CFP: The Will to App: Digitising Public Health

Call For Papers
Media International Australia no. 171 (May 2019)
The Will to App: Digitising Public Health
Theme Editors: Kath Albury, Paul Byron and Frances Shaw


This themed issue of MIA proposes to engage with the digitisation and
mediatisation of health promotion and health communication,
particularly the development and delivery of mobile apps, websites and
associated platforms by government and non-government health
organisations. We offer the term ‘the will to app’ as a play on
Foucault’s (1978: 140-144) concept of ‘bio-power’, that is, the
process through which external regimes of power and discipline are
internalised and normalised, both collectively and individually.

This collection will focus on work that engages with critical data
studies and critical media studies literature to examine the dynamics
at play in digital health policy and practice. Consequently, we seek
contributions that examine apps (and associated platforms) as media
objects, whose modes of production, circulation and consumption are
open to analysis as forms of situated knowledge. We are particularly
interested in the ways that apps can be seen to mediate relationships,
including between users and institutions, and between institutions and
funding bodies.

Topics that might be considered include:

The datafication and appification of health promotion and health
communication services:
How does digitisation assist (or undermine) health service
organisations and consumer advocacy groups that seek to promote
cultures of community care, engagement and participation? Why might an
organisation (or funding body) prioritise stand-alone apps over
engagement with health consumers via social media platforms? What
counts as meaningful engagement, and how might it be measured?

Data ethics:
How are health organisations engaging with the ethical issues raised
by data collection and data retention? The use of mobile sensor data
can undermine confidentiality, raising potentials for
user-identification and locational awareness. How are practices such
as ‘informed consent’ translated in this space? How are health
organisations and app developers engaging with data management, and
the decision whether or not to act on information provided by app
users? Where apps are intended to help users contact healthcare
providers, how are responses resourced?

User-centred accounts of health apps, platforms and services:
How are app designers and developers engaging with government,
non-government and grassroots health organisations? How are health
consumers, public health workers and healthcare providers using apps?
How does might this usage differ from official discourses regarding
the apps’ stated purpose? What workarounds (or vernacular health data
cultures) are emerging in this space?

We also welcome submissions that engage with health data imaginaries,
that is, critical reflections and speculations as to what health data,
algorithmic calculations and data analytics can or should do in the
fields of health communication and health promotion.

Please submit full articles (5,000-8,000 inclusive of notes and references)
by 28 February 2018 via the MIA website submission system:

MIA Homepage:

Queries should be sent to Kath Albury at

Categories: Digital Sociology

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