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Health Technology & Society (HTS) research group

Inaugural Symposium 10 May 2012:

Bridging the Gaps Between the Sociologies of Diagnostics and Intervention

Overview of the Symposium

As the group’s first public event, the HTS members chose to hold a one day symposium on the theme ‘bridging the gaps between the sociologies of diagnosis and intervention’. The topic was chosen to reflect the group’s core interests in technology, innovation and diagnosis, with a particular emphasis in engaging with the contemporary sociology of diagnosis.

There has been a recent resurgence of interest in diagnosis as a topic of sociological study, driven, in particular, by the work of Dr Annemarie Jutel of the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. Aligning as it does with our own interests, members of the HTS group have welcomed Dr Jutel’s work and are currently collaborating with Dr Jutel and a range of colleagues across the UK on a forthcoming ESRC seminar series entitled ‘The role of diagnosis in health and wellbeing: A social science perspective on the social, economic and political costs and consequences of diagnosis’.

However, we also wanted to use the opportunity of our first public event to address a relevant gap in current sociological knowledge and to build a platform for future work. In developing our ideas for the symposium we recognised that both the theoretical and practical linkage between diagnosis and clinical intervention remains comparatively under-researched and under-theorised. Examples of pertinent research questions include:

  • If new diagnostic technologies measure and visualise the diseased body in new ways, how this affect the way(s) in which the disease is then understood, treated and managed by patients and healthcare professionals?
  • Do novel technologies and changing diagnostic categories have implications for the workload of different healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians etc and do they affect the ways in which patients understand themselves or how they are regarded by other groups in society?
  • Does diagnosis always lead directly to intervention, and if so how is uncertainty managed in practice?

Given this focus, the symposium set out to bring together scholars in the sociologies of medicine, health and illness to address this gap and develop an agenda for further research in this area.

Format of the event

The symposium was organised into morning and afternoon sessions, with the morning session involving an introduction and opening discussion from HTS Director Susan Kelly and presentations from three invited speakers:

The afternoon session took the form of a workshop where participants were divided into smaller groups to discuss themes from the morning’s presentations in the context of their own work and put forward ideas on novel directions for future research on diagnosis and intervention. We are pleased to report that the event was well attended and generated a lively and collegial debate.

The major findings of the symposium can be downloaded in the HTS Symposium short report.

Additional Resources

An important goal of the inaugural HTS symposium was to provide a platform for future research and to ensure that the many insightful contributions and discussions that occurred during the event are not lost. To this end, we are committed to making as much useful material from the event as possible available through this webpage.

  • A full report on the event, including speaker biographies, summaries of the key presentations, and a full account of the output of the workshop session including an agenda for future research, is available here.
  • PDF documents containing the slides for each of the morning presentations are available to download by clicking on the presentation titles. These slides are intended to be used together with the written reports on the event.

We also welcome further enquiries and feedback about the symposium or any of the issues raised in our reports: Please contact us via email at hts-research-group@exeter.ac.uk.

The Health, Technology and Society inaugural symposium was generously supported by a grant from the Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness.