The culture/ online community that Wu is trying to portray is the factitious disorder, when she was looking up information on faking illness.
She creates a verbal portrait of this community because she gives the definition, gives severe levels of this disorder, like a common one which is Munchausen syndrome. She continues to explain her experiences and what happens to those who have this disorder. She also includes why she decided to look it up, again, including her own personal connection to this topic.
She uses the internet to find sources, while also using specific citations from published writers. She uses message-board forums led by threads posted by other users. She then finds out the forum consists of those they’ve “played for” as in the friends and family of the FDers. She also uses her own experiences as a source because being a part of this community, she has knowledge on her own experience and that is important because it is like interactive research, inserting oneself into the topic she’s researching. She also notes down Dr. Feldman’s own words and prognosis, but includes that he is essentially plugging his own book for further knowledge. She mainly uses forums and real life experiences to triangulate the data from her findings and determine the right information.
Footnotes play a role in Wu’s text because she lets us know information such as name changes, little facts, and even some more in depth details that would fit oddly into the writing and also developing information.