Controversial Healing: Making sense of medicinal cannabis debates

The project aims to track the debate about medicinal cannabis on the Danish web leading up to its introduction in 2018.

In 2018, a four-year trial period for medicinal cannabis for select patient groups began. This trail period came after a massive public push for the legalization of medicinal cannabis to treat an array of illnesses – and very little corresponding scientific evidence for their effects. In public debate, the introduction of medicinal cannabis is often assumed to be intrinsically linked to the introduction of new digitalized media landscapes where the “public” voice has new power to mobilize and build political pressure. The project seeks to investigate this assumption by mapping the evolution of the online debate about medicinal cannabis in Denmark.

The project has been supported by the Carlsberg Foundation with a two-year postdoc grant, set to start in August 2019. The project will be focused on a particular empirical issue, and on understanding how this has evolved, been conceptualized and understood in the archived material available via Netarkivet.

The pilot project draws on data from Netarkivet, and would involve 2 steps.

  1. To map the occurrence of the concept of “medicinsk cannabis” on the Danish web in the years leading up to 2018. This step would yield structured data containing the domains, URLs, time, and text of each web document mentioning the concept of “medicinsk cannabis”. Such data will make several analysis possible:
    1. How the description and usage of the concept have changed in the time period. See item 3.
    2. Visualization and graphs over the evolution and spread of the term online in the time period.
    3. Link analysis, both with regards to in-coming and out-going links to and from web document containing the concept.
  2. This will make it possible to investigate the online life and patterns of information sharing around the issue of cannabis, and with this, provide clues to how social groupings take form within this issue.

By combining the text from the search results with the other information (time, URL, domains etc.), the project will be able to produce linguistic analysis in R aimed at understanding how the issue of medicinal cannabis is conceptualized in different times, groups, domains etc. A comparative analysis will then make it possible to contrast language about medicinal cannabis from, for example, government sources and personal blogs. This, combined with qualitative analysis, will enable a deeper understanding of the ways in which the debate has evolved and conceptualizations and ideas about the issue change or differ.

The project is led by: Katrine Meldgaard Kjær