Health Is Social

Infusing Social Media into Healthcare

In The Medium is the Medicine, two implied questions were: What are the essences of media and medicine, and at what point does a medium of digital medicine become the message?

This may be a strange line of questions. After all, the most common conception of digital pressences is that they are, superficially at least, mere analogues of traditional face-to-face relationships.

A medium, however, is quite literally a middle-place.  (So is medicine – medi is the Latin origin of middle. Incidentally a doctor is a teacher/reader – docere: and a teacher is a medium too.)

It’s that middling (muddling?) that does something to the content (message), the sender, and the receiver – to a point where the media become the messages.

The idea that the medium IS the message goes back to McLuhan. That is, regardless of the content, it’s the medium itself which is the message. Think of TV, Radio, Print: the media themsevles were forces bending society – the content was ancillary in the bending of society.

It’s not that McLuhan was wrong (he wasn’t), it’s that he didn’t take his idea far enough.

It’s that the media go beyond themselves and create Hyperreality.

We have been living in Hyperreality for quite some time, especially after the arrival of TV and Radio. Disneyland is a perfect example of Hyperreality. So are all the ads we see.

This isn’t some drafty Matrix analogy – that way of looking at this problem, as just a dismissive jocular metaphor, distracts from understanding what’s going on here.

Most importantly, and perhaps most invisible: Ideology is Hyperreality.

Ideology surrounds us – we even have our own personal ideologies (your life is an ideology, and how you live it depends on how much you comply with it or revolt against it – just something for you to ponder by the way).

So in Heatlhcare, we must understand much more fully that with which we’re dealing. We aren’t just dealing with media that simply allow us to connect and communicate and relate.

What we must understand is that any revolution countering the status quo quickly becomes a status quo, subject to revolution itself. The 21st Century is Hegel’s Dialectic on steroids.

We are dealing with emerging Healthcare Ideologies. We are dealing with media that are fast evolving new Hyperrealities – some beyond our grasp, others within our reach. There is a very real possibility that as social media become more and more used in Healthcare that Healthcare itself morphs into a Disneyland.

That may not necessarily be a bad thing all together. Being able to go from “Germany” to “France” in 30 seconds does have its conveniences.

But when it is bad, then it’s very very bad. Especially when the bread in “France” isn’t the same as the bread in France.

It’s one thing for the map to become the territory.

It’s quite another to confuse the two – particularly when you become a part of both.


Phil Baumann

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