A Multisensory Literacy Approach to Biomedical Healthcare Technologies: Aural, Tactile, and Visual Layered Health Literacies
Bivens, Kristin M
Welhausen, Candice A
Faris, Michael J.
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In this webtext we borrow Kelli Cargile Cook's (2002) concept of layered literacies in technical communication to argue that health literacy is an embodied, multisensory experience that is invariably mediated by healthcare technologies. We illustrate this concept through three case studies that describe scenarios in which non-experts and lay experts engage in non-discursive literacy practices: parents caring for an infant in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), people with type 1 diabetes (T1D) self-managing their treatment, and public audiences reporting symptoms to a crowd-sourced flu-tracking program. We propose that the literacy practices we identify in each scenario--aural, tactile, and visual, respectively--are fundamentally shaped by the use of specific healthcare technologies unique to that scenario: physiological monitors, insulin pumps, and crowd-sourced flu maps. More specifically, we argue that these technologies enable, constrain, and integrate multisensorial literacy practices in ways that complicate the concept of health literacy.