Kirsten Ostherr

PhD and MPH, media scholar, health researcher, technology analyst, and human centered design teacher

Houston, Texas (originally from near Boston, Massachusetts)

From September 28 to October 3, 2019

Biography —

Medical Futures Lab

Kirsten Ostherr, PhD, MPH is the Gladys Louise Fox Professor of English at Rice University in Houston, Texas, where she is a media scholar, health researcher, and technology analyst. She is founder and director of the Medical Humanities program (2016-present) and the Medical Futures Lab (2012-present). Her research on trust and privacy in digital health ecosystems has been featured in Slate, The Washington Post, Big Data & Society, and Catalyst. Kirsten is the author of Medical Visions: Producing the Patient through Film, Television and Imaging Technologies (Oxford, 2013) and Cinematic Prophylaxis: Globalization and Contagion in the Discourse of World Health (Duke, 2005). She is editor of Applied Media Studies (Routledge, 2018), and co-editor of Science/Animation, a special issue of the journal Discourse (2016). Kirsten is currently writing a book called How Patients Became Data: The Ethics of Mining Personal Health Information.

Project at Faber —

While I am at Faber, I will work on a book-length manuscript called How Patients Became Data: The Ethics of Mining Personal Health Information. The risks of unregulated personal health data mining are particularly acute for populations with histories of harms as a result of surveillance practices by health organizations. This project will use theoretical, historical, and empirical methods to fill a critical scholarly gap in research on the ethics of personal health data surveillance. I will develop three theoretical concepts – health datafication, the metaclinical ecosystem, and digital biomarkers – to contribute a novel historical perspective on the legacies of mistrust that shape contemporary attitudes toward data sharing among previously marginalized communities.

Activity —

“Digital Health, Artificial Intelligence and Medical Humanities”

Kirsten Oshterr | CEHIC UAB | October 4, 2019

Kirsten Ostherr presented a lecture called “Big Data y Salud Digital: Nuevos Problemas por Humanidades Médicas” at the Hospital d’Olot i Comarcal de la Garrotxa. The talk was attended by students from the health professions schools in Vic, including nursing, pharmacy, and social work, and clinicians from the Olot hospital in attendance included pharmacists, informaticists, and nurses. Kirsten’s lecture focused on the ways that patient data is being mined by companies that attempt to use their data to influence their health. Students asked many important questions about the dilemma of wanting to use social media, and wanting medical research to progress, but also wanting to avoid digital profiling and exploitation of personal data. The group held a stimulating debate on the ways that technology companies are becoming involved with – and changing – doctor patient relationships in healthcare. Kirsten also presented a lecture called “Doctors, Patients, Networks, and Data: Shifting Power Relations in the Age of AI” at the Centre d’Història de la Ciència (CEHIC) de la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. This lecture was attended by faculty and students in the Master’s degree program in history and philosophy of science. The audience asked important questions about the ways that artificial intelligence is changing our self-perceptions around health and illness.