This panel explores the multiple ways in which ICTs (broadly defined) can act on (human) bodies and persons, and vice versa. We welcome papers that explore the human-technology dialectic, and implications for health and wellbeing, within different political, economic and socio-cultural contexts.
The global spread of communications technology is one of the defining and arguably most socially transforming features of the early twenty-first century. In low-income settings in particular, the rapid expansion of mobile phone use (also facilitating access to the internet) has been seen as a driver of economic growth and prosperity, but also as a marker of socio-economic cleavages and differentiation. Telecommunications have become rapidly incorporated into healthcare and bodily management, both formally (through, for example, the widespread adoption of m-health services) and informally, as people make use of increased access to information to democratise the process of diagnosis and treatment-seeking. However, ICTs may also act in more invidious ways on bodies and persons, threatening to compromise, rather than enhance, physical health and psycho-social wellbeing. Examples range from the phenomenon of 'cyberchondria' (anxiety arising from internet searching on symptoms), and popular fears about health risks associated with mobile phone use/masts, to the use of ICTs for surveillance of individuals and populations (by governments and/or individuals), discourses around the risks of 'moral corruption' of young people and ensuing sexual health threats, and supernatural risks (such as the Ghanaian phenomenon of 'Sakawa' or internet-mediated witchcraft). This panel welcomes papers looking at the ways in which ICTs (of various kinds) act on bodies and persons, and/or vice versa. We particularly welcome empirical and theoretical contributions that explore the human-technology dialectic, and impacts on bodies and health/wellbeing, in a variety of different socio-cultural, political and economic settings.