Configuring the digital relationship landscape: a feminist new materialist analysis of a couple relationship app

Witney, Tom; Gabb, Jacqui; Aicken, Catherine; DiMartino, Salvo and Lucassen, Mathijs (2024). Configuring the digital relationship landscape: a feminist new materialist analysis of a couple relationship app. Families, Relationships, Societies (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1332/20467435Y2024D000000015

Abstract

Digital technologies play an increasing role in intimate couple relationships, prompting new approaches to better understand the contemporary digital relationship landscape. This paper uses feminist new materialist assemblage thinking to explore the functioning and processes of a relationship support app, Paired. Deploying diffractive analysis, it presents three composite narratives that explore the temporality of couple relationships, relationship work, and situated practices of coupledom. Composite narratives retain the emotional truth of original accounts through combined participant voices, enabling attention to be focused onto the user–relationship–app assemblage. Findings suggest that routinised app notifications prompt meaningful everyday relationship maintenance behaviours. Human–technology intra–actions thus generate positive relationship health and wellbeing behaviours which may have lasting benefits. This paper’s contributions are therefore largely methodological and conceptual, with analysis of supplementary primary interview data (n=20) derived from a mixed-methods evaluation including three months’ brief longitudinal surveys (n=440) and a detailed survey (n=745).

Plain Language Summary

Digital technologies play an increasing role in intimate couple relationships. This paper uses feminist new materialist assemblage thinking to explore the functioning and processes of a relationship support app, Paired.

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