We are happy to share an Open Access journal article from our project, led and written with historian Melissa van Drie, about the digital stethoscope, a device which is having a particularly timely moment! The article was published in Gesnerus: The Swiss Journal for the History of Medicine and Sciences. Click on “more articles”to see it, and see below for an abstract taster.
The stethoscope goes digital: Learning through attention, distraction and distortion
For centuries, those training doctors have been faced with the challenges of standardising subjective experiences and constructing “the universal body” in learning situations. Various technologies have been introduced to address these challenges, with varying degrees of success. In this article we focus on the stethoscope, specifically the electrical and digital stethoscope models. Historical and social studies of medicine have already underlined the sociomateriality of learning in medicine. In this article we underscore the performative nature of teaching and learning in the sociomaterial context. We do so by juxtaposing ethnographic and historical events that stage electrical and digital stethoscopes. These are not documentations of everyday practices but rather reconstructions of choreographed performances for learning about the body. In these stagings, the novice is taught to focus attention and avoid distraction, when learning the sounds of “the body”. Through engaging with, and comparing, different ethnographic and historic materials and artefacts, and through methodological reflection, we examine the importance not only of attention and distraction in learning a bodily skill, but also of dealing with distortion. We argue that these ethnographic and historic insights into distortion illuminate a neglected aspect of medical training, and more generally, in shaping sensory perceptions.
Read more here.
This article draws on research funded by a Dutch NWO Vici Grant entitled Sonic Skills: Sound and Listening in the Development of Science, Technology, Medicine (1920–now) awarded to Karin Bijsterveld (grant agreement No: 277-45-003). Melissa Van Drie further developed the article’s historiographical approaches to sensory experiences of sound devices and did archival research on hearing disabilities during a postdoctoral position in the European Research Council (ERC) funded project Sound and Materialism in the 19th Century awarded to David Trippett at the University of Cambridge (Horizon 2020 scheme, grant agreement No. 638241). Final corrections were completed during Melissa’s current ERC funded Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship project called Sounds Delicious at the University of Copenhagen (grant agreement No. 753565). The article also draws on Anna Harris’ current research on digital doctors funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement No. 678390). Anna would like to thank the participants in her studies for their time and for sharing their experiences, skills and stethoscopes with her, and Ruth Benschop for introducing Hirschauer’s work. Melissa and Anna would like to thank the Sonic Skills team for their constructive feedback on our collaborative project along the way, as well as Whitney Laemmli, Kate Smith, Josh Grace, Caitlin Wylie, Johanna Gonçalves Martin, Stewart Allen, Nina Lerman and Dagmar Schäfer for their comments on earlier drafts during our time together at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Finally, Melissa and Anna are grateful to the anonymous reviewers, and to Thibault Walter and Vincent Barras for encouraging them to develop a conference presentation into this piece, and for their support along the way.