Antonio Maturo: Self tracking, digital-based narratives of mental health and the ‘endoptikon’. How quantification and gamification promotes biomedicalization


Thursday, April 27, 2017, 2:00pm to 3:30pm


William James Hall 1550

A Special Talk on Biomedicalization by Antonio Maturo Associate Professor at the Sociology Department, Università di Bologna and Regular Visiting Professor at Brown University.




Conrad (2007) defined medicalization as the extension of medical frames in everyday life and in human conditions not viewed as pathological until that moment. According to him the (interrelated) engines of medicalization are:   economic forces,  proliferation of diagnosis, consumerism and the organization of care. According to Clarke et al. (2009), bio-medicalization is a more appropriate term compared to medicalization because at the dawn of XXI century some important changes occurred: the growing importance of the Health Industrial Complex (Light and Maturo 2016), the centrality of the molecular gaze based on biology and most of all on genetics (Rose 2007, Barker 2010); the rise of medicine of optimization, human enhancement (Savulescu 2001 ) and healthism (Fullagar 2009).


It is possible to claim that bio-medicalization is right now undergoing an additional “acceleration” (Rosa 2013). This acceleration is spurred by health apps. By health apps the “Quantified Self” can create attractive graphs and vivid histograms that represent fine-grained statistics on her physiological data (Lupton 2016). For example, by health apps we can measure our anxiety level, the progress we make in our diet and in our running. The mechanism that renders this process easy is quantification (Neresini 2016). Quantification is connected to a techno-scientific imaginary of health, based on biology and neurological frames (Maturo and Moretti 2016). Generally, it can be said that society is increasingly structured as a “world of scores rather than classes” (Fourcade and Healy, 2013). In several apps for health, quantification is made possible by gamification, that it is the transformation of boring aspects of life in funny activities  (Maturo and Setiffi 2016).


Moreover, we can straight away share on the internet our most intimate biometrical states letting a multitude of “hybrids” (friends, firms, algorithms) be acknowledged about our quantified health. Therefore, surveillance – or, better, interveillance (Colombo 2013) – stretches out into the molecular dimensions– what can be called the “endoptikon”. I will demonstrate this change by some example from the most popular health apps for mental health.