Enter Your Mood. Mood Disorders in the Era of Mobile Digital Technologies

Friday, 20 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Fernando VALENZUELA, Universidad Andres Bello, Chile
Daniel LOPEZ GOMEZ, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain
Mobile digital technologies allow people to track their mood, contributing to the construction of quantified selves. While digital mood tracking has become a matter of personal choice in recent years, it has been incorporated in mental healthcare practices since the beginning of the 2000s, following a century old tradition of paper-based technologies. This presentation analyzes this trend, focusing on the experience of a mental health team working at a private university hospital in Chile, that has experimented with mood tracking devices for over a decade. Based on interviews, participant observation and document analysis, we explore the sociotechnical deployment of a series of devices that this team has experimented with; three of them pertaining to the category of mobile digital technologies. The proposed analysis deals with two interrelated dimensions. First, it analyzes how mood tracking devices give form to mood as an epistemic object, incorporating decisions regarding what mood is and how it might be measured and portrayed. Visualization technologies are key in this regard, as they allow mood to be represented as an entity that evolves throughout the lifetime of patients, reacting to clinical interventions. At the same time, images prepare mood to be transported to different settings; from the patients’ computers or mobile devices to the physicians’ screens and beyond: to management monitoring systems and research databases. Second, it analyzes the kinds of work that these technologies prescribe to different users, and whose interests prevail in defining the organization of such work. Even though not all actors might be in an equal position to negotiate, they all become incorporated in networks of global scope that prefigure how they will continue to participate in the trajectory of illness. Based on this case analysis, this paper aims to contribute towards a sociological critique of digital health.