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Val Bogan

Somatic Signage: An Exploratory Visualisation of Patients' Pre-Reflective Self-Consciousness of Disease

The act of medical diagnosis begins with the patient’s story. Accounts of our symptoms relayed in words are a vital first step in receiving a correct diagnosis (Ofri, 2017). This verbal narrative is a key component in how we communicate the presenting complaint; however, as yet, there is no longitudinal study to determine if there are similarities in how patients express non-verbal, kinetic elements of their illness narrative. This thesis poses the question whether it is possible to express and capture the pre-reflective, interoceptive felt-sense (Gendlin, 1982) of disease. Within the framework of phenomenology and embodied selfhood (Kontos, 2009, 2017), a cohort of patients diagnosed with the same disease (Fibromyalgia) access, describe and make visible the felt-sense of that disease through movement. Acquired by motion-capture technology, this kinetic data is analysed to determine if patients produce sufficient signs in common to suggest that a shared visual language of disease exists, which, if proven, could provide an additional modality during diagnosis. This thesis foregrounds the potential in combining the qualitative experiential knowledge of patients with the quantitative capabilities of motion capture technologies to make visible signs integral to the embodied ‘story’ we tell our doctor when outlining our presenting complaint. Further, it argues for the validity of public and expert by experience research (PEER) methodologies for use in patient-led studies.



Val Bogan completed an MA in Contemporary Art Practice in 2008, at the University of Plymouth. Her primary focus is the creation of collaborative projects that challenge established perceptions of patient-doctor relationships. Her research in the Medical Humanities examines questions of post-surgical trauma, memory, agency and ethics in patient-physician relationships (Temporary Orifices: Who am we? 2006-2008); more recently the emphasis of her research has switched to an examination of the inherent complications of describing internal pain to a doctor (Imaging Illness: Imaging Immy, 2010-2012). A research strand that continues with her current thesis.