CONSTRUCTING CONTEMPORARY PARENTHOOD IN DIGITAL SPACES: A WALKTHROUGH OF INFANT FEEDING APPLICATIONS
Keywords:app walkthrough, infant feeding applications, surveillance, datafication, self-tracking
Infant feeding and baby tracking apps remain extremely popular mobile applications, downloaded by millions of parents to facilitate the feeding and care of children in their first year of life. These applications are commonly considered as part of a wider ecology of apps to manage reproductive health, which are typically gendered in design. Unsurprisingly, research on infant feeding apps to date has focussed on analysing these applications through a critical feminist lens, problematising the surveillance and disciplining of women’s bodies, since the tracking of infant care tracks the caregiver as much as the baby. These issues relate to broader societal trends around the datafication of family life, as well as participatory and co-surveillance practices, which ultimately support data-dependent surveillance capitalism. Yet, the predominant focus on critical perspectives on these technologies tends to construct their uses as disempowering, and their users as lacking agency. This work-in-progress paper explores how contemporary parenthood is constructed and mediated through the functionalities and technological design of infant feeding apps. It employs a feminist lens, while striking a balance between critical analysis and the identification of opportunities for user resistance, agency and empowerment. The app walkthrough method was used to examine two infant feeding applications, the commercial Feed Baby and the public health-oriented mum2mum. The study’s findings indicate that infant feeding applications are diverse in design and functionalities, providing opportunities for resistance and empowerment, that complicate and challenge understandings of parenting apps as (dis)empowering technologies.