Digital health: A sociomaterial approach

Benjamin Marent, Flis Henwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The notion of digital health often remains an empty signifier, employed strategically for a vast array of demands to attract investments and legitimise reforms. Rather scarce are attempts to develop digital health towards an analytic notion that provides avenues for understanding the ongoing transformations in health care. This article develops a sociomaterial approach to understanding digital health, showing how digitalisation affords practices of health and medicine to cope with and utilise the combined and interrelated challenges of increases in quantification (data-intensive medicine), varieties of connectivity (telemedicine), and unprecedented modes of instantaneous calculation (algorithmic medicine). This enables an engagement with questions about what forms of knowledge, relationships and control are produced through different manifestations of digital health. The paper then sets out, in detail, three innovative strategies that can guide explorations and negotiations into the type of care we want to achieve through digital transformation. These strategies embed Karen Barad's concept of agential cuts suggesting that responsible cuts towards the materialisation of digital health require participatory efforts that recognise the affordances and the generativity of technology developments. Through the sociomaterial approach presented in this article, we aim to lay the foundations to reorient and sensitise innovation and care processes in order to create new possibilities and value-centric approaches for promoting health in digital societies as opposed to promoting digital health per se. [Abstract copyright: © 2022 The Authors. Sociology of Health & Illness published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness.]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-53
Number of pages17
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2022


  • relationality
  • sociomateriality
  • digital health
  • digital transformation
  • governance
  • digital sociology
  • responsible innovation
  • agential realism


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