Personal Medical Devices: People and Technology in the Context of Health

  • Conor Farrington
  • Rebecca Lynch
Part of the Health, Technology and Society book series (HTE)


Why should we explore personal medical devices (PMDs)? Fuelled by the growth of so-called lifestyle conditions, shifts to personalised and patient-led medicine and the increasing sophistication and miniaturisation of devices themselves, PMDs have become increasingly significant in both clinical and non-clinical arenas. This chapter presents some of the intersections and new relationships, possibilities and constructions of health that the use and development of these technologies present. PMDs question existing concepts of bodily boundaries and processes (the ‘personal’), the purview of medicine and its handling of its objects of study (the ‘medical’) and wider consequences of these technologies (the ‘device’). Introducing the contributions to the book, the chapter argues that nuanced, critical and empirically grounded approaches are needed to interrogate and understand emerging issues in this field.


  1. Baudrillard, J. (2005). The System of Objects (J. Benedict, Trans.). London: Verso.Google Scholar
  2. Campbell, D. (2015). Prof Bruce Keogh: Wearable technology plays a crucial part in NHS future. Available online at: Accessed September 1, 2016.
  3. Corley, K., & Gioia, D. (2011). Building theory about theory: What constitutes at theoretical contribution? Academy of Management Review, 36(1), 12–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Diefenbach, T. (2009). New public management in public sector organizations: The dark side of managerialistic ‘enlightenment’. Public Administration, 87(4), 892–909.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. NHS England. (2016). Test Beds. Available online at: Accessed December 15, 2016.
  6. Hansard. (1908). Motor car legislation. Available online at: Accessed December 15, 2016.
  7. Haraway, D. (1991). Simians, cyborgs, and women: The reinvention of nature. New York: Free Association Books.Google Scholar
  8. Hardon, A., & Moyer, E. (2014). Medical technologies: Flows, frictions and new socialities. Anthropology and Medicine, 12(2), 107–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hood, C. (1991). A public management for all seasons? Public Administration, 69, 3–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Latour, B. (2002). Technology and morality: The ends of means. Theory, Culture & Society, 19(5/6), 247–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network theory. Oxford: Oxford University.Google Scholar
  12. Law, J. (1992). Notes on the theory of the actor-network: Ordering, strategy, and heterogeneity. Systems Practice, 5(4), 379–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Matthewman, S. (2011). Technology and social theory. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Rich, E., & Miah, A. (2016). Mobile, wearable and ingestible health technologies: Towards a critical research agenda. Health Sociology Review, 26(1), 84–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ulucanlar, S., Peirce, S., Elwyn, G., & Faulkner, A. (2013). Technology identity: The role of sociotechnical representations in the adoption of medical devices. Social Science and Medicine, 98, 95–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. WearableTech. (2016). Wearable sales in UK to total five million units in 2016. Available online at: Accessed December 15, 2016.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cambridge Centre for Health Services ResearchUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.London School of Hygiene and Tropical MedicineUniversity in LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations