In the wake of the global COVID-19 lockdown, digitally mediated and online forms of mental health therapy and wellness practices have proliferated. Such therapies and practices have been necessitated by the COVID-19 lockdown and its unique demands. Nevertheless, the necessity of social distancing has the potential to fuel calls for digitising treatment of mental illnesses, calls that emerge from institutions and entrepreneurs who see tele-therapies as cost effective, and as pushing a technocratic model of social-organisation, in line with the neoliberal discourse of ‘self-care’ in the service of ‘resilience’. Although there is much discussion of whether these technologies are effective or not, we argue it is important to ask beyond questions of efficacy and towards the implications of how these technologies will shape understandings of mental health and wellness.
The recently published report, “The Digital Future of Mental Healthcare and its Workforce” as part of the Topol Review on technology and healthcare in the UK, shows that there is a strong desire to increase the use of biometrics, social media meta-data analysis, virtual reality, chatbot therapists, and AI in the treatment of mental health. Whereas in the past it was possible for sufferers of mental illnesses, madness advocacy groups, and critical practitioners to challenge the digitisation of mental health therapies, the dangers of COVID-19 have required almost all involved in the system to embrace digital technologies.
Given the uncertain temporality of the pandemic, how will digital technologies be exploited, harnessed, opposed, and embraced? How will they contribute to determinations of what counts as mental health in the context of new and evolving cultures of work and social life beyond COVID-19?
This free conference, which is a collaboration between Curtin University’s Centre for Culture and Technology and The University of East London’s Centre for Cultural Studies Research, will investigate these and related questions over a three-day online conference. As such, we are calling for papers, panels, and workshops related to:
· The politics of telehealth in a mental health context
· The mental health impact of COVID-19
· Critical approaches to digital mental health
· Emerging and shifting practices of digital intimacy, stress relief and care
· Exploration of the role of wellness/self-help influencers and microcelebrities
· The relationship between wellness technologies and the construction of gendered, racialised, sexualised and disabled bodies
· How a shift towards tele-health may also foster a push towards non-conventional forms of self-care and wellness practices
Lockdown will feature the following speakers:
· Professor Deborah Lupton (UNSW), author of The Quantified Self (Polity 2016), Digital Sociology (Routledge 2014), and Medicine as Culture (Sage 2003) amongst many others
· Professor Will Davies (Goldsmiths), author of Nervous States (Vintage 2018), The Happiness Industry (Verso 2015), and The Limits of Neoliberalism (Sage 2014)
· Dr Stephanie Alice Baker (City University of London), with Chris Rojek the author of Lifestyle Gurus: Constructing Authority and Influence Online (Polity 2019) and Social Tragedy: The power of Myth, Ritual and Emotion in the New Media Ecology (Palgrave 2014)
· Associate Professor Anne McGuire (New College Toronto) author of War on Autism: On the Cultural Logic of Normative Violence (University of Michigan Press 2016)
Please note that we are receptive to alternative panel/paper formats. If you would like to present your work in a non-traditional format, please state so in your expression of interest.
All panels will be facilitated using Zoom. Please note, some days will favour UK times and others AUS times. See the below Google Form link for more information.
Abstracts for papers (500 words) should be sent via the following Google Form page: https://forms.gle/7UWvZKshQncbojsF7
There are no registration fees for this conference.
The deadline for proposals is September 13 2020
Dr Debra Benita Shaw
Reader in Cultural Theory
College of Arts, Technology & Innovation
University of East London
LONDON E16 2RD