Antonio Maturo, Veronica Moretti, Flavia Atzori

From social policy to algorithms: health apps as engines of medicalization

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Self-Tracking; Quantification; Medicalization; Apps; Surveillance.

Self-tracking encourages the quantification and medicalization of everyday life in two important ways. First, in the United States, several health insurance policies offer discounts to plan-holders who are willing to share data collected by their Fitbits with their insurance company; healthy lifestyles are thus rewarded. Thanks to smartphones, individuals can easily collect a huge amount of data about different aspects of themselves: their physiology, behavior, lifestyle. Yet, the big data collected by self-tracking and surveilled by sophisticated algorithms may also function as an instrument of social exclusion for people who live in deprived environments. Moreover, this individualistic view of health draws attention away from the social determinants of health. A related and analogous social dynamic plays out on a different level. The same parameters and metrics which self-tracking makes easy to collect, also give rise to a strictly medicalized view of health. This is apparent, for example, in the case of mental health apps, which epitomize the quantitative turn of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This digital medicalization encourages the presentation of complex social conditions in a clinical framework that replaces the «social» with the «biological». As a consequence, the medicalization of social problems "ipso facto" devalues social policy.

Trova nel catalogo di Worldcat

Article first page

Article first page