Stefanie Duguay – Using the Walkthrough Method for a Critical Analysis of Gender in Apps

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Brown Bag
February 15, 2019
Time: 12:00-2:00pm

Feminist Media Studio
CJ Building, Room 2.130
Concordia University
7141 Sherbrooke W Montreal (Qc)

Software applications (apps) are the site of significant sociocultural and economic transformations across many domains, from health and relationships to entertainment and finance. As relatively closed systems, apps pose methodological challenges for digital media research. In this session, I will introduce an approach, the walkthrough method, which combines cultural studies and science and technology studies (STS) to form a lens for critical app analysis. Drawing on feminist STS and the work of platform studies scholars who highlight how gender becomes ‘baked in’ to social media (Bivens & Haimson, 2015), this workshop will identify how the method can be used to sensitize researchers to programmed gender biases. Participants will learn how to establish an app’s environment of expected use by assessing its vision, operating model, and modes of governance. They will also gain hands-on experience using the walkthrough technique to systematically step through the stages of registration, everyday use, and discontinuation to identify the app’s embedded cultural meanings and implied ideal users.

Stefanie Duguay is an Assistant Professor of Data and Networked Publics in the Department of Communication Studies at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. Her research focuses on the influence of digital media technologies in everyday life, with particular attention to sexual identity, gender, and social media. This has included studies of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) people’s use of social media, dating apps, and multiple platforms for everyday activism. Stefanie’s research has been published in New Media & Society, Social Media + Society, Information, Communication & Society and other international, peer-reviewed journals.

Required tech:

Please note that this is an interactive workshop. Participants are encouraged to bring their wifi-enabled smartphones or tablets (and chargers) in order to download apps for analyzing. Participants may also wish to make a separate email address in advance, so they can use it (instead of their regular email address) when signing up for apps they would like to analyze.

Background reading:

Light, B., Burgess, J., & Duguay, S. (2018). The walkthrough method: An approach to the study of apps. New Media & Society, 20(3), 881-900.

Bivens, R. & Haimson, O. L. (2016). Baking gender into social media design: How platforms shape categories for users and advertisers. Social Media + Society, 2(4), 1-12. Open access: