Health 2.0 connects to Street Art

What a week!! Between a 5.9 earthquake with an epicenter in Central Virginia and a hurricane 200 miles wide that decided tracking close to the coast was the way to go, this week has not exactly followed my TO-DO list – but not everything was turned upside down.

Thursday evening, at the always-energizing Health 2.0 Meetup in Bethesda, the last speaker of the night, patient rights arts advocate Regina Holiday drew a direct line between the Health 2.0 movement and the Street Art movement by bringing an image by artist Bansky into the mix. Assuming that most in the audience might not be familiar with his work, I did an invisible dance of delight at the thought of his work being exposed to a different demographic than usual.

Regina’s powerful presentation, Thoughts on Tagging, is currently posted on her medical advocacy blog.

For those of you not be familiar with either Heath 2.0 or Street Art, below is a brief primer with sources.


Bansky is a particularly provocative artist. He shuns the limelight and rarely gives interviews and that makes his compelling imagery all the more shattering. I’ve seen his documentary “Exit through the Gift Shop” twice and although it’s not specifically about him, it’s a unique journey into world of street artists. I also recommend the film, “Beautiful Losers” for a deeper look into the visionaires and energy behind the vibrant underground and graffiti art scene.

If you prefer books, I recommend the excellent Bansky’s Bristol, Home Sweet Home and Street Sketch Book Journeys.

What is Health 2.0?

An entry on Wikipedia states “Health 2.0 is participatory health care. Enabled by information, software, and community that we collect or create, we the patients can be effective partners in our own health care, and we the people can participate in reshaping the health system itself.” [Additional Information: Health 2.0 Wiki]

What is the Street Art Movement?

There’s a great deal of information online about street art including Wikipedia’s Street Art page.  I particularly like the following definition from the Art We Love website: “Street art is an umbrella term for art and acts of art in public spaces, usually illegally produced. With roots in both New York City’s 1970s graffiti culture and the gently anarchic theory of France’s Situationist International movement, the art form developed as a political gesture of subversion, a rejection of institutionalized art, and an aesthetic reclaiming of the streets.”

What is Tagging?

In the world of computers, an entry on Wikipedia defines it like this: “In online computer systems terminology, a tag is a non-hierarchical keyword or term assigned to a piece of information (such as an Internet bookmark, digital image, or computer file). This kind of metadata helps describe an item and allows it to be found again by browsing or searching. Tags are generally chosen informally and personally by the item’s creator or by its viewer, depending on the system. Tagging was popularized by websites associated with Web 2.0 and is an important feature of many Web 2.0 services. “

In the world of Street Art , another Wikipedia article offers the much simpler definition that “a tag is a stylized signature usually done in color.”

The two types of tagging are participatory processes to draw attention to things that might otherwise be overlooked. In the world of health care, this becomes an important tool for the patient, allowing for a more active role in the healing process and encouraging dialog with health care providers. Just as street art can draw attention to overlooked details by the busy urbanite, patients with modern health management tools can draw attention to details that might be overlooked by a busy doctor.

Why Bansky?

The best way to learn about Bansky (or any art for that matter) is to look at it. Below is a video tribute from YouTube. His images provoke, but you also remember them. Context is important with his images which draw attention to their surroundings and events that may relate to them, but they also draw you out of your day-to-day experience. If an artist can invoke thought – even uncomfortable thought – then they’ve done their job.