Technology: how to personalize this indistinct matter?

I was very much concerned for finding a way to approach digitalization and the use of the apps–  abbreviations for applications- in health care to communicate “how we feel, how we live, what, we think, what we love”, when we suffer from an illness experience. I have read scientific papers which show that when we use digitalization only the basic brain cortex is activated, but when using selective hand writing we activate more sophisticated upper brain cortical levels.  Therefore, it looks like that digitalisation makes us dummier and more stupid, and this requires extreme caution, especially in  the process of education. I don’t want even touch the concept of loneliness given by the virtual world when everybody is isolated into his/her alienated society and just confided to have virtual friends and thousands of ghosts contacts through the apps.
I’m more worried about brain limitation than society limitation in these few lines:  to limit brain capabilities and limitations of skills for me it looks like a big waste for the humankind.

I did not know how start writing something argumenting or supporting APPS andmedical  technologies, despite I’m using them even for  this Chronicle of Narrative Medicine. No clue until Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter, came to help me. Neither with her paintings, that are almost everywhere in exhibitions all over the world.  Nor with her famous self-portraits on the story of her disease, on how much she suffered from her polio, when she was a six-years girl, from her accident on the bus, where she lost part of her mobility of her back spine, of the leg, and an iron handrail pierced her abdomen and her uterus, with the subsequent  futire miscarriage.

Nor from her paintings, the narratives of her suffering, which as we will see,  are a pale mirroring of her suffering into the illness and her seven surgeries to her back bone she went through. She writes to us “My painting carries with it the message of pain”.

No, there is more. I had to stumble into her body technologies of her time to understand how I would love that ill people may use the apps and digital technology:  forgive my analogic leap but let me go straight to her deeds. Her corset, the cage to keep her broken back spine, was painted by her with the symbols she cherished , the yin and yang, the sickle and hammer, and other idols of Mexican culture, who helped Frida to wear it as her second skin, to live with her disease.

Her long skirts, that most of us have considered only as an embellishment, sometime even narcissistic taken from the folk lore of the Mexican tradition, full of colours and embroideries, were to cover her limping legs, always painful, full of bruises, oedemas and scars. The choice of her dresses became her technology, her application,  to create her new identity to cope with her disease.

Last but not least her amputated leg, and there I stood still open mouth, moved by what she did: Frida decorated the boots to wear both on her healthy leg and on her prothesis.  Her boots where red, painted by her with birds and flowers. While her husband Diego Rivera was painting communist murals all over Mexico, she, silently, behind him, decorated her boots, for one real foot and one fake foot.  She tried to kill pain and the absence of a limb by decoration, with no abstract art, the paintings of her body technologies came from her original handcrafts, folk lore images, colours, and nature. Nature above all: flowers, birds, animals, and beauty. Laces, and her wonderful proud beauty.

Coming back to the health care application -apps-, I think they could be like her leg prothesis, like her skirt to cover limping, like her corset to give her  that noble and elegant posture we appreciate in her self portraits and photos. App has and get a meaning if it is personalized, otherwide the remain obscure matter

An indistinct matter from an app  asks simply  to someone what emotion “do you feel today?”.  And the answer is using standardized emoticon with the hapy, angry, sad yellow faces we are familiar with.

People can enrich it with  their own personal narrative… and with the personal esthetical meaning and symbols that for Frida were colours and nature of her Casa Azul, a typical mexican house where she was living and painting…
and for you? Which are your aesthetics values? Have you ever thought about what you really like? Where do you want to live? And to be ill? And do you wish to die to die? Which symbols are your embellishment for your life, for finding your style to live with a chronic disease? And can help you and your people when dying?

This what technology stands for today: like the corset of Frida on which all her main symbols were painted, her nurturing symbols, apps acquire values only if they get a personalization beyond the universalities, the indistinct matter.

Therefore, I don’t know if I’m in the power to encourage some possible tip for using apps, however I widely suggest:

1. First decorate your apps and biomedical technologies  as it could be your clothes, your house, your garden if any

2. Reflect on the symbols you want to post, the colours, the drawings, the pictures. Get out, when possible by emoticon, creat, your own personal that you may change.

3. Convey it with a narrative in words, as it might be difficult for us and for the others  to understand what are your feelings, what are your projects, and what are the things you really love. These things are those who will keep you alive and give a meaning to what you’re going through.

Self-portraits and narrative, outside the real medical technology are already copy of the copy, as Plato would have said: work on apps, and medical technologies to make them yours…

Thank you, Frida, you taught me much more on how you were decorating yourself, and your biomed technologies, corset, wheelchair, prothesis, and your bed than by your worldwide known masterpiece paintings…


Maria Giulia Marini

Epidemiologist and counselor in transactional analysis, thirty years of professional life in health care. I have a classic humanistic background, including the knowledge of Ancient Greek and Latin, which opened me to study languages and arts, becoming an Art Coach. I followed afterward scientific academic studies, in clinical pharmacology with an academic specialization in Epidemiology (University of Milan and Pavia). Past international experiences at the Harvard Medical School and in a pharma company at Mainz in Germany. Currently Director of Innovation in the Health Care Area of Fondazione ISTUD a center for educational and social and health care research. I'm serving as president of EUNAMES- European Narrative Medicine Society, on the board of Italian Society of Narrative Medicine, a tenured professor of Narrative Medicine at La Sapienza, Roma, and teaching narrative medicine in other universities and institutions at a national and international level. In 2016 I was a referee for the World Health Organization- Europen for “Narrative Method of Research in Public Health.” Writer of the books; “Narrative medicine: Bridging the gap between Evidence-Based care and Medical Humanities,” and "Languages of care in Narrative Medicine" edited with Springer, and since 2021 main editor for Springer of the new series "New Paradigms in Health Care."

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