January 13th Work In Progress Seminar with Dr Federica Lucivero: “Opening the mHealth box and finding it too full: methodological principles for ELSI analyses of mobile health”

We are delighted to announce that the Work in Progress (WiP) Seminar Series will kick off again in January 2016. The first session will take place on Wednesday the 13th of January at 4 PM in Room 3.1.1 East Wing, Strand Campus.


Dr Federica Lucivero

Dr Federica Lucivero (Marie Curie Research Fellow at SSHM), will be presenting her paper titled:“Opening the mHealth box and finding it too full: methodological principles for ELSI analyses of mobile health”.


Mobile health (mHealth) is under the spotlight in many institutional, commercial and medical discourses around the future of health. Mobile platforms include wearable devices as well as apps that track fitness, offer wellness programmes or provide tools to manage chronic conditions. According to industry and policy makers, these systems are a solution for some of the major challenges currently faced by Western healthcare systems: they promise to offer efficient and cost-effective solutions for disease prevention and self-management of chronically ill individuals. In parallel with policy makers and technology developers’ expectations about mHealth, discussions on benefits and drawbacks spread in the media and have recently been addressed in academic literature. Such literature has dealt with issues of protection of sensitive data, potential harms for patients, and medicalisation. mHealth offers a field for bioethical analysis, that is both fertile and dangerous. On the one hand, discourses around these technologies mobilise values and concepts such as trust, sharing and self-management that require a through normative assessment. On the other hand, bioethicists may remain caught into the widespread technological and social hype and legitimising with their analysis market promises. In this contribution, I offer some methodological reflection for bioethicists (or more generally, ELSI scholars) to avoid such conundrum. First, I discuss the importance of engaging in early reflections on ethical implications of mHealth and I map the more frequent ethical issues that have been thus far discussed in the ELSI literature. I then highlight the great diversity in the objects and services that fall under the broad definition of “mHealth”. In recalling the STS lesson about the need not to take technologies as “black boxes” and the normativity in material techno-social assemblages, I propose six dimensions for a preliminary analysis that can guide a situated ethical and normative analysis of specific mobile health system.

If you wish to attend email the convenor of the WiP series Giulia Cavaliere (giulia.cavaliere@kcl.ac.uk) who will send you the paper in advance of the seminar.


The Work In Progress seminars are part of the BIOS+ Research Group at SSHM events and offer the opportunity to the members of the Department to discuss drafts of their work-in-progress and receive helpful feedback from colleagues before submission or before a presentation. The aim is to bring together the researchers in the Department (but not only!), and provide a locus for sharing expertise and knowledge in an informal setting. Junior researchers, including PhD students and post-docs, are especially encouraged to present and attend.

Contact the convenor of the WiP series Giulia Cavaliere (giulia.cavaliere@kcl.ac.uk) if you are keen to present in 2016.

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