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Research and theoretical papers
Published: 02-07-2014

Designing Gender in Social Media: Unpacking Interaction Design as a Carrier of Social Norms

Lecturer and PhD Student

Sofia Lundmark

Södertörn University

Uppsala University


Maria Normark

Södertörn University
interaction design norm-critical design gender social norms social media


In this paper we focus on interaction design as the practice of designing interactive and digital products, services, systems and/or environments. Of interest in the area of interaction design is people’s use of designed things, which also makes it relevant to relate interaction design to the social norms present in society, such as gendered norms. We present three different cases in which we have analyzed different aspects of interface design and put a specific focus on interaction design as a carrier of social and gendered norms. The first case concerns a qualitative study of how young girls interact with and present themselves in a photo blog website. The second case is a study of the way that young women entrepreneurs use the functionality of social media to mold an attractive online persona (an invented, or adjusted, character that one wants to put forward). The third case is based on a study of the development of the national youth counseling site in Sweden. By using the concepts of interference and social norms as analytic tools, we exemplify various ways in which social norms, such as gender norms, diversity, power relations, equality, marginalization, etc. are part of interaction design and how the interface design reinforces norms and provides a far from neutral arena. In this paper, gender is highlighted in relation to social norms and values in society and social expectations and hierarchies. On the basis of our findings from the three different cases, we argue that there is a need to unpack how digital design embeds gender norms and to demonstrate how the relationship between norms and design can be critically examined.

How to Cite

Lundmark, S., & Normark, M. (2014). Designing Gender in Social Media: Unpacking Interaction Design as a Carrier of Social Norms. International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, 6(2), 223–241. Retrieved from