Enacting chronic illness with and through digital media: a feminist new materialist approach

Sarah Maslen, Deborah Lupton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Few studies have sought to examine the ways in which people with chronic health conditions engage with digital health technologies across the full spectrum that is currently available. In this article, we present four illustrative vignettes based on interviews with women with chronic conditions who participated in the Australian Women and Digital Health Project. The vignettes show how these women used mobile apps and online resources to find and share information and support, monitor their bodies and health states and self-manage their conditions. We draw on the theoretical approach of feminist new materialism to identify the affordances (of human bodies and of technologies), relational connections, affective forces and agential capacities generated with and through our participants’ use of digital media. Our study highlights the important role played by both digital and non-digital encounters and actors. The vignettes demonstrate the complexities of entanglements between human sensory embodied experiences, face-to-face encounters with other people and digitally-mediated experiences and social networks in configuring and enacting lay expertise and self-management of chronic health conditions. The vignettes show ‘what a body can do’ when people living with chronic illnesses are actively engaged with the possibilities of digital health technologies available to them. They also highlight the limitations of some digital media–particularly apps–and the ways in which the design of these applications can fall short of providing promised benefits to members of minority and marginalised social groups such as people with chronic illnesses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1640-1654
Number of pages15
JournalInformation, Communication and Society
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sept 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Enacting chronic illness with and through digital media: a feminist new materialist approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this