• Social Media for Social Change? A Critical Analysis of the Sociotechnical Relations between Social Media Software and Non-Profit Users Working to End Gender-Based Violence

    The project investigates gender-based violence by examining the technical architecture of social media, power dynamics between designers and non-profit organizations, and the co-production of technology and gender.

    This is a two-year project funded by the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship program, which is administered by Canada’s three federal granting agencies.

    This research project critically examines social media as a space for non-profit organizations (NPOs) to work towards ending gender-based violence. NPOs that engage with issues such as sexual violence and homophobic gender policing feel pressure to consider social media as a viable space for social change.

    Our current understanding of how NPOs use social media is limited by preconceived, celebratory ideas about the potential of social media spaces. These analyses critique NPOs as poor users while neglecting to consider the technologies themselves. Decisions made by social media designers and engineers constrain, facilitate and prompt particular uses. At the same time, users behave in unexpected ways. When design, use and technologies intersect, entirely new forms of public engagement can arise.

    This research investigates the design of Twitter and Facebook and how and why anti-violence NPOs use these spaces. Gendered power dynamics produced through technological design, the underlying code, and the varied uses of social media are part of this research. This gendered analysis is particularly vital for the anti-violence sector and will better position NPOs to evaluate risks and opportunities when devoting limited time and resources to social media strategies.

  • Rape: Is there an app for that? A sociotechnical and speculative analysis of app design

    This project is a collaboration with Dr. Amy Hasinoff (University of Colorado, Denver). We are investigating 215 mobile phone apps designed to prevent sexual violence. We seek to unpack the politics of design by first investigating present-day mobile apps as sociotechnical artifacts, and then employing speculative design to include fictional apps in our analysis.

TEDx talk: Why Gender Matters in Social Media Design

Research Interests

  • social media software
  • gender
  • normativity and design
  • journalism practice
  • critical communication theory
  • STS
  • queer theory
  • feminist theory