Epilepsy, digital technology and the black-boxed self

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This article traces the history of epilepsy’s affinities with new media. It draws on interviews with people with epilepsy and wider instances of the condition’s representation in the socio-cultural imaginary to demonstrate the degree to which epilepsy has been heavily technologized in the second half of the twentieth century. Thanks to common analogies made between the seizing brain and the faulty electrical circuit, the person with epilepsy (PWE) has been increasingly conceived within cybernetic terms: in particular these subjects have long been “black boxed” by the medical establishment. Tracking this connection across the rise of so-called ‘Surveillance Medicine’ and new digital health technologies reveals, I argue, suggestive parallels between the stigmatised PWE and the data-driven subject of today’s digital environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2880-2897
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number8
Early online date28 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Epilepsy
  • Cybernetics
  • disability studies
  • Stigma
  • Digital health technologies
  • Black box
  • Digital subjectivity


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