Civilian First Responder mHealth Apps, Interface Rhetoric, and Amplified Precarity

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Candice Welhausen
Kristin Bivens


Our article uses case studies of two civilian emergency response mHealth apps—PulsePoint and OD Help—to theorize the ways the mobile mapping functionality embedded in these tools, which is integrated with the Google Maps platform, enables yet also constrains users’ agential practices. Using an interface rhetoric approach, we unpack assumptions related to the embodied contexts of use facilitated by this functionality within the unique scenario of civilian emergency response. We argue that interactions between and among humans and these apps’ mapping interfaces involve complex, negotiated, contextually situated enactments, which align with a posthumanist perspective toward agency. At the same time, these interactions may also inadvertently amplify the precarity of vulnerable groups. Better understanding the ways that mobile mapping technologies shape agential enactments, particularly in ways that affect precarious and dispossessed populations, has important implications for the design of mHealth technologies—and the users who rely on them—moving forward.

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