I presented a paper entitled “I Ping the Body Cybernetic: Wearable Computing and Medical Diagnostics” on November 4th, 2004, at the Technology and the Body Conference held at the Canada Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa, Canada. The Introduction follows:
I Sing the Body Electric;
The bodies of men and women engirth me, and I engirth them;
They will not let me off nor I them till I go with them and
respond to them and love them.
Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass.
In the past decade the miniaturization of digital hardware and the proliferation of wireless communications have led to portable computing products that are networked. This trend, combined with the practice of storing patient medical records in computerized databases, has led to research projects that utilize wearable computing for continuous medical diagnostics, such as devices for diabetics that monitor blood glucose levels over the Internet. Developers of these technologies claim that they enable patients to gain autonomy within the health care system and empower them to take greater responsibility for the decisions that govern their health. However, when humans are inserted into a cybernetic feedback loop that reduces their health determinants to medical data they may find that their virtual bodies displace their social bodies and that they are further alienated from, rather than integrated into, decision-making within the health care system.
The paper can be downloaded here.
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