Showing posts with label ethnography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ethnography. Show all posts

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Is remote healthcare remotely healthcare?

New fangled approaches in healthcare will always get some peoples’ backs up and the idea of a virtual medic is about as new fangled as it gets:  Both patients and practitioners ( and somewhat inevitably insurance companies with competing premium member services have raised objections to mediated interactions where the purpose is diagnosis or advice. Nevertheless, NHS Direct (a bit of a misnomer given its callcentre and website operations essentially mediate the healthcare experience) has proven enormously popular in England – with 18 million visits to its website in 2009 and 5 million calls to its call centre.

Anecdotally, some of the strongest objections to the ‘re-mediation’ of healthcare come from Northern Ireland where NHS Direct isn’t available. The primary concern there isn’t necessarily about mediation, after all doctors there allocate time in the day to take phonecalls and even emails from patients, a situation also common in the US. It’s the idea that advice should be given by anonymous practitioners who have no idea of your medical history (moreover they are nurses, complain the doctors).

I have been speaking to some of those within the NHS who would like to get to the bottom of ‘resistance’ on the part of both patients and practitioners to more technology-enabled services. Many share a vision where interactions with health services ultimately become like interactions with banks: the 2020 Public Services Trust is doing some thinktank work on this front.

With the Northern Ireland example alone, it’s clear that a patchwork of values concerning healthcare exist and that’s before considering constituencies such as the poor where issues of access also come into play. Clearly, more work needs to be done to understand what lies behind those values and what the information needs and access issues of patients are. Ethnography can help on these fronts. 

Thursday, 8 October 2009

In the digital lab today, bouncing ideas around about the differences and similarities in the approach taken by journalists and ethnographers to their subject matter.

Found this quote from Reuters blogger Felix Salmon:

"the biggest gap between professional journalists and bloggers hasn't even begun to start narrowing. It's this: professional journalists tend to think of their article as the end of a process of reporting, while bloggers tend to think of their entries as the beginning of a process of commenting."

It doesn't shed much light on anthropology per se but points to behaviours an anthropologist investigating digital culture needs to keep abreast of (if only to appreciate the nature of different data sources).

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Getting under the skin of cultures

Week 1

Wow, I'll be lucky if I can manage a post a week, let alone turn this into a living an breathing blog given the quantity of commitments I and others are making on the course.

There are three 'core' elements every week. The first is a 3hr session on key topics/theory, the second a 2hr Lab session for hands on experience of certain digital technologies and the third a seminar given on the parent theme of material and visual culture, to which digital anthropology is positioned as belonging.

Those in the department doing PhD research which falls into the category of 'digital' are first and foremost social anthropologists so many of us are also keen to build a solid foundation in this, one of the disciplines which gave rise to material (and visual) culture itself. To that end we're going to all sorts of additional lectures, including those for anthropologists training in the hitherto real (commonly opposed to virtual, but I'll get to whether this is a meaningful distinction in a subsequent post) world anthropological research method of ethnography.

Today we did an interesting practical exercise which divided the group into two cultures, gave them each a routine to perform and then had the other half of the group try to observe and participate in order to understand what was going on (relayed as a one page 'ethnography'). Lots of valid points emerged about interpreting the (often initially incomprehensible) behaviours of others. The main lesson was that in depth ethnography allows you to already know the answers to the questions you end up posing because of your exposure to and engagement with the culture under study. Next session, ethics...