Digital Mental Health: A symposium

Call for abstracts

3-4 December 2024, University of Turku, Finland (Abstracts due Aug 1)

The digitalisation of mental healthcare is a major transnational trend and emergent business, taking diverse forms from digitised psychotherapies to AI-generated chatbots, and from peer support on social media to organisational data-mining. These themes lie at the core of a symposium on digital mental health, to be held at University of Turku on 3-4 December 2024. The event consists of public keynotes by Professor Adrienne Evans (Coventry University, UK) and Professor Katrin Tiidenberg (Tallinn University, Estonia) and a two-day workshop where participants’ work-in-progress papers will be commented on by the keynote speakers, organizers and fellow participants.

We invite abstracts from researchers across all career stages, from PhD students to established scholars, who are interested in the topic of digital mental health. Being situated at the intersections of various disciplines (e.g. digital cultural studies, media studies, sociology and gender studies), the symposium welcomes submissions across disciplinary boundaries and geographical locations.

The symposium will be followed by a publication of a special issue on digital mental health, edited by Adrienne Evans, Marjo Kolehmainen and Katrin Tiidenberg (in alphabetical order), in 2025.  In particular, we look for submissions that address the wide topic of digital mental health from intersectional, feminist and anti-racist perspectives, with research designs that seek to erode dichotomies such as health/illness, human/technology, mind/body, good/bad and/or that address digital mental health beyond individualized treatment and recovery narratives. They may include but are not limited to the following themes:

Digital technologies and mental health care

How digital technologies, from specific health technologies to popular platforms, reconfigure mental health care? What forms of professional care, peer support or self-care digital technologies facilitate or degrade?
How does AI transform mental health care?  What kind of challenges and possibilities are intertwined in the processes of integrating AI in mental health care?
How algorithms entangle with mental well-being or mental ill-being? How does algorithmic surfacing and content moderation shape individual and collective encounters with technology?
How does digital materiality take part in the processes of psychic well-being? How for instance wearable technology or self-tracking applications transform the relation between mind and body?

Social media and mental health 

What kind of affective online communities are generated around mental health topics? What kind of ambivalences and asymmetries can be traced in different mental health participatory cultures and related discourses and practices of care?
How does online peer support renew practices of care? What kind of challenges and tensions can be found in the circulation of lay expertise, such as the promotion of self-diagnosing practices?
How do good life narratives and expectations for mental positivity shape digital mental health platforms and practices? What kind of norms, values and expectations are embedded in the ideas concerning good mental health?
How are different vulnerabilities maintained, produced and challenged through online encounters? What role do intersecting categories like age, gender, sexuality, class or race play in the patterns of digital inclusion/exclusion?

Postdigital cultures of mental well-being

How does the digitalisation of mental health interact with wider cultural crises and global unease?
How do psychopolitical aspects entangle with postdigital cultures?
How does sanism manifest in postdigital cultures, and how to increase online safety for all? How do different mental challenges materialise in digital encounters?
What frameworks can we develop to help us make sense of reported emotional distress due to digital technologies, and the redirection of this distress back to digital platforms? How does the networked blurring of the public and the private condition possibilities for mental well-being?
How might digital mental health be revolutionized by concepts of critical kindness, feminist wellness, or radical self-care? How to re-think ‘mad knowledges’ in digitalized societies?

The politics of digitalized services

What kind of consequences do mental health datafication and data economies have? What kind of patterns of exclusion and digital divides datafication processes produce?
How does the use of different digital tools advance (or fail to advance) more inclusive mental health care services? What kind of possibilities and challenges digital services from virtual reality to mobile applications provide in mental health provision?
How do clients and patients experience the use of digital services? What kind of activism or resistance can be identified in relation to digitalisation of mental health care?
What kind of risks and vulnerabilities are intertwined in the processes where digital technologies take part in mental health care? How different forms of surveillance, control or coercion take place and affect the use of digital services?

Please submit your abstract (max. 300 words) and a short bio (max. 200 words) by August 1, 2024 to lahean@utu.fi. Additionally, please express your interest in contributing to the planned Special Issue.

Decisions on acceptance will be made by the end of August. The maximum number of accepted papers will be 12. Participation is free of charge, but participants are expected to cover their own travel and accommodation costs and meals. The accepted participants are expected to submit a work-in-progress paper of max 8 pages by November 15, 2024. The papers will be circulated among the participants to facilitate discussion.

Organising committee: Marjo Kolehmainen (University of Turku) (chair), Tuuli Kurki (University of Helsinki), Elina Ikävalko (University of Helsinki), Jarkko Salminen (Tampere University) and Laura Antola (University of Turku).

The workshop is jointly organized by:
Intimacy in Data-Driven Culture (IDA), a research consortium funded by the Strategic Research Council at the Research Council of Finland 
Networked Care: Intimate Matters in Online Mental Health Care (NetCare), a research project funded by the Research Council of Finland 
Visibilising Counter-Stories of Mental Health (MadEnCounters), a research project funded by the Kone Foundation
Social Science Mental Health Research Network (Yhteiskuntatieteellisen mielenterveystutkimuksen verkosto)