Routledge is pleased to share with you our author Q&A session with Deborah Lupton for her newly published titles Self-Tracking, Health and Medicine: Sociological Perspectives, The Digital Academic: Critical Perspectives on Digital Technologies in Higher Education and Digital Health: Critical and Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives.
Deborah Lupton is Centenary Research Professor in the News & Media Research Centre, Faculty of Arts & Design at the University of Canberra, Australia. She has authored/co-authored 16 books, including Fat, Digital Sociology, Risk, and Moral Threats and Dangerous Desires. Deborah has also edited five books, one of which is Digitised Health, Medicine and Risk.
About the book and the subject area:
Congratulations on the publication of your books Self-Tracking, Health and Medicine: Sociological Perspectives, The Digital Academic: Critical Perspectives on Digital Technologies in Higher Education and Digital Health: Critical and Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives. What do you want your audience to take away from the books and what inspired you to write Digital Health: Critical and Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives?
I was reading a lot of very boosterish commentary about the benefits of digital health technologies in the popular media and the medical and public health literature. There seemed to be very little awareness or acknowledgement in these accounts of the complexities of using technologies like telemedicine or health apps for either patients or healthcare practitioners. Researchers in the fields of medicine, public health and psychology for the large part have been intent on measuring efficacy of telemedicine and other digital health technologies, or investigating topics such as ‘patient adherence’ to self-care regimens or the value of persuasion in nudging people to use apps and other technologies for preventive health. As a sociologist, I wanted to take a very different perspective. I wanted to delve into the lived experiences of digital health both inside and outside the clinic, and also identify possible implications for socioeconomically disadvantaged or otherwise marginalised social groups.
What are the main developments in research that you’re seeing in your subject area of expertise and how does your book relate to these recent developments?
There has been some excellent critical social research into digital health technologies such as telemedicine and patient self-care technologies conducted over the past twenty years or so. Much of this is from researchers in science and technology studies and sociology. However, there has been little critical investigations of new digital technologies such as apps, wearable devices, social media platforms, virtual reality and 3D printing used for health and medicine. My book seeks to build on what I call ‘critical digital health studies’ by undertaking a sociological analysis of these technologies. I have been writing about these topics for the past few years, and wanted to bring them together in book-length form.
What audience did you have in mind whilst writing you book?
I am trying to reach an interdisciplinary readership, spanning sociology, social psychology, anthropology, cultural studies, media studies and internet studies, and also researchers, students and practitioners in healthcare.
What makes your book stand out from its competitors?
It is the first book that I know of to address such a broad range of digital health technologies from a critical social research perspective.
Tell us more about your academic background?
I have training in sociology and anthropology, and also hold a Master of Public Health degree. I was fascinated by studying the sociology of health and illness and the sociology of everyday life as an undergraduate, and have built on this interest ever since in my research. My doctorate was based in a public health department and a medical faculty, but took a sociological approach, investigating media coverage of HIV/AIDS.Throughout my career, I have moved between sociology and media and communication departments and appointments.
What advice would you give to an aspiring researcher in your field?
Try to see what the next ‘big thing’ is. Which social theorists are beginning to excite scholars in your fields or related disciplines? How can you use these perspectives and apply them to your own topics in new and interesting ways? What topics have not yet been researched but are clearly beginning to have some social impact? Also bear in mind that although they take a lot longer to write, books can really be important for your academic profile. My eight most highly-cited publications are books, and they continue to be cited decades after they were published. Books can make significant interventions into scholarly debates.
What is the last book you read (non-academic)?
I am a great fan of contemporary literary fiction, particularly books about the nature of everyday existence (perhaps not surprising for a sociologist!). My current favourite and ‘new find’ is American author Elizabeth Strout. She has such sensitive and subtly traced insights into the lives and emotions of ordinary people.
You have been involved in a number of publications with Taylor and Francis, what do you like about publishing with Routledge what has encouraged you to continue working with us?
One of my first-ever books was published with Taylor and Francis (way back in 1994), based on my doctorate, and I have published four others with you since then, with Digital Health and two edited volumes coming out this year as well. I feel like I know the team well and have always had a good relationship with the people I have worked with.
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