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Doing Illness. Cancer Narratives in Digital Media

Journal article
Authors Christian Lenemark
Published in Tidsskrift for Forskning i Sygdom og Samfund
Volume 16
Issue 31
Pages 69–85
ISSN 1604-3405
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion
Pages 69–85
Language en
Keywords cancer, digitala medier, sjukdomsbloggar, datorspel, interaktivitet
Subject categories Health Sciences, Cultural Studies, General Literature Studies


Through three case studies, thearticleexploreshow digital media have been used in recentyears to depict and comprehend experiences of cancer.Itfirstinvestigatesthe illness blog,specificallySwedish journalist and musician Kristian Gidlund’s immensely popular blogInMy Body, in which he,from 2011 to2013,shared the narrativeofhis struggle with anaggressive,incurable,andultimatelydeadly stomach cancer. ItcontinuesbydiscussingItalianengineer, artist, and hackerSalvatore Iaconesi’sdigital open-source projectLa Cura–TheCure(2012),whichhasgreat relevancefromboththedigital andthemedical humanitiesperspectivesin the way Iaconesi useshispersonal narrative ofbraincancerto encouragepeople tojoinhis struggletofind a cure.Finally,it analyzesthe American coupleRyanandAmyGreen’svideogameThat Dragon, Cancer(2016).Agamedifferingsignificantlyfromvideo and computer games in general andfrom othergames taking cancer as their subjectbyletting the player enter the role of caregiver to a small child dyingofcancer.Expanding onLisa Diedrich’s theoretical concept of “doing illness”, thearticleemphasizes theperformativedimension ofnarratingillnessin digital media, consideringhowtheseauthorsandcreatorsnegotiatewith narrative, cultural,and medialscripts when portrayingtheircancerexperiences.Ithighlights the interactive and participatory dimension of doing illnessin digitalmedia, by exploring howthe blog,open-source project, and videogamebothinviteand limittheaudience’s opportunitiesto interact and participatewith the illness narrativeconveyed.

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