CSO) Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow
  • Prof Rusi Jaspal, School of Applied Social Sciences, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, De Montfort University 


EVENT: “Experiences of illness and death: learning from the discourses of realities and fictions”


BAAL Health & Science Communication SIG Workshop
28 November 2016
Hosted by the Faculty of Well-being, Education and Language Studies
The Open University, Milton Keynes

This event has now passed. Read a summary and reflections on the workshop here: hsc-narrative-workshop-report

“Any serious illness is a medical event, but it is lived in narrative terms” wrote Andrew Solomon in a recent article for The Guardian. This workshop will focus on these ‘lived’ and ‘narrative’ aspects of the experience of illness and death from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

Accounts of illness and dying by patients, carers and healthcare professionals have been at the heart the medical humanities for several decades. They have been called upon to better understand patients and to enable patient-centered care, to improve training and empathy in healthcare professionals and to begin to assist those who informally support and care for the ill. They have been investigated from the perspectives of history, sociology, literature, the visual arts and, more recently, linguistics. At the same time, these disparate approaches and applications, have tended to leave the field somewhat fragmented. The aim of this workshop is to bring together researchers of different backgrounds who examine and use experiences of illness and death to discuss and explore the methods and applications that allow us to get the most out of these rich and powerful sources of evidence.

Keynote speakers:
Dr Julie Ellis, University of Sheffield
Dr Jonathon Tomlinson, NHS The Lawson Practice (https://abetternhs.wordpress.com/about/)


WORKSHOP: Computer-mediated health communication: Perspectives from ethnography and discourse analysis


Hosted by the Language Centre School of Language, Linguistics, and Film, Queen Mary University of London


This event has now passed. Event report: sigs_hsc_ 2016_meeting_report

This first SIG workshop will focus on the theme of computer mediated health communication taking a broad view of the diverse digital contexts in which health communication is developed through the medium of language. We are particularly interested in contributions that use the frameworks of ethnography and discourse analysis for the selection and analysis of linguistic features in order to understand relations between digital texts and their wider contexts of production and reception.

The new possibilities of using ICT technologies for practitioner-patient consultations as well as for peer-to-peer interaction in a synchronic or asynchronic manner have fascinated health researchers for over three decades. While there is a growing body of psychology literature focused on the quantitative analysis of isolated content features, the linguistic analyses of ICT-facilitated interactions in their discursive and social contexts have not yet received systematic attention.  In research on social media for example, the nature of synchronic or asynchronic platforms, and the fact that many forms of online communication are publicly available are likely to influence the way in which health and illness identities are constructed by professional and ‘lay’ actors.

The aims of this workshop are to bring together researchers who examine health communication from the theoretical and methodological traditions of linguistic ethnography and discourse analysis, to test the value of combining different research methods and to share solutions to the challenges of data analysis and interpretation posed by online environments. We are particularly interested in building theoretical and methodological bridges between applied linguistics, medical sociology, media studies and social psychology.

Invited speakers include:

  • Prof Elena Semino (University of Lancaster)
  • Dr Julia Bailey (University College London)