Society for Medical Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Abstract: The digital world is increasingly being acknowledged as a site of moral engagement and action - this includes both performances of illness/suffering, and responses to them (Frosh 2018, Newhouse et al 2018, Recuber 2015).
This interdisciplinary panel opens a window on the way that experiences and performances of health, illness, suffering, or crisis, are shaped by the different aesthetic, material, and dialogical qualities of digital environments. It also enables much-needed attention to the moral economy of social media - asking how people navigate social, emotional, and ethical responses to the pain of others; how evaluations of their authenticity and deservingness are made (Berliner & Kenworthy 2017), and how responsibility and obligation are established (or not) through diverse and globally-networked publics.
There have been urgent calls for anthropologists to respond to structural shifts in the landscape of healthcare funding, including the rise of online medical crowdfunding, with studies of the context of need as well as the role of compassion and hope (Snyder 2016). Work responding to this can build on momentum in the ‘anthropology of the good’ (Robbins 2013) and its interest in the context and practice of empathy and care. Ethnographic case studies have the ability to highlight local articulations of the ‘good’ within globally networked spaces (Kenworthy 2018, Paulus & Roberts 2018). Interdisciplinary work can also make vital connections between ethics, technology, economics, policy, and human experience.