Scrutinizes dominant models of health and ability, race, and gender and the structure of digital health

Look Inside


The Precision Medicine Initiative, Apple’s HealthKit, the FitBit—the booming digital health industry asserts that digital networks, tools, and the scientific endeavors they support will usher in a new era of medicine centered around “the voice of the patient.” But whose “voices” do such tools actually solicit? And through what perspective will those voices be heard? Digital health tools are marketed as neutral devices made to help users take responsibility for their health. Yet digital technologies are not neutral; they are developed from an existing set of assumptions about their potential users and contexts for use, and they reflect dominant ideologies of health, dis/ability, gender, and race. Using patient-networking websites, the Quantified Self, and online breast cancer narratives,  Communicative Biocapitalism examines the cultural, technological, economic, and rhetorical logics that shape the “voice of the patient” in digital health to identify how cultural understandings and social locations of race, gender, and disability shape whose voices are elicited and how they are interpreted.

Olivia Banner is Assistant Professor of Critical Media Studies at the University of Texas, Dallas.

“This critique of medical humanities principles and practices is much needed and deftly handled. The book reveals the stakes of the problems of narrative and empathy, of individualizing illness and ignoring the structural dimensions of illness and disability by revealing these issues in a context relatively new to medical humanities: digital health.”
—Rebecca Garden, Upstate Medical University, SUNY

“An elegant transdisciplinary critique of the structural inequalities and capitalist goals of emerging digital health technologies and practices. Banner’s methods and resulting insights about the kinds of value and lives generated by digital health technological practices will be particularly invaluable for anyone interested in the rich interdisciplinary zones where humanities, digital studies, and health care converge, as in health and medical humanities. For those who want to understand what happens to patient voice and experience under biocapitalism, this is the book to read.”
​—Jacqueline Wernimont, Arizona State University