Medicalized Screens from the Cold War to the Social Web

  • Kirsten OstherrEmail author


The discovery of x-rays in the late nineteenth century made visual analysis of medicalized screens central to the practice of medicine. Until recently, however, medicine’s visual culture was defined by two distinct and separate types of screens: clinical-facing screens, displaying images to doctors, and consumer-facing screens, displaying images to the general public. The explosion of digital health technologies in the early twenty-first century has challenged this division, as well as the underlying premise that the content on these screens should be segmented according to audience, with access to clinical screens restricted to credentialed medical professionals. By opening up access to formerly closed sources of information, the social web has become a dynamic force in the convergence of clinical- and consumer-facing screens. In twenty-first century telehealth applications and entertainment television, screen-based media emphasize the aesthetic of realism to accomplish their effects through multi-platform, transmedia storytelling. By examining how the concept of objectivity functions across clinical and non-clinical spaces, this essay will explain how the evolution of medicalized screens since the middle of the twentieth century has transformed the production of medical knowledge and redefined the role of technology in popular representations of healthcare. Through an archaeology of medical media from the mid-twentieth century to the present, the essay will show that the source of medical realism and objectivity has shifted from the hospital setting to the screen itself, thereby reducing the human dimensions of the patient to digital signals and decontextualized data points.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rice UniversityHoustonUSA

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