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Still the same?–Self-identity dilemmas when living with post-stroke aphasia in a digitalised society

Journal article
Authors Helena Taubner
Malin Hallén
Åsa Wengelin
Published in Aphasiology
ISSN 0268-7038
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Swedish
Language en
Keywords Aphasia, dilemmas, netnography, self-identity, stroke
Subject categories Swedish language, General Language Studies and Linguistics, Disability research, Logopedics and phoniatrics


© 2019, © 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Background: Self-identity construction through “stories of self” is highly relevant for people with aphasia, not only because the onset entails a “biographical disruption” but also since their ability to keep their “stories of self” going is reduced. Three dilemmas (constancy/change, sameness/difference and agency/dependency) are known to be central to identity. In a digitalised society like Sweden, self-identity construction, including the navigation of these dilemmas, takes place both online and offline. Nevertheless, research combining aphasia, identity and online issues is scarce. Aim: This qualitative study aims, in terms identity dilemmas, to investigate self-identity construction in working-age persons living with post-stroke aphasia in a digitalised society (i.e. Sweden). Are the dilemmas relevant to the participants, and if so, how do they navigate them online and offline? Methods and Procedures: Nine individuals (three men and six women, aged 24–54 at onset) with mild or moderate post-stroke aphasia participated. The data comprises nine individual audio-recorded interviews and 1,581 screenshots from online observations. Qualitative analyses were performed (vertically and horizontally), combining inductive and deductive approaches. Outcomes and Results: All three dilemmas are relevant to the participants. They construct their self-identity as both the same as they were pre-stroke and changed. They are both the same and different in relation to other stroke survivors (with or without aphasia), i.e. both “disabled” and “normal”. They display both dependency and agency. Thus, they navigate the dilemmas by constantly negotiating what to include in their stories of self. In addition, telling one story of self offline does not imply telling the same story online. Conclusion: The dilemmas are intertwined and highly relevant to the participants. Offline and online settings evoke different ways for them to navigate the dilemmas. Increased awareness of the possible struggle with self-identity dilemmas in people with aphasia, and the possible difference between their online and offline self-identities, should be of value to family members, clinicians and researchers. Further research based on a larger sample is suggested.

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