Fabricated Data Bodies: Reflections on 3D Printed Digital Body Objects in Medical and Health Domains

16 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2014

Date Written: November 14, 2014


The advent of 3D printing technologies has generated new ways of representing and conceptualising health and illness, medical practice and the body. There are many social, cultural and political implications of 3D printing, but a critical sociology of 3D printing is only beginning to emerge. In this article I seek to contribute to this nascent literature by addressing some of the ways in which 3D printing technologies are being used to convert digital data collected on human bodies and fabricate them into tangible forms that can be touched and held. I focus in particular on the use of 3D printing to manufacture non-organic replicas of individuals’ bodies, body parts or bodily functions and activities. The article is also a reflection on a specific set of digital data practices and the meaning of such data to individuals. In analysing these new forms of human bodies, I draw on sociomaterialist perspectives as well as the recent work of scholars who have sought to reflect on selfhood, embodiment, place and space in digital society and the nature of people’s interactions with digital data. I argue that these objects incite intriguing ways of thinking about the ways in digital data on embodiment, health and illnesses are interpreted and used across a range of contexts. The article ends with some speculations about where these technologies may be headed and outlining future research directions.

Keywords: 3D printing, sociology, the body, medicine, health, data practices, sociomaterialism, new materialism, digital technologies

Suggested Citation

Lupton, Deborah, Fabricated Data Bodies: Reflections on 3D Printed Digital Body Objects in Medical and Health Domains (November 14, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2524270 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2524270

Deborah Lupton (Contact Author)

University of Canberra ( email )

University of Canberra
Bruce, ACT 2601
61261663437 (Phone)

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