Embodying digital spaces in a clinical encounter

A postphenomenological analysis


  • Line Blixt Department of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences, Institute of Health and Society, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo
  • Kari Nyheim Solbrække
  • Wenche Schrøder Bjorbækmo Faculty of Health Sciences Department of Physiotherapy Oslo Metropolitan University




What is it like to interact in a clinical setting when a technological device is participating?  This inquiry was conducted in a primary healthcare setting, with the aim of shedding light on clinicians’ and patients’ experiences regarding the use of a tablet-with-app, intended for a more systematic assessment, as well as electronic registration and storing of patient data.

In this paper, we present an account of four experiential exemplars of adopting an eTool in a clinical setting. The “faciality” of the digital device seems to be important to both patients and clinicians, as well as the interaction between them. The “face” can be used for engaging in conversation, addressing awkward topics, communicating, or inviting involvement. The face can also be used for just resting the eyes or lowering the gaze to maintain a low profile during the clinical encounter. Concurrently, the size, the shape, and the backside of the eTool’s face can mediate distance.

We expand the notion of “screen sharing” and suggest that humans’ ability to move from one mode to another and embody digital spaces in the clinical encounter seems enhanced by their ability to include the eTool’s face in their interaction. This knowledge can be used in the development of digital tools for teaching, as well as for health professions.