- Carmine Grimaldi (University of Chicago) email
- Mark Olson (Duke University) email
- Jeremy Greene (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine) email
- Hannah Zeavin (New York University) email
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.
This track is closed to new paper proposals.
Answering the Call: The Rise of the Crisis Intervention Hotline
“Answering the Call” discusses the rise of the crisis hotline and their origins in psycho-religious counseling in the United States. It explores the particular intersection of telephony with clinical care (the therapeutic frame, new intimacies) at work in this model of peer-to-peer tele-therapy.
"Answering the Call" will attend to the rise of the suicide crisis hotline and its origins in the psycho-religious counseling. Crisis hotlines have their origins in mid-century American religious organizations that formed partnerships with psychoanalysts in order to create new models for pastoral counseling. Though the protocols enacted by these early hotlines vary, they all share both a psychoanalytic and a Protestant desire to reconfigure, regrow, and remediate their foundational relationships: that of analyst to patient and of pastor to congregation. The paper will explore the ways in which the remediation of the Catholic confessional into an "anonymous" crisis intervention hotline serves these aims through a discussion of the paradoxical reliance on the repressions of mediaticity at work in Protestant doctrine and the psychodynamic encounter.
"Answering the Call" will discuss the ways in which specific limits of access to clinical care have influenced the still ongoing use of telephony in peer-to-peer tele-therapy and shifted notions of successful care providing. Through exploring the particular clinical and culture models of care at work in these early hotlines, the paper opens onto questions of the therapeutic frame, intimacy, crisis and care: how do media technologies (such as the telephone) create new forms of relationality, and shift our understanding of psychiatric communications? What do new forms of embodiment, anonymity, and the brevity of an encounter do to conceptions of crisis treatment?
Inter-Operative: Platform Standards, Knowledge Politics & Medical Television At Mid-Century
In the late 1940s and 1950s, medical schools began to experiment with the teaching of medicine "by other means," leveraging the new medium of television. This paper mobilizes the concept of "platform standards" to attend to the forces at play in the early history of medical television.
In the late 1940s and 1950s, medical schools began to experiment with the teaching of medicine "by other means," leveraging the then-emergent platform of television in graduate, post-graduate, and continuing medical education. Like all new technologies, television's insertion into an established context of practice disrupted medical education's standard operating procedures. New actors — the television camera, the television technician -- in the teaching hospital reconfigured and displaced hierarchies of expertise in medical apprenticeship. This paper traces the contestations that mark the early history of medical television: struggles over the meaning of a new media platform, strategies to contain television's (re)distribution of medical knowledge, as well as skirmishes over authority that accompanied efforts by previously marginalized medical technicians to professionalize and assert their legitimacy. In particular, this paper mobilizes the concept of "platform standards" to attend to the historical forces at play: pedagogical standards, aesthetic standards, hardware standards, and the sometimes conflicting values of interoperability, accessibility, and quality.
The Wired Clinic: Exploring Medicine and Media at the Telemedical Field Station
This paper describes an experimental media laboratory established in 1967 by the Massachusetts General Hospital to “extend competent medical services to areas that are either too primitive or too sparsely settled to support a full-time doctor”.
In March of 1969, a young physician took the podium at the Dupont Plaza Hotel to address the past and future of "The Amplified Doctor." Kenneth Bird was director of the Telemedicine Station, an experimental media laboratory established two years earlier by the Massachusetts General Hospital to "extend competent medical services to areas that are either too primitive or too sparsely settled to support a full-time doctor." Working with an array of direct two-way audio, visual, and sensory telecommunication devices, Bird attracted federal grant funding and corporate support in 1960s and 1970s to model the practice of medicine at a distance through networked communication technologies.
A half-century later, Bird is now celebrated as a prophetic founder of telemedicine and e-health in North America, and his name adorns the keynote lecture of the American Telemedical Association meetings. At the time, however, he saw himself as a tinkerer and apostle of media theory for the medical masses, channeling Marshall McCluhan in most of his public speeches. Seizing on McCluhan's metaphor of television as "the most recent and spectacular electric extension of our central nervous system," Bird developed a theory of how networked television would transform health in the era of the "wired city."
Making use of the rich archives of the MGH Telediagnostic Clinic, this paper will explore Bird's visions of transforming heath and medicine through analog media technologies, and assess their relevance to understanding the current hopes and hypes surrounding the technological mediation of health in our digital present
Screening the Self: Mediating Minds on Film and Video
Looking at the archive of the Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute, this paper explores the use of moving images as a therapeutic technique during the 1960s. In particular, it attends to the specific uses of two technologies—film and video—examining the distinct ideas and affects they inspired.
In the 1960s, American psychiatric clinics began to experiment with the therapeutic potential of the moving image. This paper looks at the archive of the Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute, examining the way the moving image was experienced by doctors and patients. In considering this, it focuses on the use of two technologies—film and video—each of which were deployed with distinct therapeutic intentions. While the difference between these two mediums may now seem pedantic, the distinction then felt tangible and urgent: images on celluloid strips and cathode tubes had distinct functions, and each was understood to have unique properties that could be harnessed for radical psychological transformation. Proximity and distance, simultaneity and lag, spontaneity and discipline, play and art: these categories came to organize the use of these technologies, and by following their implications, we can excavate both the historically specific meanings of these technologies, as well as the particular manner through which the self was configured and treated within the clinic.
This track is closed to new paper proposals.