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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellows' Seminar - Plans & Situated (Algorithmic) Actions: networked medical devices as sites of feminist technoscience or encountering the more than human in the middle of the night

13th January 2020, 13:00 to 14:00, Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study, Dr Laura Forlano (Illinois Institute of Technology)


“If we cannot sleep, we cannot dream.”

This paper reconsiders Suchman’s theory of situated action in the context of networked medical devices, asking: Who is the actor in these situated (algorithmic) actions? What is the moral imperative to automate bodily systems? What new notions of the human are suggested in these configurations and re-configurations? Drawing on autoethnography as an inventive method for theory-making, Dr Forlano analyzes the tensions between the imaginaries of automation and the realities of lived experience by analyzing “the world’s first hybrid closed loop system,” a recently released insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM) system. Specifically, the system—including algorithms, software and hardware limitations that regulate these devices including the sensors-- has three modes of use: 1) manual mode; 2) hybrid mode with a feature called “suspend on low”; and, 3) auto-mode. Auto-mode requires that a user train the system with data for approximately one month. With auto-mode, which is intended to function more dynamically similar to a “natural” human pancreas, the boundaries between human and non-human are constantly reconfigured. This paper builds on earlier publications on this topic that have engaged Haraway’s cyborg and Jackson’s broken world thinking to create a figure of the disabled cyborg, operationalized through a multi-scalar theory of broken body thinking that collapses the world onto the body and expands the body into the world, suggesting a different set of concerns, relations, contingencies and processes within discussions of decay, maintenance, repair and care.

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