Understanding the Advantages of Mobile Solutions for Chronic Disease Management: The Role of ANT as a Rich Theoretical Lens

Understanding the Advantages of Mobile Solutions for Chronic Disease Management: The Role of ANT as a Rich Theoretical Lens

Nilmini Wickramasinghe (RMIT University, Australia), Arthur Tatnall (Victoria University, Australia) and Steve Goldberg (INET International Inc., Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/jantti.2012010101
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Abstract

In an environment of escalating healthcare costs, chronic disease management is particularly challenging, since, by definition such diseases have no foreseeable cure and if poorly managed typically lead to further, complicated secondary health issues, which ultimately only serve to exacerbate cost. Diabetes is one of the leading chronic diseases and its prevalence continues to rise exponentially. Thus it behooves all to focus on solutions that can result in superior management of this disease. Hence, this article presents findings from a longitudinal exploratory case study that examined the application of a pervasive technology solution; a mobile phone, to provide superior diabetes self-care. Notably, the benefits of a pervasive technology solution for supporting superior self-care in the context of chronic disease are made especially apparent when viewed through the rich lens of Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and thus the paper underscores the importance of using ANT in such contexts to facilitate a deeper understanding of all potential advantages.
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Actor-Network Theory (Ant)

Actor-network theory (ANT) provides a rich and dynamic lens of analysis for many socio-technical situations. Essentially, it embraces the idea of an organisational identity and assumes that organisations, much like humans, possess and exhibit specific traits (Brown, 1997). Although labelled a ‘theory’, ANT is more of a framework based upon the principle of generalised symmetry, which rules that human and non-human objects/subjects are treated with the same vocabulary. Both the human and non-human counterparts are integrated into the same conceptual framework.

ANT was developed by two French social sciences and technology scholars Bruno Latour and Michel Callon and British sociologist John Law (Latour, 1987, 2005; Law & Hassard, 1999; Law, 1992, 1987; Callon, 1986). It is an interdisciplinary approach that tries to facilitate an understanding of the role of technology in specific settings, including how technology might facilitate, mediate or even negatively impact organisational activities and tasks performed. Hence, ANT is a material-semiotic approach for describing the ordering of scientific, technological, social, and organisational processes or events.

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