Saturday, May 16, 2009

Med 2.0:: Web 2.0 & Web Communities

I'm transitioning from full-time academic to "rogue" scholar by taking on a rather challenging project with a very tight deadline.  I cannot go into the details of it, but the work and conversations I've had with people have made me think about the interface between Web 2.0 and medicine.  How precisely will Web 2.0 decenter the authority of the socially constructed medical establishment, as user-patients become more savvy at using online resources?  Perhaps more top the point, how can physicians, health practitioners, and researchers use Web 2.0 to advance patient well-being?  I see a lot of opportunities, but I also see this as a battleground in terms of power, wealth, social class, and markets.

While not always a huge Foucault fan, his Birth of the Clinic has been weighing on my mind.  As user-patients with chronic conditions use the web, will this use blast apart the notion of the dehumanizing medical gaze Foucault talks about?  

On the research side, I think we're already seeing the beginnings of a DIY approach to medical research, Med 2.0?, and I think if more research like this could share knowledge, particularly in the areas of genetics, we just might see innovations come to light that the market might not see promise in, à priori.  The example that comes to mind is Amy Shuen's depiction of Flickr.  The market never would have "created" a vast online image repository, but Flickr created an infrastructure for users to do so and add further value through tagging images.  Imagine if web communities of patients/users, as well as researchers, could developand share  knowledge, particularly about the exact nature of diseases, symptomatically and genetically.

Image::  Cancer cells.  From article reporting that nanotechnology research is finding that cancer cells are "softer" than healthy cells.

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