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Oxford spires

Posted by: Regina Müller

I had the great opportunity to immerse myself in the enriching environment of the Ethox Centre as a Caroline Miles Scholar in the months of February and March 2023. During my time at Ethox, I delved into the captivating realm of feminist-ethical considerations within the context of digitalization in medicine and healthcare, with a specific focus on health apps.

In today's rapidly evolving digital landscape, health apps have emerged as digital assistants that can help us in our daily lives, promising to enhance our well-being, health, and autonomy. However, at the same time, discrimination and sexism can often be found within these applications, e.g., based on systemic biases. Feminist apps have emerged to change that and strive to rectify these biases, but the questions that interests me are: how can we comprehend digital developments, such as apps, through a feminist lens? What are the criteria for a feminist-ethical analysis and what would be the benefits of such a perspective?

Thanks to the Caroline Miles Scholarship, I could focus on these questions and unravel the intricate layers that make up a feminist-ethical analysis of digitalization in healthcare. I explored the multi-layered criteria that form the basis of such an analysis, closely examining the interplay of feminism, ethics, and technology. I had the opportunity to present my research findings at one of the Centre's weekly seminars, where I had the pleasure of sharing my perspectives with the colleagues from the Ethox Centre and further guests. The feedback and suggestions I received allowed me to refine and expand my original ideas.

However, my time at the Ethox Centre was not only dedicated to my own research activities. Rather, I had the opportunity to participate in a variety of fascinating seminars and talks that enriched my understanding of the field. One particular highlight was the international and interdisciplinary workshop "Ethical Design for AI in Medicine". This great event brought together a wide range of stakeholders, including technologists, physicians, and ethicists, and fostered fascinating discussions about the ethical implications of AI-based systems in healthcare and their ongoing development.

During my stay at the Ethox Centre, I not only had the pleasure of engaging in stimulating discussions and research, but also experienced moments of friendship with the Ethox team. During shared lunches and coffee breaks, the colleagues from the Ethox Centre gave of their time and expertise to address my questions and offer valuable advice. The supportive atmosphere of the Ethox team created an environment where knowledge sharing thrived. I had the pleasure of sharing ideas with individuals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. From my desk, I sat alongside friendly and talented colleagues from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States.

The scholarship not only enabled interactions within the Ethox Centre but also with researchers from other institutions at the University of Oxford. Exchanges with scholars from the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and the Institute of Ethics in AI enabled me to gain a broader understanding of the ethical implications of digitalization in medicine and healthcare. The opportunity to network with all these researchers allowed for fruitful discussions, and relationships that extended beyond my immediate research focus.

Beyond academics, my stay in Oxford during the spring season was an enchanting experience. The city offered me a lot of cultural stimulation, for example, trough the Ashmolean Museum (rich tapestry of art and history), the hallowed halls of the Bodleian Library (extensive collection of scholarly works), and the Pitt Rivers Museum (fascinating anthropological exhibits). And, of course, I joined a pub quiz.

The scholarship granted me the valuable gift of some weeks in which I was detached from the demands of my daily (working) life. This concentrated time of reflection and collaboration was helpful to refine my ideas, fostering my own academic growth, and connect with brilliant colleagues. I left the Centre equipped with fresh knowledge and perspectives that will certainly shape my future research in the fields of feminist ethics, digitalization, and health care. I sincerely hope that I will be allowed to return to Ethox in the future to once again engage in the lively intellectual discourse and continue to build on the connections made during this amazing chapter of my academic journey.

Regina Mueller photoDr. Regina Müller, MA

Postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Philosophy at the University Bremen, Germany