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How place matters: unpacking technology and power in health and social care


Blake Poland Associate Professor Department of Public Health Sciences McMurrich Building, Faculty of Medicine University of Toronto, Toronto Ontario, Canada M5S 1A8 E-mail:


The devolution of care into nontraditional community-based settings has led to a proliferation of sites for health and social care. Despite recent (re)formulations of ‘evidence-based’ approaches that stress the importance of optimizing interventions to best practice by taking into account the uniqueness of place, there is relatively little guidance in the literature and few attempts to systematically ‘unpack’ key dimensions of settings most relevant to policy, practice and research. In this paper, we explore how place matters for health and social care. In effect, we propose making place the lens through which to view practice, and not simply an interesting sideline focus. We focus specifically on (a) the emplacement of power relations in health and social care in and across settings; and (b) the pervasive (and often unrecognised) influence of technology on and in place (both ‘mundane’ and more visible ‘high’ technologies) as arguably among the most significant and pervasive (and often overlooked) dimensions of place pertinent to health and social care in both traditional (institutional) and nontraditional (community) settings. Drawing on diverse disciplinary literatures, we seek to make visible certain issues and bodies of work that health professionals may not be aware of, and which often remain inaccessible to practitioners and applied researchers on account of their density, complexity, and specialised terminology. In particular, drawing on the rich tradition of cultural studies, we advance the culture of place as a rubric for understanding the complex interrelationship between power, technology, culture, and place. Several fruitful avenues for place-sensitive research of health and social care practice (and its effects) are suggested.