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We invite paper proposals for our session ‘Exploring critical and engaged approaches for investigating the complexities of digital health’ at the 18th Annual STS Conference on ‘Critical Issues in Science, Technology and Society Studies’ to be held in Graz, Austria, 6-7 May 2019.
The submission deadline is 21st January 2019. Prospective session participants are kindly requested to submit their paper proposals including an abstract of max. 500 words using the digital forms only, which you can reach using this link: https://sts-conference.isds.tugraz.at/event/5/abstracts/
For more information about the conference see: https://sts-conference.isds.tugraz.at/event/5/overview
Benjamin Marent & Flis Henwood
Session title: Exploring critical and engaged approaches for investigating the complexities of digital health
The notion of ‘digital health’ (Lupton 2018) refers to sociotechnical assemblages where a range of technologies are embedded in practices of accessing health information, sharing illness experiences, supporting people with chronic diseases to engage in self-care or empowering others to take up healthy lifestyles. These affordances are often interpreted by the medical and public health literature to mean that digital health will increase the quality and effectiveness of health services and bring forth emancipated citizens and patients that take responsibility for their own health.
Social scientists, on the other hand, have begun to articulate a number of concerns towards the increased digitisation of health. For example, it has been argued that digital technologies shift responsibility for health towards individual patients without problematizing the ‘digital divide’ or acknowledging the social determinants of health, that the over-reliance on ‘objective’ health data can undermine awareness of haptic sensations, leading to a reductionist understanding of the self and its complex health conditions, and that digital technologies are producing an unprecedented ‘net of surveillance’ that extends medical power and raises serious concerns regarding data security and privacy.
Recently, science and technology scholars (Ruckenstein and Schüll 2017) have argued that while the social science literature has used analytical concepts to outline potential negative consequences and concerns towards digital health less focus has been given to reveal the inherent tensions and contradictions that are enacted in sociotechnical practices. A dichotomised view that emphasises either the benefits or the drawbacks of digital health is problematic because it is blurring our sense of the complexities that are part of using self-care technologies. Moreover, in current societies, the digital has been portrayed as a ‘total social fact’ as it touches on most aspects of social life (Marres 2017). Consequently, the role of social sciences as a distant critic of the digital has been perceived as limited. Increasingly, social scientists are challenged to take up their critical role within the configuration of digital interventions (Marent et al. 2018).
This session invites papers that explore options for renewed critical and engaged approaches to digital health that do closely involve users, practices and technologies. In this way, we seek papers that…
… explore how users are constructed and involved within the design, development and implementation of digital health to intervene in the configuration of digital futures.
… focus on the practices of design and use to generate evidence on the broader social, ethical and political consequences of digital health.
… engage with new sources of data that are made available by the ‘digital’ and, thereby, contribute to methodological innovations and develop concepts and methods for research and knowledge translation.
Lupton, D. (2018) Digital Health: Critical and Cross-disciplinary Perspectives, New York: Routledge
Marent, B., Henwood, F. and Darking, M. (2018a) Ambivalence in digital health. Co-designing an mHealth platform for HIV care. Social Science & Medicine 215: 133-141
Marres, N. (2017) Digital Sociology. The Reinvention of Social Research, Cambridge: Polity Press.
Ruckenstein, M. and Schüll, N.D. (2017) The Datafication of Health. Annual Review of Anthropology, 46, 261-278
Dr Benjamin Marent
Research Fellow Sociotechnical Evaluation
School of Applied Social Science
University of Brighton
Watson Building, Falmer
BN1 9PH, UK
+43 (0)650 8716642
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