Materiality, health informatics and the limits of knowledge production

Hamish Robertson*, Nick Nicholas, Tuly Rosenfeld, Joanne F. Travaglia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Contemporary societies increasingly rely on complex and sophisticated information systems for a wide variety of tasks and, ultimately, knowledge about the world in which we live. Those systems are central to the kinds of problems our systems and sub-systems face such as health and medical diagnosis, treatment and care. While health information systems represent a continuously expanding field of knowledge production, we suggest that they carry forward significant limitations, particularly in their claims to represent human beings as living creatures and in their capacity to critically reflect on the social, cultural and political origins of many forms of data ‘representation’. In this paper we take these ideas and explore them in relation to the way we see healthcare information systems currently functioning. We offer some examples from our own experience in healthcare settings to illustrate how unexamined ideas about individuals, groups and social categories of people continue to influence health information systems and practices as well as their resulting knowledge production. We suggest some ideas for better understanding how and why this still happens and look to a future where the reflexivity of healthcare administration, the healthcare professions and the information sciences might better engage with these issues. There is no denying the role of health informatics in contemporary healthcare systems but their capacity to represent people in those datascapes has a long way to go if the categories they use to describe and analyse human beings are to produce meaningful knowledge about the social world and not simply to replicate past ideologies of those same categories.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInformation Systems and Global Assemblages. (Re)Configuring Actors, Artefacts, Organizations
Subtitle of host publicationIFIP WG 8.2 Working Conference on Information Systems and Organizations, IS&O 2014, Auckland, New Zealand, December 11-12, 2014. Proceedings
EditorsBill Doolin, Eleni Lamprou, Nathalie Mitev, Laurie McLeod
Place of PublicationBerlin, Heidelberg
PublisherSpringer, Springer Nature
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9783662457085
ISBN (Print)9783662457078
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes
EventIFIP WG 8.2 Working Conference on Information Systems and Organizations, IS and O 2014 - Auckland, New Zealand
Duration: 11 Dec 201412 Dec 2014

Publication series

NameIFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology
ISSN (Print)1868-4238


OtherIFIP WG 8.2 Working Conference on Information Systems and Organizations, IS and O 2014
CountryNew Zealand


  • Critical analysis
  • Health informatics
  • Knowledge production
  • Materiality


Dive into the research topics of 'Materiality, health informatics and the limits of knowledge production'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this