Welcome! The Sawyer Seminar is back for Fall 2022 with a series of events.

CONFERENCE: Achieving Health Equity in a World of Data

Register here: https://hopkinshistoryofmedicine.org/events/achieving-health-equity-data-conf/

Digital Health, defined by the FDA as including “categories such as mobile health (mHealth), health information technology (IT), wearable devices, telehealth and telemedicine, and personalized medicine” has the potential to empower patients to make better decisions about their own health while facilitating prevention, providing early diagnosis, surveillance, management and prediction of chronic conditions. New health technologies also help clinicians improve health outcomes through greater access to and use of patient data. At the same time, digital health poses a risk of reinforcing racial disparities in healthcare through algorithmic bias, digital redlining, tacit racism in clinical documentation, unrepresentative data, and the lack of diversity in the decision-makers and users of health informatics applications. Added to this, the potential compromise of patients’ privacy, the lack of health data integration, data overload issues, security concerns, and limited or inefficient data visualization are upstream and downstream obstacles to digital health’s potential to transform healthcare. Combined with technical anxiety and slow adoption of digital health innovation, these myriad factors limit the capacity of digital health to facilitate health equity. 

Grappling with the problem that race and racism poses for digital health, and the great potential that digital health represents to reduce or exacerbate existing health disparities, requires discussion and inquiry across several domains of technical expertise, clinical experience, and critical humanities and social sciences. This conference aims to serve as a forum to engage with the opportunities and challenges/risks? of digital health and health informatics from historical, ethnographic, ethical, economic, and pragmatic perspectives. It invites submissions from a variety of methodological, theoretical, and multidisciplinary perspectives. Theoretical work that engages critically with the debate about the promises and pitfalls of digital health in the context of race and health equity are particularly welcome. We also welcome proposals for “hands-on” data sessions and workshops, as well as submissions (talks and hands-on sessions) from students, practitioners, IT professionals, and those employed in industry.


Sawyer Seminar: Precision and Uncertainty in a World of Data

The Sawyer Seminar on Precision and Uncertainty in a World of Data is organized by the Departments of Anthropology and the History of Medicine and the Center for Medical Humanities and Social Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. Throughout its two-year run (2019-2021), the Seminar will explore questions around what kinds of ethical and social issues are new about our Big Data moment, what has carried over from the past, and what kinds of methods and approaches might help us extend our understanding of this moment’s specificity.

On this website, you can find more information about the Seminar directors and staff, our schedule of events, notes on our past events, and resources that help explore data and society. We hope for this website to serve as an archive for what we have learned over the course of the Seminar, as well as a gateway for resources on data and society that will outlive the Seminar’s run. We encourage you to check out our latest events, projects, and commentary below:


Sponsor Institutions:



Header Images (Art Works) Credit:

Rachel Ara. “This Much I’m Worth (The Self-evaluating Artwork): Korean Version” in Vertiginous Data at National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea. Photo taken by Sumin Myung.

Sylvee Kim. “Trinity: Finance-Credo-Spirituality” in Vertiginous Data at National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea. Photo taken by Sumin Myung.

Danilo Zamboni. “PerspectivischeExplosionszeichnung” in Zugang für Alle: São Paulos Soziale Infrastrukturen at Pinakothek der Moderne, München, Germany. Photo taken by Sumin Myung.

Nam June Paik. “Video Chandelier No. 1” at Nam June Paik Art Center, Seongnam, South Korea. Photo taken by Sumin Myung.

Soyo Lee. “TV Garden: Notes” in Ecological Senses at Nam June Paik Art Center, Seongnam, South Korea. Photo taken by Sumin Myung.