A new piece in the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences will interest AHP readers: “Cyber Solace: Historicizing an Online Forum for Patients with Depression, 1990–1999,” by Daniel Huang. Abstract:
Alt.support.depression (ASD) was an online forum for patients with depression that operated in the 1990s on the computer network Usenet. At its peak, the forum had an estimated readership of 57,000 and saw upwards of 500 posts a day. Aligning with recent efforts by historians to deinstitutionalize the history of psychiatry, this study traces the emergence of ASD as a new extramural space for mental health care in the 1990s. Its users created a unique therapeutic milieu informed by the consumer-survivor movement and 1990s cyberculture. As ASD grew in size and complexity, its users sought to redesign their forum, opening what had previously been a technological black box. Working by a process of inscription—a concept described by science and technology studies scholar Madeleine Akrich—they created a unique psychiatric constituency whose attitude towards technologies of mental health care was neither submissive nor subversive. Rather, the forum’s users developed their own notions of patient empowerment and lay expertise in psychiatry.