General Considerations on Biomedia: Discursive process, media materialities and new patterns of health


This study aims to discuss, from the perspective of Discourse Analysis (PAVEAU, 2017, ORLANDI, 2001), the process of biomediatization in contemporary societies which arises from two cases of biomedia: health-related applications for mobile devices and the expansion of diagnostic imaging. By biomedia we mean the spectrum of media devices used for the purposes of (a) diagnosing, detecting and identifying somatic and mental dysfunctions and disorders; (b) tracking patterns of normality, either by means of monitoring performed by specialists or by the State, either by the lay users themselves; (c) effective medical intervention on the body of contemporary subjects; (d) implementing security policies, generally with the use of surveillance sensors – as biometry or face tracking. The term “biomedia” is not new. It was used by Bithaj Ajana (2017) and Eugene Thacker (2004), but the way we develop it here is wider than that conceived by these authors. Since the advent of 'big-data', these devices began to constitute a broad media ecosystem applied to health (our enphasys) and security. Given its amplitude in our society, we can consider it as an emerging field of practices and knowledge, power relations , configurations and reconfigurations of ways of sociability. We call this process “biomediatization”, which is also an already used concept (BRIGS and HALLIN 2016), but in another sense. This process, which is biopolitical (LEMM and WALTER, 2014; LEMKE, 2011; ROSE, 2001), produces effects on how we read and deal with our bodies, on the development of healthcare public policies , and on how the experts conceive knowledge and medical practices. Furthermore, it has effects on the modes of subjectivation involved in the setting of values about what is normal and pathological, suffering and resilience, expectation and self-realization, just as other biomedicalization processes (BURRI and DUMIT, 2007; ROSE, 2007; RABINOW and DAN-COHEN, 2005; ROSE, 1997) and mediatization processes (HEPP, HJARVARD and LUNDBY, 2015; HJARVARD and PETERSON, 2003). The development of biomedia and the process of biomediatization will result in significant economic, political and ethical impacts in contemporary societies, bringing risks and opportunities, which require to be critically understood. The emergence of biomedia is due to the crossing of diverse historical series, such as: (i) the imperative of the visual in our societies (WALDBY, 2000; CASPER and MOORE, 2009); (ii) algorithmization of the culture by the ICTs (GILLESPIE, 2014) and (iii) the rise of biotechnology as a hegemonic pattern of diagnosys and treatment of diseases (DUMIT, 2012; BRAUN, 2007; RAJAN, 2006; RABINOW, 1996). A key to the understanding of biomediatization is to perceive it as a discursive process, precisely because it constitutes ways of production of meanings and ways of subjectivation and reconfiguration of power relations, which requires a careful examination of materialities at stake.