Centre for Health, Technologies and Social Practice

New publications by Thesp members

Chekar, CK. 2017. Review: Davis, J.E. and González, A.M. (eds.). To Fix or To Heal: Patient Care, Public Health, and the Limits of Biomedicine. New York: New York University Press. 2016. 352 pp. $28 (pbk), ISBN 9781479809585. Sociology of Health & Illness, 39 (7), 1288-1289. DOI: 10.1111/1467-9566.12577. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-9566.12577/full

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Hill, R.L. 2017. The political potential of numbers: data visualisation in the abortion debate. Women, Gender and Research. 26(1), pp.83-96.

Abstract:

Data visualisation has been argued to have the power to ‘change the world’, implicitly for the better, but when it comes to abortion, both sides make moral claims to ‘good’. Visualisation conventions of clean lines and shapes simplify data, lending them a rhetoric of neutrality, as if the data is the whole story. It is imperative, therefore, to examine how data visualisations are used to shape women’s lives. This article draws on the findings of the Persuasive Data project . Google Image Scraper was used to locate abortion-related visualisations circulating online. The images, their web locations, and data use were social semiotically analysed to understand their visual rhetoric and political use. Anti-abortion groups are more likely to use data visualisation than pro-choice groups, thereby simplifying the issue and mobilising the rhetoric of neutrality. I argue that data visualisations are being used as a hindrance to women’s access to abortion, and that the critique of such visualisations needs to come from feminists. This article extends discussions of how data is often reified as objective, by showing how the rhetoric of objectivity within data visualisation conventions is harnessed to do work in the world that is potentially very damaging to women’s rights.

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Hollin, G., Forsyth, I., Giraud, EHS., & Potts, T. Online first. (Dis)entangling Barad: Materialisms and ethics. Social Studies of Science. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0306312717728344

Abstract

In the wake of the widespread uptake of and debate surrounding the work of Karen Barad, this article revisits her core conceptual contributions. We offer descriptions, elaborations, problematizations and provocations for those intrigued by or invested in this body of work. We examine Barad’s use of quantum physics, which underpins her conception of the material world. We discuss the political strengths of this position but also note tensions associated with applying quantum physics to phenomena at macro-scales. We identify both frictions and unacknowledged affinities with science and technology studies in Barad’s critique of reflexivity and her concept of diffraction. We flesh out Barad’s overarching position of ‘agential realism’, which contains a revised understanding of scientific apparatuses. Building upon these discussions, we argue that inherent in agential realism is both an ethics of inclusion and an ethics of exclusion. Existing research has, however, frequently emphasized entanglement and inclusion to the detriment of foreclosure and exclusion. Nonetheless, we contend that it is in the potential for an ethics of exclusion that Barad’s work could be of greatest utility within science and technology studies and beyond.

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Hollin, G. Online first. Failing, hacking, passing: Autism, entanglement and the ethics of transformation. Biosocieties. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1057/s41292-017-0054-3

Abstract

One of the most notable recent changes in autism science is the belief that autism is a heterogeneous condition with no singular essence. I argue that this notion of ‘autistic heterogeneity’ can be conceived as an ‘agential cut’ and traced to uncertainty work conducted by cognitive psychologists during the early 1990s. Researchers at this time overcame uncertainty in scientific theory by locating it within autism itself: epistemological uncertainty was interwoven with ontological indeterminacy and autism became heterogeneous and chance like, a condition determined by indeterminacy. This paper considers not only the conceptual significance of this move but also the impact upon forms of subjectivity. This analysis is undertaken by integrating the agential realism of Karen Barad with the historical ontology of Michel Foucault. I argue that these two approaches are, firstly, concerned with ontologies of emergence and, secondly, foreground the inherently ethical nature of change. As such these theories can be used to articulate an ‘ethics of transformation’. I argue that the agential cut which brought about autistic heterogeneity is potentially problematic within an ethics of transformation, limiting the possibility of future change in subjectivity by imagining difference and resistance as properties of autism rather than the individual.

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Hollin, G. 2017. Brave new world: Eugenics, discipline formation, and the biosocial. (Essay review of: Political Biology: Science and Social Values in Human Heredity from Eugenics to Epigenetics, Maurizio Meloni, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, pp.284.), Science as Culture, 26 (3), 413-417. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09505431.2017.1300642?needAccess=true

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Kerr, Kerr, A., Hill, R.L. and Till, C. 2017. The limits of responsible innovation: Exploring care, vulnerability and precision medicine. Technology in Society. Online. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160791X16301282?via%3Dihub

Abstract

Drawing on insights from feminist and Science and Technology Studies writing on care and vulnerability, this paper will critically explore conceptualisations of responsibility, care and vulnerability in relation to contemporary approaches to Responsible Innovation (RI). Drawing on examples of some of the social and ethical challenges of precision medicine, we highlight the on-going, distributed and complex nature of innovation and responsibilities in relation to markets, patient and carer experience and data practices associated with these new technologies to highlight some of the limits of RI. We end by reflecting on the implications of our analysis for the social and ethical challenges of precision medicine and RI more generally.

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Madden, M. & Speed, E. 2017. Beware Zombies and Unicorns: Toward Critical Patient and Public Involvement in Health Research in a Neoliberal Context Frontiers in Sociology http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fsoc.2017.00007/full

Abstract

Patient and public involvement (PPI) in UK National Health Service (NHS) research has become an imperative in policy and practice. However, lack of clarity on what PPI is (or might be) has given rise to a poorly monitored, complex field of activity, variously framed by the expectations of policy makers, funders, host organizations, researchers, health professionals, individual recruits, volunteers, activists, and third sector organizations. The normative shift toward PPI has taken place within a neoliberal policy context, the implications of which needs to be explicitly considered, particularly after the Brexit referendum which has left policy makers and researchers wondering how to better appeal to a distrustful public subjected to “post-truth” and “dog whistle” politics. This commentary examines the prospects for a more critical approach to PPI which addresses context, is evidence-informed and mindful of persistent inequalities in health outcomes, at a time when models of PPI in NHS health research tend to be conceptually vague, derived from limited clinical and managerial settings, and centered on a construction of the abstract, rational, compliant, and self-managing patient or layperson.

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Swallow, J. Online first. Expectant futures and an early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease: Knowing and its consequences. Social Science & Medicine http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953617303118?via%3Dihub

Efforts to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease (AD) at earlier stages as a means to managing the risks of an ageing population, dominate scientific research and healthcare policy in the UK. It is anticipated that early diagnosis will maximise treatment options and enable patients to ‘prepare for their future’ in terms of care. Drawing on qualitative data gathered across an out-patient memory service and in-patient hospital in the UK, the purpose of this paper is to examine the ways in which the hopeful promissory claims of early diagnosis as it maintains the dominant biomedical model for managing AD, are negotiated by healthcare practitioners. Developing the analytical standpoint of the sociology of expectations, this paper demonstrates that early diagnosis has the potential to ‘close off’ hopeful promissory visions of the future in two ways. Firstly, it (re)produces the fearful anticipations of AD built around expectations concerning the ageing future ‘self’, and secondly it produces uncertainty in terms of the availability of care as material resource. Whilst practitioners account for the uncertainties and anxieties it produces for patients and their families, they also convey a sense of ambivalence concerning early diagnosis. This article captures the internal conflicts and contradictions inherent to practitioners’ perspectives regarding the repercussions of early diagnosis and concludes by arguing that it effaces the uncertainties and anxieties that it produces in practice as it restricts the co-existence of narratives for making sense of memory loss beyond ‘loss of self’, and fails to recognise care as a viable alternative for managing AD.

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