Cover for Public Interest Sex Tech Hackathon report

Research report: Public Interest Sex Tech Hackathon

Author Kathy Nickels
Date 11 July 2022

Is it possible to design and govern ethical sex tech at scale? What might intersectional, public interest sex tech look like?

Dr Zahra Stardust, Dr Jenny Kennedy and Prof Kath Albury have released a new report Public Interest Sex Tech Hackathon: Speculative futures and participatory design’ which captures the research findings, provocations, challenges and insights from the ADM+S Public Interest Sex Tech Hackathon held earlier this year.

“The report makes a unique contribution to public conversations on public interest technologies, ethical data governance and design justice,” said Dr Stardust.

The Public Interest Sex Tech Hackathon brought together designers, technologists and communities to workshop ideas of how sexual technologies can be designed and governed in ways that prioritise public interest benefit.

Participants explored the ethical potential of sex tech for safety, pleasure and health and worked with industry mentors including Samantha Floreani from Digital Rights Watch and Eliza Sorensen from Assembly Four, a collective of sex workers and technologists.

Participants were invited to create open-source designs and pitches that would contribute to new research into the ways that ‘big data’ can be used for sexual and reproductive health, wellbeing, rights and justice.

The winning pitch from Organic Matters Group (OMG) presented a research and manufacturing centre investigating organic materials such as algae and mycelial networks in sex tech products. The model is based on the mantra ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ and aims to influence industry practices through partnerships with local Indigenous communities to promote environmental sustainability.

Other pitches included:

  • A metaservice that empowers users to navigate how much of their sexual identity they share in any given situation, application or location;
  • A digital co-design platform puts sex tech businesses in touch with marginalised communities to assess the social impact and accessibility of their product development;
  • A virtual community space grounded in the social model of disability;
  • A protocol for people to identify their preferred mode of communication to facilitate matches based on shared preferences.

The event was organised by ADM+S researchers Dr Zahra Stardust, Dr Jenny Kennedy and Prof Kath Albury in collaboration with global software developer Thoughtworks, and SexTech School an online training academy for sex tech entrepreneurs.

“The hackathon highlighted the potential uses of technology for sexual health, rights, justice and equity as well as the regulatory, political and surveillance cultures that need to change to make public interest sex tech possible,” said Dr Stardust.

Read the research report on the APO.