Fit for the Future: An app as your doctor?
On March 6th, 2019, a media scholar, digital artist and a pediatrician discussed digital developments on the subject of health and society. This was the first public dialogue organised by The New Utrecht School in 2019.
Throughout the world of healthcare, various new digital aids are mushrooming. This does not occur without societal debate, as the well-known case of the Dutch electronisch patientendossier (digital patient file) shows. Will your doctor be replaced by an app on your phone? Who ensures that all our personal digital data is handled carefully, especially in those algorithms that are often 'black boxes' to the outside world? Providing answers for these questions requires critical thinking. How can humanities scholars and artists aid future healthcare professionals to become creative problemsolvers who are aware of the possibilities and limits of our digital environment?
A digital black box?
Online, both doctors and patients can find astonishing amounts of information on illness, treatments, medicines and vaccinations. These digital tools can greatly improve healthcare and healthy societies. Yet, we should prevent them from becoming 'black boxes': that their general input and output data is known, yet the inner algorithms and inherent biases are not understood by the professionals who apply them. The critical approach from the humanities is crucial for developing this knowledge.
- Mirko Schäfer, a media scholar of Utrecht University, researches the societal impact of modern media technology. He is the co-founder of the Utrecht Data School, an organisation dedicated to providing solutions for digital questions concerning citizenship, democracy, and big data.
- Marije Baalman is an artist and researcher of interactive sound art. She focuses in her research on the interaction in music between artists and audience, for example during live sessions. Subsequently, the digital art she creates questions this interaction as well.
Dr Annet van Royen is a pediatrician of the Wilhelmina Kinderziekenhuis (Wilhelmina Children's Hospital). In her research, she tries to gain new insights in the improvement of diagnosing and treating rare auto-immune diseases for children. Additionally, she coordinates the medical research master SUMMA.