The cultivation of digital health citizenship

Dimitra Petrakaki, Eva Hilberg, Justin Waring

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Contemporary health policy discourse renders individuals responsible for managing their health by means of digital technology. Seeing the digital as productive of citizenship, rather than facilitative of it, this paper unpacks the contested role of technology in acts of digital health citizenship. Drawing on longitudinal data collected in the English healthcare context, this article shows that digital health citizenship is produced through patients' involvement in the generation of health knowledge, including ‘big’ health data, digital artefacts, experiential knowledge and service feedback. The paper adds to existing literature by disaggregating the contested role of technology in displays of digital health citizenship, showing that digital health technology can give rise to expressions of altruism, belonging, and demands for recognition and change in healthcare, whilst responsibilising citizens for the care of themselves and others. The discussion shows how, rather than merely facilitating the actions of a free and autonomous subject, this citizenship often becomes algorithmically produced (e.g. through nudges) and remains isolated to separate instances of engagement without a long-term orientation. Our study enriches the growing sociological literature on health citizenship by exploring how digital technology produces health citizenship at the intersection of biosociality and technosociality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113675
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Early online date5 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Digital health
  • Health citizenship
  • Health knowledge production
  • Patienthood


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