Technology and humanization: from intensive care to social media

Today technology is making available tools to heal this contradiction of the industrial world, as long as we want it: because technology alone can neither free nor enslave; it must be understood, guided, used towards the objectives that interest us – Giorgio Ceragioli


Because of the progress made with the Industrial Revolution through technological breakthroughs in machinery, the relationship between patient and practitioner has become increasingly automated, leaving humanization in the background.


This last quotation is taken from the introduction to the first of the two studies that we have the pleasure of presenting to you this month. Technology and humanization are two themes, two parallels that sometimes travel in unison and sometimes in the opposite direction. Our goal is to show how the right approach can create the right balance within health and care, with new technologies, humanization and narration working in unison.

Technology and humanization in intensive environments” is the title of a Brazilian research. The objective of this work was to carry out a reflection on the process of humanization in intensive environments and its relationship with the inclusion of technology. In Brazil, around the 1990s, systematic research in search of a corpus of specific nursing knowledge and the construction of conceptual models for his practice began to make its mark on the scene.  With the advent of the scientific basis of nursing care, the technological expression of nursing care, both as a process and as a product, has been recognised. We therefore understand how technology and care are strongly correlated in the history of civilization.

Producing technology means looking for the production of “things” that can be materials but also symbolic products that satisfy needs. The technology, according to this study, can be classified into three types:

Hard technology: mechanical, instrumental, routine standards and organisational structures;

Light-hard technology: this is structured knowledge, such as physiology, anatomy, medicine, surgery, etc..;

Light technology: they are involved with the knowledge of the production of relations between subjects. Present in the worker-user space, it materializes only in acts such as reception, production of obligations, encounters of subjectivity and autonomy.

Humanizing is making human, giving human conditions, acting with natural goodness. To make them benevolent, affable, to make them acquire lucid social habits, to civilize.

It was concluded that the reflections on nursing care in intensive care should go through a more in-depth review of the concepts of care and the use of technologies in this unit. It is worth remembering that taking care of machines is not such an absurd theoretical and practical matter, because if in many cases it keeps the customer alive, it is only possible because we too, directly or indirectly, take care of them. It is understood that the humanisation of health services involves changing the very way of conceiving the user of the service – with the right to be users of a service that guarantees actions that are technically, politically and ethically safe, provided by responsible workers. However, this transformation refers to a political positioning which focuses on health in an enlarged dimension, in relation to living conditions in a socio-political and economic context.

The second research that we analyze is entitled “Cancer and social media: comparison of traffic on breast cancer, prostate cancer and other cancers of reproduction on Twitter and Instagram”. With billions of active users, social media platforms offer valuable opportunities to increase public engagement on a variety of health, scientific and social issues. In this article, a comparative study was carried out on differences in messaging regarding campaigns against cancer of women and men in the media. This study provides two important contributions to the literature in this field. First, social media activities for the two most commonly studied types of male (prostate) and female (breast) cancer are explicitly compared. Secondly, although Instagram is the second most popular social media platform in the UK and states after Facebook, this is the first study to examine cancer campaigns on this platform.

Social media campaigns offer two advantages over traditional campaigns. First, they connect people with motivated people and cancer communities, who can also facilitate the recognition of the effects of cancer on friends and family. Secondly, they offer opportunities for cheaper participation in cancer activities that are easier to carry out, in combination with explicit calls for action, which are important to motivate participation, reduce barriers to engagement and potentially facilitate high cost behaviour in the future.

The analysis showed that female cancers tend to be over-represented compared to male cancers through specific campaigns such as #WorldCancerDay, NBCAM’s annual awareness campaigns or Movember, and throughout the year. The results also highlight the importance of comparing health campaigns across social media platforms: it has been shown that there are substantial differences in the way campaigns are conducted on Twitter compared to Instagram. Both campaigns tend to generate substantially more social media activity on Twitter than Instagram overall, but within Instagram Movember tended to outperform NBCAM in terms of social media mentions. This study had important implications for health communication.

Matteo Nunner

Graduated in Literature at the University of Eastern Piedmont, he's now studying anthropological and ethnological science at the University of Milano-Bicocca. Journalist and writer, he collaborated with many local newspapers and in the 2015 he published his first book "Qui non arriva la pioggia". In the 2017 published "Il peccato armeno, ovvero la binarietà del male".

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