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Apps as Artefacts: Towards a Critical Perspective on Mobile Health and Medical Apps


  • Deborah Lupton

    () (News & Media Research Centre, Faculty of Arts & Design, University of Canberra, Building 9, Bruce ACT 2601, Australia)


Although over 100,000 health and medical mobile apps have been placed on the market, few critical social analyses have been yet undertaken of the role of these apps in healthcare, preventive health and health promotion. In this article I present an argument for approaching the study of mobile apps as sociocultural artefacts, focusing specifically on those that have been developed on health and medical topics. This perspective acknowledges that apps are digital objects that are the products of human decision-making, underpinned by tacit assumptions, norms and discourses already circulating in the social and cultural contexts in which they are generated, marketed and used. First, I provide the context, by discussing the gradual digitisation of health and medical information since the advent of the Internet and the emergence of health and medical apps as one of the latest developments. Second, I discuss how a critical perspective may be employed to analyse the social, cultural and political dimensions of health and medical apps. Finally I illustrate how such an approach may be applied by giving a case study of an analysis of the top 10 ranked health and medical apps on the Apple App Store on one day, outlining some major themes and discourses that emerge.

Suggested Citation

  • Deborah Lupton, 2014. "Apps as Artefacts: Towards a Critical Perspective on Mobile Health and Medical Apps," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(4), pages 1-17, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsoctx:v:4:y:2014:i:4:p:606-622:d:41772

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Emma Rich & Andy Miah, 2014. "Understanding Digital Health as Public Pedagogy: A Critical Framework," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(2), pages 1-20, June.
    2. Collette Sosnowy, 2014. "Practicing Patienthood Online: Social Media, Chronic Illness, and Lay Expertise," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(2), pages 1-14, June.
    3. Chris Till, 2014. "Exercise as Labour: Quantified Self and the Transformation of Exercise into Labour," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(3), pages 1-17, August.
    4. Sophia Alice Johnson, 2014. "“Maternal Devices”, Social Media and the Self-Management of Pregnancy, Mothering and Child Health," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(2), pages 1-21, June.
    5. Minna Ruckenstein, 2014. "Visualized and Interacted Life: Personal Analytics and Engagements with Data Doubles," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(1), pages 1-17, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:gam:jscscx:v:6:y:2017:i:4:p:135-:d:117816 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:gam:jscscx:v:6:y:2017:i:3:p:99-:d:110379 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:eee:socmed:v:213:y:2018:i:c:p:146-153 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:gam:jsoctx:v:7:y:2017:i:4:p:28-:d:116549 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Lupton, Deborah & Jutel, Annemarie, 2015. "‘It's like having a physician in your pocket!’ A critical analysis of self-diagnosis smartphone apps," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 128-135.

    More about this item


    digital health; mobile apps; health and medicine; critical perspectives; sociology;

    JEL classification:

    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • A14 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Sociology of Economics
    • P - Economic Systems
    • P0 - Economic Systems - - General
    • P1 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems
    • P2 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies
    • P3 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions
    • P4 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems
    • P5 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics


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