The Dr. Martin A. Entin Lecture in the History of Medicine

March 30, 2022     1:00-2:30pm  

Virtual event - Please register below


Kirsten Ostherr, PhD, MPH

The Visual History (and Imagined Future) of Computational Health​​​​​​


This talk will discuss educational, instructional, and publicity films as well as television programs produced between approximately 1960-1990 on the use of computers in healthcare. By investigating the audiovisual representation of new computational technologies in healthcare settings, this talk will explore how the idea of human-computer interaction was framed as a vision for the future of medicine. By looking at this history through a visual lens, this talk will ask, what kind of patient is imagined and constructed by computational health? How do these speculative representations communicate ideas about what it means to be human? And who is excluded from this vision? Assembling and interpreting this archive of visual media provides a critical comparative frame for analysis of contemporary representations of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, augmented and virtual reality, and telehealth. Through this comparative media archaeology approach, the talk will demonstrate how the representation of emergent technologies plays a vital role in framing discourse, perceptions, and policies that influence the role and human impact of computation in healthcare.


Kirsten Ostherr, PhD, MPH is the Gladys Louise Fox Professor of English and Director of the Medical Humanities program at Rice University in Houston, Texas, where she is a media scholar, health researcher, and technology analyst. She is founder of the Medical Humanities program (2016-present) and the Medical Futures Lab (2012-present), and Chair of the English Department. Her research on trust and privacy in digital health ecosystems has been featured in Marketplace Tech on NPR, The Atlantic, STAT, Slate, The Washington Post, Big Data & Society, Catalyst, and the Journal of Medical Humanities. Her writing about the COVID-19 pandemic has been featured in The Washington Post, STAT, Inside Higher Ed, and American Literature. Kirsten is currently leading a digital health humanities project called “Translational Humanities for Public Health” that identifies humanities-based pandemic responses from around the world to document and help others build upon these creative efforts.

Kirsten is the author of Medical Visions: Producing the Patient through Film, Television and Imaging Technologies (Oxford, 2013) and Cinematic Prophylaxis: Globalization and Contagion in the Discourse of World Health (Duke, 2005). She is editor of Applied Media Studies (Routledge, 2018), and co-editor of Science/Animation, a special issue of the journal Discourse (2016). Kirsten is currently writing a book called Robot Pathographies: Datafication, Surveillance, and Patient Stories in the Age of Virtual Health.

Kirsten has extensive experience using human centered design as a technique for patient collaboration in health technology development. She co-created Medicine in the Digital Age on edX, an open, online course that has reached over twenty-five thousand global learners. She has spoken to audiences at the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services, the World Health Organization, the National Library of Medicine, TEDx, the mHealth Summit, Medicine X, the Louisville Innovation Summit, the Bauhaus, and in Germany, Spain, France, England, Sweden, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

Kirsten received her PhD in American Civilization from Brown University and her MPH in Health Promotion and Behavioral Science from University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston.






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