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Susan Stewart Loane

  • Position: PhD Student - Department of Marketing and Management

Contact Details

Student information

  • Load: PhD Student Full Time
  • Principal supervisor: Associate Professor Cynthia Webster
  • Date of submission: 20/02/2016
  • Thesis title: Creating value through social capital within online social networks for people with disabilities or chronic illness
  • Abstract:

    Within strong communities stocks of social capital have been linked to a large number of wellbeing outcomes including improved health outcomes and life expectancy, lower crime rates, lower unemployment and lower suicide rates among others. These social capital benefits are largely unavailable to those who are disabled or chronically unwell and cannot access normal community life.

    Recent studies have suggested that social capital may be built and maintained within online communities, providing opportunities for social capital exchange to those who participate in online community life. The ability for disabled or chronically unwell individuals to contribute to and draw from stocks of social capital has not been considered to any great extent within the social capital literature. This study will investigate online health communities as spaces where the disabled and chronically unwell can participate in social capital exchange.

  • Purpose: This study explores the role of social capital in the co-creation of value within online health communities
  • Originality: The concept of value is rarely considered in the context of online health communities. Prior scholarship focuses on social support, word-of-mouth marketing and, to a limited extent, social capital within online communities. Consideration of consumer value or any other value construct with online communities is rare.
  • Key Literature/theoretical perspective: This study sits at the intersection of marketing theories of consumer value and sociological theories of social capital.
  • Design/methodology/approach: Three online communities are studied using netnographic approaches involving analysis of posts and threads, online interviews, online survey and social network analysis.
  • Practical and social implications: This presentation introduces a group of people affected by Crohn’s Disease. Most people avoid discussing bowel movements and gastrointestinal disorders with friends and family. For people with Crohn’s Disease, every minute of every day is managed around the behaviour of their digestive system: meals, transport, employment, family life and social life. The opportunity to talk about the disease, learn about managing symptoms and hear about new treatments is of great value, especially with others affected by the same disease who can be a source of camaraderie and support. An online community can also be a source of social capital, leading to the generation of peer-to-peer value for participants.
  • Keywords: Online communities, Virtual Health, Social Capital, Co-created value, Netnography


  • Stewart Loane, S., & D'Alessandro, S. (2013). Communication that changes lives: Social Support within an Online Health Community for ALS. Communication Quarterly, 61(2), 236-251. doi: 10.1080/01463373.2012.752397
  • Stewart Loane, S., & D'Alessandro, S. (2013). Peer-to-Peer Value through Social Capital in an online Motor Neuron Disease Community. Journal of Nonprofit and Public Sector Marketing, 25(2), 164-185. doi: 10.1080/10495142.2013.785736
  • Stewart Loane, S., & D'Alessandro, S. (2011). Creating Value that Changes Lives: online communities for the disabled or chronically unwell. Paper presented at the ANZMAC 2011.