Kusumi et al. (2014)

Kusumi, T. (楠見孝), Ogura, K. (小倉加奈代), & Miura, A. (三浦麻子) (2014).
Development of a support group using a virtual space for cancer patients.
International Journal of Web Based Communities (IJWBC), 10(4).
We report findings from a chat log analysis of a support group in which two to five patients and one or two facilitators chatted in a virtual space; weekly sessions lasted 1.5 hrs. each, and we followed them over five years. In the virtual space, participants were represented by avatars with emotional expressions. Chat messages were analysed with a text-mining tool, exploring whether positive emotion words (e.g., ‘happy’), medicine-related words (e.g., ‘symptoms’), and informational/emotional-support messages (giving and receiving) would increase over time. We found that frequency of positive emotion words increased in Years 1-3 and remained constant thereafter; medical-related words did not increase until Year 5. Support messages increased from Years 1 to 3. Analysis of messages indicated that the patients’ and facilitators’ conversational roles changed as a sense of community emerged. The virtual support group appeared to promote positive emotions, trust among members, and mutual supportive relationships within the group.