Smart [Bits and Atoms] Health Technologies and their Social Worlds
Piera Morlacchi (University of Sussex)
Gill Haddow (University of Edinburgh)
Thursday 1 September, 14:00-15:45, 16:00-17:45 (UTC+0)

Short abstract:

The aim of this track is to stimulate critical conversations about the social worlds of smart health technologies that are currently transforming health and care by creating new configurations of, for example, bodies, data and devices.

Long abstract:

In STS there is a long tradition of critically examining health technologies at the interfaces of bodies, machines, animals, computers (e.g. implantable devices, prosthetics and xenotransplants) and the dynamics of their social worlds. These hybrid 'bits and atoms' are getting more permanently integrated into our bodies. The convergences in info-, bio- and nano-technologies however are creating more complex configurations of bodies, data and devices and this complexity deserves examination.

New and old devices are becoming smarter as they can sense and transmit data but also autonomously act within our bodies. Implants and prosthetics can enhance our bodies but are susceptive to attack as in the case of biohacking. Moving beyond the repair and replacement of the human body recent developments such as biofabrication mean that more tissues and organs can be made from an individual's own cells. These health technologies create different experiences and consequences for the users, make possible new organizational modes for the producers, and more generally they could transform the current political economy of health and care. The social, ethical, legal, political and cultural dimensions and implications of these new hybrid configurations of bodies, data and devices deserve our immediate attention. The social worlds of smart health technologies and devices beckon.

We welcome contributions that critically examine smart health technologies and the dynamics of their social worlds, with a preference for submissions with a focus on configurations of bodies, data and devices, and /or new forms of assemblages and spaces of production and use.