Does Your Phone Make You Feel Safer? Mixed Methods Analysis of Technology, Equity, and Perceptions of Safety on Campus

Communication Technology and New Media; Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication; Geographic Information Sciences; Social Psychology; Criminology

This project examines the efficacy and limitations of digital media solutions in promoting safety and security with respect to gender, race, sexuality, and ability on and around a college campus.

This project combines hands-on, multi-method analysis of digital media tools for campus safety with interview, focus group, survey and experimental research designed to understand diverse stakeholders’ perspectives on these tools and their intended and inadvertent effects. How is “safety” produced and experienced across differences of gender, sexuality, race, and ability?

The framing of the project draws on growing bodies of literature related to campus safety, sexual assault and harassment, racial disparities in academic and law enforcement contexts, academic accessibility, and data-driven safety and policing practices [1]. While digital media (such as smartphone apps) often appear as cheap and enticing solutions to campus malfeasance, this project asks whether stakeholders’ perspectives support these technologies’ claims to make campuses “feel safe,” or reveal concerns about discrimination, privacy violations, or other algorithmic missteps.

This project will use geospatial information to interpret diverse data sources and to contextualize participants’ responses.


[1] Amy Adele Hasinoff, “Mobile Crime Alerts and Student Perceptions of Sexual Violence” (June 18, 2016); Rena Bivens and Amy Adele Hasinoff, “Rape: Is There an App for That? An Empirical Analysis of the Features of Anti-Rape Apps,” Information, Communication & Society 21, no. 8 (August 3, 2018): 1050–67; Virginia Eubanks, Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor (St. Martin’s Press, 2018); Trawalter, Sophie, Andrew R. Todd, Abigail A. Baird, and Jennifer A. Richeson. “Attending to Threat: Race-Based Patterns of Selective Attention.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 44, no. 5 (September 1, 2008): 1322–27; Pavica Sheldon and Mary Grace Antony, “Sharing Emergency Alerts on a College Campus: How Gender and Technology Matter,” Southern Communication Journal 83, no. 3 (February 15, 2018): 167-178;  William V. Pelfrey, Steven Keener, and Michael Perkins, “Examining the Role of Demographics in Campus Crime Alerts: Implications and Recommendations, Implications and Recommendations,” Race and Justice 8, no. 3 (July 1, 2018): 244–69; Jacquelyn D. Wiersma-Mosley, Kristen N. Jozkowski, and Taylor Martinez, “An Empirical Investigation of Campus Demographics and Reported Rapes,” Journal of American College Health 65, no. 7 (October 3, 2017): 482–91; Jay T. Dolmage, Academic Ableism: Disability and Higher Education (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2017).


Desired outcomes

  • 3-4 peer-reviewed articles in relevant disciplines
  • Contributions to ongoing safety efforts on Grounds