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Between empowerment and self-discipline: governing patients' conduct through technological self-care

Petrakaki, Dimitra; Hilberg, Eva; Waring, Justin


Dimitra Petrakaki

Eva Hilberg

Justin Waring


Recent health policy renders patients increasingly responsible for managing their health via digital technology such as health apps and online patient platforms. This paper discusses underlying tensions between empowerment and self-discipline embodied in discourses of technological self-care. It presents findings from documentary analysis and interviews with key players in the English digital health context including policy makers, health designers and patient organisations. We show how discourses ascribe to patients an enterprising identity, which is inculcated with economic interests and engenders self-discipline. However, this reading does not capture all implications of technological self-care. A governmentality lens also shows that technological self-care opens up the potential for a de-centring of medical knowledge and its subsequent communalization. The paper contributes to Foucauldian healthcare scholarship by showing how technology could engender agential actions that operate at the margins of an enterprising discourse.


Petrakaki, D., Hilberg, E., & Waring, J. (2018). Between empowerment and self-discipline: governing patients' conduct through technological self-care. Social Science and Medicine, 213, (146-153). doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.07.043. ISSN 0277-9536

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 25, 2018
Online Publication Date Jul 26, 2018
Publication Date Sep 30, 2018
Deposit Date Aug 1, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jul 1, 2018
Journal Social Science & Medicine
Print ISSN 0277-9536
Electronic ISSN 0277-9536
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 213
Pages 146-153
Keywords History and Philosophy of Science; Health(social science)
Public URL


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