The term diabetes online community (DOC) refers to a multifarious network of social media outlets, primarily concerned with providing connection and community for people with diabetes (PWD). The DOC incorporates, but is not limited to, blogs and micro-blogging platforms and makes use of still and moving images, audio and text to engage with, portray and perform the narrative identities of individuals associated with diabetes. Whilst the community is primarily run by and for PWD, the community also represents and connects with medical professionals, representatives from pharmaceutical companies, local and national governments and individuals who do not have diabetes but live with someone who does.
The community provides a space where the medical, commercial, popular and public narratives of diabetes, illness, and management interact with the personal auto-ethnographic accounts of PWD. This interaction is important, particularly when exploring notions of objecthood and subjecthood within the performance of science. This chapter explores how PWD engage with performative practices in order to navigate and perform narratives of diabetes. These narratives incorporate terms such as care, compliance and management and, in doing so, navigate the complex relationship between diverse knowledge systems. The DOC offers a degree of diversity in terms of the types of narratives performed and, as such, the type of expertise exhibited, owned and performed online. By adopting Arthur Frank’s typology of bodies, this chapter demonstrates that the DOC provides a space where PWD can perform and interact with notions of the disciplined body through self-regimentation and narratives and actions concerned with control (Frank, 1995, 41). However, unlike previous coverage of the DOC (see Silverman, 2012), this chapter is not concerned with how social media platforms facilitate better control of diabetes, the extent to which they promote compliance with medical procedures and expertise, or the manner in which PWD are able to demonstrate improved management of their chronic illness. Rather, this chapter explores how the performative practices exhibited in the DOC enable PWD to explore and expand upon narratives of the disciplined body, to offer new stories of subjecthood from the perspective of the expert patient.