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"There's an app for that" - women and mobile technology

Frizzo-Barker, J. & P. A. Chow-White 2012. ‘There’s an App for That’ Mediating mobile moms and connected careerists through smartphones and networked individualism. Feminist Media Studies 12, 580–589 (available on-line:, accessed 21 December 2012).
The ubiquitous use of mobile smartphones and Internet-based applications commonly known as "apps," can be viewed as simultaneously empowering and constraining for women's experiences and identities due to their potential to foster "always on" forms of sociability in both public and private spheres. We conduct in-depth interviews with women who daily use smartphone apps to understand how they use and make meaning through social media and popular apps to do with parenting (using the "Total Baby" app), fitness ("Runmeter"), finances ("Mint") and daily tasks ("Evernote") through Judy Wajcman's technofeminist approach, which suggests that people and artifacts co-evolve, and technology can facilitate and restrain gender power relations.


• Quite a short article (relatively) and with less discussion of the feminist angle than I expected – i.e. how apps help a woman/mother in her daily caring duties, but also reproduce patriarchal structures etc.

- This article contains more a number of interesting examples of app usage although nothing that I didn’t expect.

- Basically arguing that apps/smartphones get used in different ways that reflect women’s roles in society, and are integrated into their household management

• Interesting bit about a certain ‘computer logic’ [my term]

- “Smartphone apps add an additional layer of logic to the execution of daily tasks. In her ground-breaking study of computers and automation in the workplace the 1980s, Shoshana Zuboff (1988) highlights the distinction that computers “informate” tasks; that is, they produce precise information about the tasks in such a way that the data takes on a life of its own. We found evidence of how smartphone apps motivate women’s daily practices with information about their finances, health and fitness.” (p586)

--> The way in which the smartphone organises the information that it gathers (e.g. about organising calendar, details of the child’s vaccinations etc., have an effect in organising the user’s life too [though to be sure people don’t always do what the apps say, and one wonders how much the respondents are talking of ideal situations, rather than in practice forgetting to check and so on]

• Definition of apps: “small stand-alone software that connect to Internet data without using a web browser portal.” (p580)

• Notes the rapid spread of mobile technologies – overtaken fixed lines

- “over 60 percent of the worldwide population has access to wireless communication (Manuel Castells 2010)” (p580)

- “Mobile phone subscriptions surpassed 3.4 billion globally in 2008, eclipsing landline telephone connections in the early 2000s, as the most rapidly diffused among all human communication technologies in history (Castells 2010).” (p582)

• Draws upon Castells’s ‘networked society’, ‘networked individualism’, and Wajcman’s technofeminism

- “Where networked individualism depicts the freedom to connect to various community networks, technofeminism draws attention to women’s often overlooked role in cultivating and maintaining these community networks.” (pp582-3)

• Interesting tensions and guilt feelings relating to using apps/smartphone

- “paradoxical double standard—they felt guilty letting their children use a smartphone while they completed a task, and also while using their smartphones when with their children.” (p586)

• Also note that it's in a special issue that deals with feminism and new media

Please note - these are rough notes only, based on a first reading. They may be useful to someone interested in an alternative perspective on this paper.
However, these notes do not necessarily represent a final opinion, and are subject to revision in the future.


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