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A prevailing excitement can be discerned in the medical and public health literature and popular media concerning the apparent ‘disruptive’ or ‘revolutionary’ potential of digital health technologies. Most of the wider social implications are often ignored or glossed over in such accounts. Critical approaches from within the social sciences that take a more measured perspective are important – including those that focus on risk. The contributors to this volume examine various dimensions of risk in the context of digital health. They identify that digital health devices and software offer the ability to configure new forms of risk, in concert with novel responsibilities. The contributions emphasise the sheer volume of detail about very personal and private elements of people’s lives, emotions and bodies that contemporary digital technologies can collect. They show that apps and other internet tools and forums provide opportunities for health and medical risks to be identified, publicised or managed, but also for unvalidated new therapies to be championed. Most of the authors identify the neoliberal ‘soft’ politics of digital health, in which lay people are encouraged (‘nudged’) to engage in practices of identifying and managing health risk in their own interests, and the victim-blaming that may be part of these discourses.
This book was originally published as a special issue of Health, Risk and Society.