Sara Atanasova

Sara Atanasova

Participant in 2014
Work history Since 2013: Research Assistant at Centre for Methodology and Informatics, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana (Kardeljeva pl. 5, SI-1000 Ljubljana);
Study history 2013- : PhD Student of Social Informatics, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana.
2011-2013: Master of Social Informatics, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana (Master’s thesis: “Empowerment in online social fields through Bourdieu’s theory of symbolic power”, Mentors: assist. prof Gregor Petrič, PhD and assist. prof. Tanja Kamin, PhD).
2007-2011: Bachelor of Social Informatics, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana (Bachelor’s degree: “Scientific community of social informatics: scientific speciality analysis”, Mentors: prof. Vasja Vehovar, PhD and prof. Franc Mali, PhD).
Publications Atanasova, S., Kamin, T., & Petrič, G. (2017). Exploring the benefits and challenges of health professionals’ participation in online health communities: Emergence of (dis) empowerment processes and outcomes. International Journal of Medical Informatics, 98, 13-21.

Petrič, G., Atanasova, S., & Kamin, T. (2017). Impact of Social Processes in Online Health Communities on Patient Empowerment in Relationship With the Physician: Emergence of Functional and Dysfunctional Empowerment. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 19(3).

Petrič, G., & Atanasova, S. (2015). Spoštljivost v deliberaciji: Konceptualni premisleki, alternativna operacionalizacija in empirična validacija [Respect in deliberation: Conceptual reflections, alternative operationalisation and empirical validation]. Teorija in Praksa, 52(6), 1143.

Atanasova, S. & Petrič, G. (2014). Spletne skupnosti: tipologija in temeljne značilnosti [Online communities: Typology and fundamental characteristics]. Družboslovne razprave, (75), 85-106.

Phd Projects


Empowerment as a communicative process in online health communities: A Bourdieuian perspective

This study aims to investigate and analyze empowerment process in online health communities (OHCs). The role of OHCs in empowerment process has remarkably increased in the last decade; as such communities are seen as a type of support groups that provide access to health-related information, advocacy of key health issues and possibility for people to meet their health-related needs. The research strives to demonstrate how empowerment process develops, evolves and occurs in OHCs on the basis of two main objectives: First, to develop theoretical framework for understanding complex and multidimensional process of empowerment in the context of online social spaces, such as OHCs. Second, on the basis of provided conceptual framework propose a methodological model for researching the process of empowerment in the OHCs.
The first objective of the study is based on the conceptual issues of the empowerment concept which is often defined as ambiguous notion with a lack of conceptual consistency and a valid definition. These inconsistencies are especially challenging when we want to define empowerment in the context of online social spaces, which are often only perceived as “empowerment tools” (Fortunati, 2009). This study discusses such ambiguities and aims to show how the process of empowerment in online social spaces could be understood through Bourdieu’s theory of symbolic power. Thus, following this theoretical perspective the study establishes a theoretical understanding of the online social space through Bourdieu’s interconnected triad of (online) practices – (digital) habitus – (online) social fields on the basis of which the analytical framework of studying empowerment is build. In the course of conceptualizing empowerment process (in OHCs) the study leans on the Hur’s (2006) meta-theoretical analysis of the empowerment process which is integrated with Bourdieu’s theory of symbolic power. Such integrated framework draws investigative attention to empowerment as a communication process that proceeds through five stages: existence of social and/or individual disturbances, conscientizing, mobilization, maximizing step, and creating a new social order. In Bourdieu’s view communication practices not only create meanings of the social actors, but are also indispensable for the establishment of power relations, which represent the core of the concept of empowerment.
The further challenge of this study lies in the question how to methodologically and empirically grasp the process of empowerment in OHCs, using a Bourdieuian theoretical perspective. The challenge of researching empowerment process in OHC will be applied on the case of the biggest Slovenian OHC, Med.Over.Net.

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