While many digital civics projects explore feminist issues, such as Angelika’s work supporting services for sex workers, or the FeedFinder app which supports women who chose to breastfeed in public, human-computer interaction remains a field that can be hostile to women.

To create a supportive and collaborative environment in which to share and raise awareness of feminist issues within HCI, a group of digital civics researchers established fempower.tech. This group of intersectional feminists commits to “being overtly critical and political of the field, giving voice to underrepresented groups and topics, presenting tangible outcomes, and taking on an activist role for this”.

So far fempower.tech members have organised craft sessions, pot luck lunches and the first Double Dabble event, which combined feminist theory with creative activities. The group have also helped to establish the Digital Economy Diversity Network to promote diversity, equality and equity within the Digital Economy Network of PhD researchers. In September Digital Civics will host the first DEDN meeting.

CHI 2017, a major academic conference for human-computer interaction researchers, saw efforts to promote diversity and to turn the conference, held in Denver in the US, into a more feminist-friendly space. #CHIversity was set up by fempower.tech members and included a blog, Twitter discussions and a zine-making workshop, as well fundraising for the Planned Parenthood charity. The #CHIversity organisers also collated a list of papers at the conference that addressed topics of inclusion, feminisms, social justice or diversity, to support this work and make it more visible to CHI attendees.

In their first year fempower.tech have established numerous channels to support women in HCI and raise awareness of issues of feminisms and diversity within the field. From organised events to informal spaces to chat and share ideas, fempower.tech members are exploring new ways of making HCI a more equal and diverse space.

For more information please visit the fempower.tech website, follow the group on Twitter (@fempowertech) or contact Angelika Strohmayer.

Supporting women who choose to breastfeed in public

Many new mothers stop breastfeeding early because they fear how people will react in public.

FeedFinder is a free mobile app that aims to support breastfeeding women by helping them find breastfeeding-friendly places in their community. Women can use FeedFinder to search for and view places on the map where other women have previously breastfed, and contribute their own experiences of a new or existing venue.

Designed and developed in collaboration with breastfeeding women, the review criteria in the app have been carefully crafted to meet women’s breastfeeding needs: comfort, hygiene, privacy and baby facilities. All of the data within the app has been contributed by the breastfeeding community.

Since its launch in 2013, FeedFinder has over 10,000 registered users adding reviews of more than 3,500 locations.

FeedFinder reviews constitute a unique dataset of women’s lived experiences of breastfeeding outside of the home; a useful resource for breastfeeding support networks and local public health initiatives. There is significant potential for organisations to be motivated to act on reviews from FeedFinder; for example, by contacting businesses with negative comments while commending those receiving consistently good ratings.

For more information please contact Madeline Balaam or Emma Simpson.

App Movement: a platform for the community commissioning of mobile applications

App Movement is an online platform that enables communities to propose and promote ideas for mobile applications in response to community needs, collaboratively design the concept through a series of customisable features, and automate the development and deployment of a customised app.

Through the design of the platform we hope to understand how communities can commission technologies and services in order to establish community driven information resources to improve everyday life of community members.

App Movement was launched in February 2015 and now has over 38,000 users who have created over 85 app campaigns and automatically generated 18 mobile applications to support communities in finding dementia friendly places, gender neutral toilets, and drone flying locations, and many more.


App Movement logo


The commissioning of technology remains firmly in the hands of those with the skills, resources, and knowledge to do so. App Movement is the first step to democratising this process and enabling anyone, anywhere to automatically generate their own mobile information resource and support their community in establishing a shared information resource in response to the issues they face.

Removing the technical and monetary restrictions to developing a mobile information resource and scaffolding the process of collaborative design allows more people to engage in the creation of technologies to support communities. In order to automatically generate mobile applications the platform uses a templating approach that allows citizens to select different app templates that can be used to support their community. Currently, the platform provides two templates; a location based rating and review service (similar to TripAdvisor), and a how-to guide to share knowledge on community specific topics.

The platform uses a three stage approach to scaffold the process of participation and development. These phases are the Support Phase, Design Phase, and Launch Phase.

The App Movement process

App Movement supportCitizens start by creating a campaign page, known as a movement, to share their idea and leverage support from their community. Similar to a Kickstarter financial target, App Movement requires citizens to gather 150 supporters within a 14-day period for the campaign to progress into the design phase. This ensures that the community are willing to engage with the idea as well as contribute and sustain the information resource when it’s launched.

App Movement designOnce enough people have supported the idea, the supporters are invited to a design area where they can contribute their ideas and vote on other submissions from the community to select configurable options of the app such as its name, colour scheme, rating options, and logo.

The design area also allows the community to discuss features they might like to see, or how they intend to promote the app. The design area has been developed to be simple and easy to use, in order to encourage contributions from all members within the community.

App Movement launchAfter a seven-day period the design area closes and the winning contributions are selected. They are then used by the platform to automatically generate the native app for both Android and iOS. The platform will then launch the apps in the Google Play and Apple App stores and notify the supporters to begin using the app.

App Movement benefits

  • Democratising the process of commissioning community-driven information resources through automatic app development
  • Removing the technical barriers to commissioning technology
  • Structuring the participation of citizens to engage in the design and development of tools to support communities
  • Establishing a community around an information resource before it is launched to ensure knowledge is contributed and sustained through community contributions
  • Empowering citizens to establish an alternative information resource for the collection of data that can be leveraged for the purpose of civic action

App Movement – where did it come from?

The App Movement platform draws upon our previous research deployment, FeedFinder, a location based review service for breastfeeding mothers to rate and review breastfeeding-friendly locations. Newcastle in particular has some of the lowest rates of breastfeeding despite a large number of health benefits for both the mother and child, and in order to promote breastfeeding in public the digital civics research team coordinated with local NHS breastfeeding support groups to design and develop a smartphone app that enables mothers to rate and review the breastfeeding friendliness of local businesses nearby.

Launching in 2013, FeedFinder now has over 9,000 users who have contributed over 3,000 venues and more than 3,200 reviews within the application and continues to grow and support mothers in the UK as well as Europe, USA, Australia, and India. The research team at Open Lab have published a number of papers based upon women’s experiences of using FeedFinder and have observed first-hand the positive impact of FeedFinder on the lives of breastfeeding mothers.

App Movement usageThe potential for these forms of technology has been identified by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council who recently awarded the FeedFinder project with a Digital Economy Social Impact award for research that rapidly realises the transformational impact of digital technology on community life, cultural experience, future society and the economy. The team are now working with NHS breastfeeding support workers to utilise the data within FeedFinder to improve existing healthcare provisioning through a data driven approach to understanding breastfeeding practices within the UK.

App Movement as digital civics

When deployed within a willing community, there is a high potential for these forms of technology to have a positive impact on everyday life. However, identifying these different community issues is a challenging task that is often limited by the scope of the research team.

To overcome this issue we developed App Movement. This enables citizens to take a more proactive and independent approach to identifying their own issues and developing technologies to support their communities. The platform removes the existing constraints of commissioning technology and democratises the development and design of mobile applications that support a community driven approach to sustaining information resources. Through establishing these shared information resources, we as researchers are able to understand and explore how these technologies are used within communities, but more importantly, communities themselves are able to use this knowledge to improve and overcome issues they face.


App Movement was developed at Open Lab by Andy Garbett, Edward Jenkins, Robert Comber, and Patrick Olivier.