The Medicalization of Popular Culture: Epistemical, Ethical and Aesthetical Structures of Biomedical Knowledge as Cultural Artefact

  • Arno Görgen
  • German Alfonso Nunez
  • Heiner Fangerau


By revisiting some of the main concepts surrounding the rationale of our work, this introduction further explores the topic implicit in our book’s title. In other words, this introduction develops the argument that, given its authoritative voice, biomedical knowledge not only has been influential with cultural producers but that it also plays a major role in creating expectation and meaning for the general public. Video games, TV series, novels and even art: all those products can, in a way, be affected by biomedical and scientific knowledge. As such, the consumption of those artefacts, coupled with the anticipation created by it, may serve as a proxy for how people comprehend and understand this particular area of scientific production. Here we also emphasise that the influence of biomedicine on culture is not a one-way process. Given that specialists and researchers are also consumers, the opposite is also true: cultural products, then, may also inform biomedical knowledge. Finally, at the end of this introduction, we discuss our chapter’s threefold division. Since this book intends to introduce our topic to a wider audience, we present it from a multidisciplinary point of view whilst providing our reader with particular examples in the form of focused case studies and larger historical and social perspectives.


  1. Baudrillard, J. 1983. Simulations. New York: Semiotext(e).Google Scholar
  2. Berger, P.L., and T. Luckmann. (1990, c1966). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. New York: Anchor Books.Google Scholar
  3. Blume, S. 2006. Anti-vaccination movements and their interpretations. Social Science & Medicine 62 (3): 628–642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boase, J., and B. Wellman. 2001. A plague of viruses: Biological, computer and marketing. Current Sociology 49 (6): 39–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bourdieu, P. 1993. The field of cultural production: Essays on art and literature. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Brekhus, W.H. 2015. Culture and cognition: Patterns in the social construction of reality. Cambridge/Malden: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  7. Buchi, M. 1998. Science and the media: Alternative routes in scientific communication. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Burns, T.W., D.J. O’Connor, and S.M. Stocklmayer. 2003. Science communication: A contemporary definition. Public Understanding of Science 12 (2): 183–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Conrad, P. 2007. The medicalization of society: On the transformation of human conditions into treatable disorders. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Cooter, R., and S. Pumfrey. 1994. Separate spheres and public places: Reflections on the history of science popularization and science in popular culture. History of Science 32 (3): 237–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dahlstrom, M.F., and S.S. Ho. 2012. Ethical considerations of using narrative to communicate science. Science Communication 34 (5): 592–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Donati, P.R. 2001. Die Rahmenanalyse politischer Diskurse. In Handbuch Sozialwissenschaftliche Diskursanalyse, ed. R. Keller, A. Hirseland, W. Schneider, and W. Viehöver, 145–176. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Du Gay, P., S. Hall, L. Janes, H. Mackay, and K. Negus. 1997. Doing cultural studies: The story of the Sony Walkman. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  14. Fedorak, S.A. 2009. Pop culture: The culture of everyday life. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  15. Foucault, M. 1984. The birth of social medicine. In Power: The essential works of Michel Foucault 1954–1984, ed. M. Foucault and J.D. Faubion, 134–156. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
  16. Görgen, A., and R.T. Inderst. 2015. Im Land der lebenden Toten – Zur Reflektion von medizinischen Todeskriterien in The Walking Dead. Ethik in der Medizin 27 (1): 35–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hilpinen and Risto (2011) Artifact. The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Available at:
  18. Holton, A., B. Weberling, C.E. Clarke, and M.J. Smith. 2012. The blame frame: media attribution of culpability about the MMR-autism vaccination scare. Health Communication 27 (7): 690–701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. House of Commons. 2009. Putting science and engineering at the heart of Government policy: Eighth report of session 2008–09. London: The Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  20. Hüppauf, B.-R., and P. Weingart, eds. 2007. Science images and popular images of the sciences. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Kirby, D.A. 2003. Science consultants, fictional films, and scientific practice. Social Studies of Science 33 (2): 231–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. ———. 2014. Science and technology in film: Themes and representations. In Routledge handbook of public communication of science and technology, ed. M. Bucchi and B. Trench, 97–112. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Kramer, S., and H. Bredekamp. 2013. Culture, technology, cultural techniques – Moving beyond text1. Theory, Culture & Society 30 (6): 20–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kuhn, T.S., and I. Hacking. 2012. The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Little, M. 2014. Ethics and aesthetics—Joined at the hip? In Ethics and the arts, ed. P. Macneill, 179–187. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mcneill, P. 2014. Ethics and the arts: A critical review of the new moralisms. In Ethics and the arts, ed. P. Macneill, 167–178. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Meisenberg, B.R., and S.W. Meisenberg. 2015. The political use of the cancer metaphor: Negative consequences for the public and the cancer community. Journal of Cancer Education the Official Journal of the American Association for Cancer Education 30 (2): 398–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Miller, R.W. 2006. Three versions of objectivity: aesthetic, moral, and scientific. In Aesthetics and ethics: Essays at the intersection, ed. J. Levinson, 26–58. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Mitcham, C. 1999. Why Science, Technology, and Society Studies? Bulletin of Science Technology & Society 19 (2): 128–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nye, R.A. 2003. The evolution of the concept of medicalization in the late twentieth century. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 39 (2): 115–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Perpeet, W. 1984. Zur Wortbedeutung von “Kultur”. In Naturplan und Verfallskritik: Zu Begriff und Geschichte der Kultur, ed. H. Brackert and F. Wefelmeyer, 21–28. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  32. Poser, H. 2012. Wissenschaftstheorie: Eine philosophische Einführung. Stuttgart: Reclam.Google Scholar
  33. Reiss, J., and J. Sprenger. (2014). Scientific objectivity. In The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta.Google Scholar
  34. Sterne, J. 2006. The mp3 as cultural artifact. New Media & Society 8 (5): 825–842.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Thacker, E. 2001. The science fiction of technoscience: The politics of simulation and a challenge for new media art. Leonardo 34 (2): 155–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Wolfe, R.M., and L.K. Sharp. 2002. Anti-vaccinationists past and present. BMJ 325 (7361): 430–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arno Görgen
    • 1
  • German Alfonso Nunez
    • 2
  • Heiner Fangerau
    • 3
  1. 1.Research Unit Communication DesignBern University of the Arts HKBBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Faculty of Philosophy, Languages and Literature, and Human Sciences (FFLCH)University of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  3. 3.Department of the History, Philosophy and Ethics of MedicineHeinrich-Heine University DüsseldorfDüsseldorfGermany

Personalised recommendations