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Cyberhealth and Informational Wellbeing



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Thornton, John Michael  ORCID logo


In this dissertation, I present a new framework for conceptualizing the digital landscape inspired by the field of public health. I call this framework Public Cyberhealth. This framework is an alternative to the dominant cybersecurity paradigm, which frames cyberspace as a digital battleground. I argue that the philosophy of public health can be useful for thinking about the normative justification for—and ethical limits on—government intervention in cyberspace, while public health policy and institutions can serve as examples of how to manifest these higher principles (e.g. the WHO, ethical review boards). This Public Cyberhealth framework takes seriously non-malicious threats to network robustness and resilience (e.g. human error, buggy code, natural disasters), highlights the impact of network threats and interventions on health and wellbeing, and is more thoughtful about protecting individual rights compared to the dominant cybersecurity lens typically used by policymakers and IT professionals. In addition to defining this alternative framework, I demonstrate how it may be used in three contexts. First, I explore how thinking about the digital landscape like a public health expert can help one to understand the role public goods play in maintaining robust digital networks. Second, I explore how this framework can help one to create polices which adequately account for how digital technologies impact health. And third, I define a theory of “informational wellbeing,” which seeks to capture the myriad of ways in which digital information and its use, control, accuracy, and accessibility impact personal wellbeing. The Public Cyberhealth framework is not only a useful and coherent way of thinking about technology policy, but also reveals interesting and surprising things about the nature of health, wellbeing, and identity in the digital age.





John, Stephen


cybersecurity, public health, health, digital, information, internet, philosophy of public health, malware, networks, cyborg, disease, computers, Philosophy of Information


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge