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Safety as Net Work: “Apps Against Abuse” and the Digital Labour of Sexual Assault Prevention

Brian Beaton


This study examines the results of the 2011 “Apps Against Abuse” app development challenge that was held through, a popular U.S. government crowdsourcing platform. It highlights promising attributes of the resulting applications, with a focus on their social networking capabilities and the idea of instant evidence. It also highlights troubling aspects of the resulting applications, with a focus on issues of labour, surveillance, and interpersonal judgment. The larger purpose of the study is to begin the work of determining how the resulting applications from the “Apps Against Abuse” app development challenge came to include their specific mix of design features and qualities. Possible influences on the “Apps Against Abuse” app developer crowd include the contest guidelines and framings, but also pre-existing personal security practices. Both are examined in detail. The larger argument put forth is that the “Apps Against Abuse” app developer crowd seems to have been operating inside a general design pathway established by the “Apps Against Abuse” competition but also relatively “on its own” in terms of the crowd’s research and design process. The result of which was a set of applications that promote and encourage a new form of bioconvergence between information, technology, and people—one that de-emphasizes personal vigilance and preparedness, hallmarks of earlier women’s “self-defence” culture, in favour of having users create a networked, “crowd-sourced self.”


bioconvergence; crowds; crowdsourcing; sexual assault; rape prevention; feminisms; technoscience; information technology; government; public policy;

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