Datafied female health: Sociotechnical imaginaries of femtech in Danish public discourse


  • Sara Dahlman Roskilde University, Denmark
  • Sine N. Just Roskilde University, Denmark
  • Linea Munk Petersen Roskilde University, Denmark
  • Prins Marcus Valiant Lantz Roskilde University, Denmark
  • Nanna Würtz Kristiansen Roskilde University, Denmark



sociotechnical imaginaries, femtech, Danish media, Female health, Data Sprints


The digitalization of health promises individual empowerment while raising the threat of collective surveillance. Conceptualizing these threats and promises as sociotechnical imaginaries, we explore how issues of datafied female health are articulated in Danish public discourse. Empirically, we work with a large data set of Danish news media coverage of algorithmic technologies in the past 10 years (2011–2021). We locate coverage of female-oriented health technologies (or femtech) by using the data sprint methodology to track the emergence of such technologies as a topic of public concern. Across the data, we identify two broad sociotechnical imaginaries: one zooming in on individual uses of femtech, the other focusing on the collective benefits of public health initiatives. We conclude that sociotechnical imaginaries of femtech are increasingly entangled in everyday life, making female bodies knowable through algorithms and data. As such, female health becomes subject to instrumental rationality, not lived reality.


Agarwal, P. (2021, September 5). "Femtech" is booming-but does it really make healthcare more equal? Prospect.

Almeling, R. (2020). Guynecology: The missing science of men's reproductive health. University of California Press.

Arrouas, M. (2017, July 26). Din telefon som prævention? Det kan lad sig gøre. Danske Ida Tin har skabt en potentiel verdenssensation. Zetland.

Barassi, V. (2017). Babyveillance? Expecting parents, online surveillance and the cultural specificity of pregnancy apps. Social Media and Society, 3(2), 1-10.

Baretto, B., Karr, J., Farnham, M., Kohr, S.W., Keymolen, M., Ranadeeve, S.,Pham, K., Cochran, B., Lyles, A., Hakim, J. (2021). Femtech landscape 2021.

Bauer, S. (2014). From administrative infrastructure to biomedical resource: Danish population registries, the 'Scandinavian laboratory', and the 'epidemiologist's dream'. Science in Context, 27(2), 187-213.

Baumgartner, R. (2021). Precision medicine and digital phenotyping: Digital medicine's way from more data to better health. Big Data & Society, 8(2), 205395172110664.

Bucher, T. (2017). The algorithmic imaginary: Exploring the ordinary affects of Facebook algorithms. Information, Communication & Society, 20(1), 30-44.

Capriccio, M. (2019, November 20). Femtech: Controversal or necessary?

Castoriadis, C. (1987). The imaginary institution of society. The MIT Press.

Costanza-Chock, S. (2020). Introduction: #TravelingWhileTrans, design justice, and escape from the matrix of domination. Design Justice, 1.

Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. Sage.

Dahlman, S., Gulbrandsen, I. T., & Just, S. N. (2021). Algorithms as organizational figuration: The sociotechnical arrangements of a fintech start-up. Big Data & Society, 8(1), 1-15.

Del Busso, L., Brottveit, G., Torp Løkkeberg, S., & Gluppe, G. (2022). Women's embodied experiences of using wearable digital self-tracking health technology: A review of the qualitative research literature. Health Care for Women International, 43(12), 1355-1379.

Della Bianca, L. (2021). The cyclic self: Menstrual cycle tracking as body politics. Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, 7(1), 1-21.

Eschler, J., Menking, A., Fox, S., & Backonja, U. (2019). Defining menstrual literacy with the aim of evaluating mobile menstrual tracking applications. CIN: Computers, Informatics, Nursing, 37(12), 638-646.

European Commission. (n.d.). Overview. Retrieved August 4, 2022, from

Folkendt, K. (2019, September 5). So what is femtech, anyways?!

Geller, S. E., Adams, M. G., & Carnes, M. (2006). Adherence to federal guidelines for reporting of sex and race/ethnicity in clinical trials. Journal of Women's Health, 15(10), 1123-1131.

Geller, S. E., Koch, A., Pellettieri, B., & Carnes, M. (2011). Inclusion, analysis, and reporting of sex and race/ethnicity in clinical trials: have we made progress? Journal of Women's Health, 20(3), 315-320.

Gioia, D. A., Corley, K. G., & Hamilton, A. L. (2013). Seeking qualitative rigor in inductive research: Notes on the Gioia methodology. Organizational Research Methods, 16(1), 15-31.

Goodhill, O. (2019, April 3). Why femtech is a sexist category.

Grenfell, P., Tilouche, N., Shawe, J., & French, R. S. (2021). Fertility and digital technology: Narratives of using smartphone app 'Natural Cycles' while trying to conceive. Sociology of Health & Illness, 43(1), 116-132.

Guay, R., & Birch, K. (2022). A comparative analysis of data governance: Socio-technical imaginaries of digital personal data in the USA and EU (2008-2016). Big Data & Society, 9(2), 20539517221112925.

Gulbrandsen, I. T., Plesner, U., & Raviola, E. (2020). New media and strategy research: Towards a relational agency approach. International Journal of Management Reviews, 22(1), 33-52.

Hamper, J. (2020). 'Catching ovulation': Exploring women's use of fertility tracking apps as a reproductive technology. Body & Society, 26(3), 3-30.

Hansen, S. S. (2022). Public AI imaginaries: How the debate on artificial intelligence was covered in Danish newspapers and magazines 1956-2021. Nordicom Review, 43(1), 56-78.

Hendl, T., & Jansky, B. (2022). Tales of self-empowerment through digital health technologies: A closer look at 'Femtech'. Review of Social Economy, 80(1), 29-57.

Hintz, A., Dencik, L., & Wahl-Jorgensen (2019). Digital citizenship in a datafied society. Polity Press.

Hockenhull, M., & Cohn, M. L. (2021). Hot air and corporate sociotechnical imaginaries: Performing and translating digital futures in the Danish tech scene. New Media & Society, 23(2), 302-321.

Hoeyer. K, (2018). Lost and found: Relocating the individual in the age of intensified data sourcing in European healthcare. In B. van Beers, S. Sterckx, & D. Dickenson (Eds.), Personalised medicine, individual choice and the common good (pp. 133-154). Cambridge University Press.

Hoeyer, K. (2019). Data as promise: Reconfiguring Danish public health through personalized medicine. Social Studies of Science, 49(4), 531-555.

Hoeyer, K., Bauer, S., & Pickersgill, M. (2019). Datafication and accountability in public health: Introduction to a special issue. Social Studies of Science, 49(4), 459-475.

Jasanoff, S. (2015). Future imperfect: Science, technology, and the imaginations of modernity. In S. Jasanoff, & S.H. Kim (Eds.), Dreamscapes of modernity: Sociotechnical imaginaries and the fabrication of power (pp. 1-33). The University of Chicago Press.

Jasanoff, S., & Kim, S. H. (2009). Containing the atom: Sociotechnical imaginaries and nuclear power in the United States and South Korea. Minerva, 47(2), 119-146.

Krishnamurti, T., Talabi, M. B., Callegari, L. S., Kazmerski, T. M., & Borrero, S. (2022). A framework for femtech: Guiding principles for developing digital reproductive health tools in the United States. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 24(4), e36338.

Kuntsman, A., Miyake, E., & Martin, S. (2019). Re-thinking digital health: Data, appisation and the (im)possibility of 'opting out'. Digital Health, 5, 205520761988067.

Lundgren, A. S., Lindberg, J., & Carlsson, E. (2021). 'Within the hour' and 'wherever you are': Exploring the promises of digital healthcare apps. Journal of Digital Social Research, 3(3), 32-59.

Lupton, D. (2014). Critical perspectives on digital health technologies. Sociology Compass, 8(12), 1344-1359.

Lupton, D. (2015a). Quantified sex: A critical analysis of sexual and reproductive self-tracking using apps. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 17(4), 440-453.

Lupton, D. (2015b). Donna Haraway: The digital cyborg assemblage and the new digital health technologies. In F. Collyer (Ed.), The Palgrave handbook of social theory in health, illness and medicine (pp. 567-581). Palgrave Macmillan.

Lupton, D. (2018). Digital health: Critical and cross-disciplinary perspectives. Routledge.

Marshall, B. 2002. 'Hard science': Gender constructions of sexual dysfunction in the 'viagra age'. Sexualities, 5(2), 131-158.

McQuillan, L. (2022). Americans are being urged to delete period tracking apps: Should Canadians do the same? CBC.

Mees-Buss, J., Welch, C., & Piekkari, R. (2022). From templates to heuristics: How and why to move beyond the Gioia methodology. Organizational Research Methods, 25(2), 405-429.

Mishra, P., & Suresh, Y. (2021). Datafied body projects in India: Femtech and the rise of reproductive surveillance in the digital era. Asian Journal of Women's Studies, 27(4), 597-606.

Munk, A. K., Jacomy, M., Jensen, T. E., & Raalund, S. (2023). How do algorithms make the news? Building a datascape to explore ten years of AI coverage in the Danish media 2011-2021. Social Science Research Network.

Murray, E., Hekler, E. B., Andersson, G., Collins, L. M., Doherty, A., Hollis, C., Rivera, D. E., West, R., & Wyatt, J. C. (2016). Evaluating digital health interventions. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 51(5), 843-851.

Orlikowski, W. J. (2007). Sociomaterial practices: Exploring technology at work. Organization Studies, 28(9), 1435-1448.

Perez, C. C. (2019). Invisible women: Exposing data bias in a world designed for men. Abrams Press.

Petersen, M. L., Mahnke, M. S., & Nielsen, M. (2022). Practices of self-tracking in infertility treatment: How bodily awareness is constituted. Qualitative Health Communication, 1(2), 35-47.

Petrakaki, D., Hilberg, E., & Waring, J. (2021). The cultivation of digital health citizenship. Social Science and Medicine (1982), 270, 113675-113675.

Sanders, R. (2017). Self-tracking in the digital era: Biopower, patriarchy, and the new biometric body projects. Body and Society, 23(1), 36-63.

Sartori, L., & Bocca, G. (2022). Minding the gap(s): Public perceptions of AI and socio-technical imaginaries. AI & SOCIETY, 1-16.

Sismondo, S. (2020). Sociotechnical imaginaries: An accidental themed issue. Social Studies of Science, 50(4), 505-507.

Slawson, N. (2019). 'Women have been woefully neglected': Does medical science have a gender problem? The Guardian. (2022). Steps fertilitetsværktøj.

Thompson, C (2005) Making parents: The ontological choreography of reproductive technologies. MIT Press.

Thygesen, L. C., & Ersbøll, A. K. (2011). Danish population-based registers for public health and health-related welfare research: Introduction to the supplement. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 39(Suppl. 7), 8-10.

Tonti, L. (2020). Femtech fatale: Access to femtech in public health insurance systems. European Journal of Public Health, 30(5), 165-1032.

Triantafyllidis, A. K., & Tsanas, A. (2019). Applications of machine learning in real-life digital health interventions: Review of the literature. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 21(4), e12286.

Tupasela, A. (2017) Populations as brands in medical research: Placing genes on the global genetic atlas. BioSocieties, 12(1), 47-65.

Vechery, A. (2021). Why is women's health still so under-researched? Fortune.

Venturini, T., Munk, A. K., & Meunier, A. (2018). Data-sprinting: A public approach to digital research. In C. Lury, R. Fensham, P. Clough, A. Heller-Nicholas, S. Lammes, A. Last, M. Michael, & E. Uprichard (Eds.), Routledge handbook of interdisciplinary research methods (pp. 158-163). Routledge.

Venturini, T., & Munk, A. K. (2022). Controversy mapping: A field guide. Polity Press.

Wachter-Boettcher, S. (2017). Technically wrong: Sexist apps, biased algorithms, and other threats of toxic tech. WW Norton & Company.

Weiss, S. (2018, April 16). This new industry wants to destigmatize menstrual & sexual health. Bustle.

Wiederhold, B. K. (2021). Femtech: Digital help for women's health care across the life span. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 24(11), 697-698.

WHO. (2021). Global strategy on digital health 2020-2025. World Health Organization.




How to Cite

Dahlman, S., Just, S. N., Munk Petersen, L., Valiant Lantz, P. M., & Würtz Kristiansen, N. (2023). Datafied female health: Sociotechnical imaginaries of femtech in Danish public discourse. MedieKultur: Journal of Media and Communication Research, 39(74), 105–126.