CAL Lecture: Theresa Macphail, "The Anthropology of Good Information: Technology, the Data Deluge, and the Importance of Context in Global Public Health"

Monday, March 24, 2014 ( 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm )

Location: Morton 324

"The Anthropology of Good Information: Technology, the Data Deluge, and the Importance of Context in Global Public Health"
By Theresa M. Macphail, (Assistant Professor, Draper Program in Humanities and Social Thought, New York University)

This talk will examine the “life cycle” of information from an ethnographic and sociological perspective. The effective and timely exchange of “good” information is seen as the lifeblood of global public health. The process of turning data into information, and then turning so-called good information into “actionable” knowledge, relies upon experts to use their own personal and collective institutional experience – or “context” – to analyze and interpret circulating information. Context is integral not only to the construction and maintenance of the global health network, but also to the formation of expertise. Experts, in essence, want new technologies that can produce better information – or the development of Good Information Technology. What if we took the idea of Good Information Technology seriously? Could we have an anthropology of good information – or contextualized information – to go along with it?

Theresa MacPhail is an Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow at the Draper Program in Social Thought and Humanities at New York University. Dr. MacPhail received her PhD in Medical Anthropology from UC-Berkeley. Her first book, Cover Your Mouth: A Pathography of Influenza in Global Public Health (forthcoming from Cornell UP), is based on her dissertation research working with virologists and epidemiologists inside the US Centers for Disease Control and in Hong Kong SAR, China, during the second half of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.