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By Sharad Rajimwale

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The mission of ‘Lucy Answers’ is clearly defined and declares that it operates in the framework of this health education program. The main target readership consists of college students from the home university (AEI), but due to its public Internet appearance, this advice column is accessible to other people as well. Its design is more interactive than a print advice column, since the archive which contains all previously answered problem letters and their answers is an integral part of the site.

Supportive interchanges (category 3) made up 44 percent of all discursive moves and were thus the largest discourse category. Within this category, empathy and support ranged higher than gratitude, normalization or humor. Growth-promoting interchanges (category 4) were rare indeed and punitive interchanges (category 5) made up only 5 percent of all discursive moves. Overall, Miller and Gergen (1998: 198) observe for their data that “[t]he vast preponderance of network interchange is in the areas of self-revelation (or help-seeking) on the one hand, and empathic and encouraging responses on the other”.

First they distinguished between mother-initiated advice and health visitorinitiated advice. Mother-initiated advice was relatively infrequent and could take the form of a direct and straightforward request, which generally took the pattern of question-answer sequences. Often mothers preferred to display certain knowledge in the problem area. This was frequently achieved through the use of ‘closed’ questions (yes/no), where the health visitor “is merely invited to confirm the viewpoint embedded in the mother’s enquiry” (1992: 371).

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