Friday 13 October 2023 - 13:00
Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology of the University of Gdansk and Medical University of Gdansk


Where: Main Lecture Hall. Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology of the University of Gdansk and Medical University of Gdansk, ul. Abrahama 58, Gdansk


Lecture organised by the CCA ŁAŹNIA in cooperation with the British Council and the Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology UG&MUG.

This presentation argues that the ubiquity of health information on line and the drive to digitization in the provision of health care significantly  restructures the relationship between clinician and patient. There is an epistemic rupture no less profound than that which shifted the responsibility for diagnosis from the patient to the doctor and (according to Foucault) gave us the modern clinic. Moreover, the irresistible momentum of digital representation as either a photorealist image or a spreadsheet is sufficiently convincing in clinical practice as to flatten important differences at the expense of empathy and compassion. The question then is how can we recover compassion and empathy in this new clinic.

This cost/ benefit tension produce a binary divide in many professional settings and recovering the art of empathy, which some see as the foundation of the caring professions, is a task which is out of reach of science and technology  but not for the post digital arts and humanities. As Edward Reid reminds us, in From Soul to Mind, until the 19th century it was artists and poets who were thought to be responsible for cultivating these sensibilities  that was until  the artistic  soul was reconfigured as the measurable mind.  The wheel has turned full circle and the researchers in the arts and humanities, as custodians of the human soul, have once again become central to resolving some important problems of care and delivery. 

Since 2011 my research group (Transtechnolgy Research) has been collaborating with some colleagues in hospitals and dental surgeries to design new research methods and techniques in health care that draw on established practices in the arts and theoretical insights form the humanities to recover human dimensions of empathy and compassion lost in spreadsheets and photorealism. We have been especially concerned with animatronic simulation and VR/AR/XR technologies in training. 

In this presentation I will develop the argument and share some of these projects to show how in collaboration with scientists at the fundamental stage of research design we can collectively recover some virtues that are frequently lost in the use of digital technology to meet the pressing imperatives of volume and cost in health care provision.


Michael Punt 

Michael Punt is Professor of Art and Technology and convenor of Transtechnology Research at the University of Plymouth, Honorary Professor at the Institute of Education, University College, London, and Editor-In- Chief of Leonardo Reviews. He serves on numerous research funding boards in Europe and Chairs the FWF PEEK programme funding arts-based research.

He is a practicing sculptor and media artist, media historian, author, and film maker whose concern for the past three decades has been to understand the role of communities of users in shaping the way that technological inventions acquire mutual intelligibility on the way to becoming social objects. 

In the past decade the primary impact of this research has been in the way that the understanding and subsequent use of simulation technologies (animatronics, VR,AR,XR etc) might be rethought in health care training so as to maximize  empathy in the power relations between clinicians and patients.