Ulises A. Mejias is an assistant professor in the Communication Studies department at SUNY at Oswego. His research interests include network studies, critical theory, philosophy of technology, and political economy of new media. Robert Mitchell, Ends and Means: Digital Labor in the Context of Health Abstract: My recent research has focused on ways in which digital medical resources (both web-based databases and electronic patient records) are being used to facilitate what Melinda Cooper and Catherine Waldby have called “clinical labor,” that is patient practices that contribute to the health of the patient but at the same time also create either research or economic value for academic researchers or for-pro t medical groups. (The dynamic is similar in principle to what occurs when one’s purchasing decisions at sites such as Amazon become part of databases designed to increase the value and profitability of the company). This example is less oriented toward the entertainment and/or participatory democracy uses that one often associates with digital labor, but it also highlights the conceptual difficulties we encounter when labor seems to become an end in itself. In the examples that I outline in my presentation, “health” is invariably presented as an unambiguous end: that is, health is not a means for something else, but rather the end for which most other things are means. As a consequence, the clinical labor that an increasing number of people are asked to perform may seem like part of a virtuous circle: though my labor provides economic value for others (and in this sense I am a means), it also creates health for me (and in this sense is itself an end: through such laboring, I am practicing health). However, what I want to underline in this presentation is that this circle can appear virtuous only if we accept a very specific understanding of what “health” can mean.

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