Medical Apps: A Tool for Maintaining Beauty and Forming a Cyberculture

The article, App-ograph: A Critical Perspective on Medical and Health Apps, discusses the role of apps in the medical field and the different reasons medical professionals and the average citizen use these apps. Deborah Lupton, the ethnographer behind this research, found that “the most popular of these apps were related to monitoring exercise, diet and weight” (Lupton). Using these apps to maintain a certain body type relates to anthropology through the study of culture and each culture’s perception of beauty of the body.

The article Where Fat is a Mark of Beauty by Ann Simmons discussed the beauty behind fat women. In order for these women to gain weight, they lived in a “fattening room”, in which they maintained a starchy diet and an inactive lifestyle. After gaining a certain amount of weight, these women left the “fattening room” and married.

Simmons’s article relates to Lupton’s article because, in their respective cultures, both the “fattening room” and medical apps act like “sociocultural products…active participants that shape human bodies” (Lupton). In Nigeria, the “fattening room” acts like a tool for Nigerian women to follow their cultural traditions of gaining body-fat before entering marriage. Contrasting to the fattening process in Nigeria, Americans use medical apps like a tool to maintain a thin and lightweight physique. Both cultures perceive beauty of the body in different ways and use different tools to help maintain their society’s ideal of beauty. Since their cultures shape beauty of the body through social ideals, the tools they use will aid in maintaining those ideas of beauty. Therefore, medical apps allow Americans to remain thin and lightweight while the fattening room allows women to gain weight, both ideal body types that represent beauty in their respective cultures.

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In addition to maintaining beauty through sociocultural products, medical apps allow for the formation of a cyberculture among Americans that use these fitness and health related apps. Many apps “often invite users to generate and share digital data about themselves” (Lupton), forming a virtual world among these individuals. This idea of a cyberculture relates to anthropology through the idea of “space and place” in cyberspace. When individuals use medical apps, the space appears like “a world of pure information freed from its physical substrate, configurable at will, and infinitely accessible” (Gessler and Read) while the meaning (place) behind the use of medical apps relates to the many ways an individual shares about their progress with other individuals involved in maintaining a thin, lightweight body-type.

Ultimately, Lupton’s research on medical apps connects to anthropology through the sociocultural ideals of beauty, particularly the body, and the formation of a medical-related cyberculture through the idea of “space and place”. Since many Americans share the same perception of beauty and actively participate in online networks, medical apps allow individuals to maintain America’s standards of beauty while sharing their progress with others that actively participate in that lifestyle. Furthermore, her research could potentially lead to the study of other cybercultures formed through the use of apps.