My ERC Starting Grant funded project, “The birth of the digital doctor? A comparative anthropology of medical techno-perception” examines the impact of the digital in medicine by studying the role of pedagogical technologies in how doctors learn the skills of their profession.
Digital technologies are reconfiguring medical practices in ways we still don’t understand. This research project, entitled “The birth of the digital doctor? A comparative anthropology of medical techno-perception” seeks to examine the impact of the digital in medicine by studying the role of pedagogical technologies in how doctors learn the skills of their profession. It focuses on the centuries-old skill of physical examination; a sensing of the body, through the body. Increasingly medical students are learning these skills away from the bedside, through videos, simulated models and in laboratories. My research team will interrogate how learning with these technologies impacts on how doctors learn to sense bodies. Through the rich case of doctors-in-training the study addresses a key challenge in social scientific scholarship regarding how technologies, particularly those digital and virtual, are implicated in bodily, sensory knowing of the world. Our research takes a historically-attuned comparative anthropology approach, advancing the social study of medicine and medical education research in three new directions. First, a team of three ethnographers will attend to both spectacular and mundane technologies in medical education, recognising that everyday learning situations are filled with technologies old and new. Second, it offers the first comparative social study of medical education with fieldwork in three materially and culturally different settings in Western and Eastern Europe, and West Africa. Finally, the study brings historical and ethnographic research of technologies closer together, with a historian conducting oral histories and archival research at each site. Findings will have impact in the social sciences and education research by advancing understanding of how the digital and other technologies are implicated in skills learning. The study will develop novel digital-sensory methodologies and boldly, a new theory of techno-perception. These academic contributions will have practical relevance by improving the training of doctors in digital times.
I thrilled to share the recent news that this project will be funded by the European Research Council through their Starting Grant scheme. The project is due to commence in 2016 – more details to follow soon.
Publications to date:
Harris, Anna and Jan-Joost Rethans (Online First) Expressive instructions: ethnographic insights into the creativity and improvisation entailed in teaching physical skills to medical students. Perspectives on Medical Education.
- With commentary: “Teaching clinical skills in the theatre of medicine” by Gerard Gormley and Paul Murphy, Perspectives on Medical Education (Online First).
Harris, Anna (2018) Working on the bias. Perspectives on Medical Education 7: 67.
Harris, Anna. (2016). “Embodiment” in Oxford Bibliographies in Anthropology, edited by John Jackson. New York: Oxford University Press
Harris, Anna. (2016) Popcorn or dirty socks (Guest post for Marres Senses)
Harris, Anna (2016) The sensory archive (exhibition review). The Senses and Society 11 (3): 345 – 350.