Moving beyond the history of heroic medical devices, this panel explores the role of everyday media in medicine. Each paper helps to position the way in which commonplace technologies of communication—from the telephone to television—have transformed the contours of medical knowledge and practice.
In recent years, historians, sociologists, and anthropologists of medicine have renewed their interest in understanding the social lives of medical technologies. Moving beyond heroic diagnostic and therapeutic devices such as the X-ray, the CT scan, the iron lung and the pacemaker, this panel seeks to explore the role of everyday media in medicine. The work of these assembled scholars all help to position the way in which commonplace and mundane technologies of communication—from the telephone to television—have transformed the contours of medical knowledge and practice. By reconfiguring social and temporal relations, everyday media technologies encouraged new dynamics between doctors and patients, as well as new approaches to diagnosis and therapy. Data, images, sounds, utterances, and glitches all accrued new significances, inspiring new affects and ideas. This panel pays particular attention to the historical specificity of each medium: these technologies did not influence their environment in some predetermined, unidirectional or generalizable way, and for that reason much attention is given to the social, cultural and material details that undergirded and informed each mediation. It is through this attention to particularity that we seek to uncover a new media history of medicine.