The intimate technology shaping millions of lives: Exploring the possibilities of menstruation and perimenopause tracking apps for people with diverse embodied experiences (PI Sarah Riley)

Co-investigarors: Katrin Tiidenberg, Adrienne Evans, Tracy Morison, Christine Stephens, Natasha Tassell-Matamua, Astrid Ensslin, Carla Rice, Jane Ussher, Deborah Lupton, Alex Hawkey, Christine Wilks

Involved universities:
  • Massey University
  • Tallinn University
  • Coventry University
  • Universität Regensburg
  • University of Guelph
  • Western Sydney University
  • University of New South Wale
Start/end date 1/07/23 → 30/06/26

Millions of people worldwide use digital applications (apps) to monitor their menstrual cycles. These apps can be experienced as empowering, but they are not neutral. They play a role in how users understand their bodies, and by extension, their selves, relationships, and place in the world. Importantly, menstrual tracking apps are designed around a prototypical user: a white, affluent, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied, young woman, which reinforces narrow, potentially harmful, ideas about “normal” or ideal bodies. It is therefore important to ask: What are the experiences of the many non-prototypical users, whose bodies, identities, or life stages are marginalised by these apps?

To understand the experiences of these menstrual tracking app users in Aotearoa New Zealand, we will conduct participatory research with users from three life-stage cohorts: 16- to 18-year-olds, post-natal, and perimenopausal. The findings will grant unprecedented insight into how the apps shape diverse users’ understandings of their bodies. Participants will generate ideas on how these apps might be designed to be affirmative and inclusive. We will use this knowledge to create a story-driven app that affirms diverse embodied experiences, and to amplify marginalised voices, advance the field of digital health, and envision possibilities for these technologies in the future.