Grant / January 2022

The Tyranny of Relevancy: Investigating The Effects of Targeted Fertility Ads on Individuals Grappling with Infertility


Our study aims to investigate the social and psychological implications of targeted advertising on individuals with stigmatized health identities. With nearly every user on social media platforms encountering personalized advertising, the personal data economy has become a major component of our everyday lives. This use of personal data, especially as it pertains to health, presents both security and psychological risks to users. We will specifically seek to understand how individuals grappling with infertility respond to targeted ads and what sensemaking strategies these individuals use to articulate instances of harm over time. Additionally, we hypothesize that online behavioral patterns that reflect stigmatized biosocial identities receive more targeted ads claiming to attend to these identities more than online behavioral identities that do not display behaviors related to a stigmatized biosocial identity. We aim to use a sequential mixed-methods approach that will include an interview study, diary study, and an experiment. The experiment will utilize web crawler bots that are programmed to complete relevant tasks, such as views and clicks, to determine if behaviors exhibiting a particular health status garner online advertising that claims to attend to that particular status. Ultimately, this research seeks to explore the ways in which structural violence is materialized within online behavioral targeting.

Findings, Papers, and Presentations