Building:Richcraft Hall, Room 4110A
Department:School of Journalism and Communication


Rena Bivens is Assistant Professor of Communication. Trained as a sociologist at The University of Western Ontario, Rena moved to Scotland to pursue her PhD with the Glasgow Media Group at the University of Glasgow in the Department of Sociology. Before returning to Canada she spent two years as a Lecturer in Digital Media and Mass Communication at The University of Nottingham’s campus in Ningbo, China – the first foreign university (UK) in China with an independent campus. After six years abroad, Rena moved to Ottawa and accepted a SSHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Pauline Jewett Institute of Women’s and Gender Studies at Carleton University. She was also affiliated with the Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia University as a Research Associate. Rena then went on to become a Banting Fellow in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton. The Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships program is funded by Canada’s three major funding agencies (SSHRC, NSERC, and CIHR) and is part of an elite suite of federal programs.

Research Interests

Rena’s research interrogates normative design practices that become embedded within media technologies, including social media software, mobile phone apps, and technologies associated with television news production. Examining the emergence of gender, race, and violence is central to her work. She investigates design and use alongside technical components such as code, software processes, applications, databases, and servers. Science and technology studies, software studies, feminist and queer theory, speculative design, science fiction, new materialism, and philosophy of science inform this work.

Current projects include: programming practices related to gender; social media moderation practices related to misogyny, transphobia and racism; mobile phone apps designed to prevent sexual violence; and the role of social media in the work of ending gender-based violence by non-profit organizations.

Rena is the author of Digital Currents: How Technology and the Public are Shaping TV News (University of Toronto Press, 2014). Digital Currents brings television news to the forefront of heated debates over the future of journalism. A careful dissection of the production process unravels the relationships between digital media, the public, journalists, and news organizations. Rena’s work has also appeared in peer-reviewed journals such as the International Journal of Communication, Feminist Media Studies, and Journalism Practice.

See Rena’s personal website for more information:



Bivens, R. (2014) Digital Currents: How Technology and the Public Are Shaping TV News, Toronto: University of Toronto Press. (ISBN: 9781442615861)

Journal Articles

Bivens, R. and Khan, U. (2019) Torn: A Social Media Drama over the Aziz Ansari Scandal. Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, No. 15. doi: 10.5399/uo/ada.2019.15.4

Bivens, R. and Hoque, A. S. (2018) Programming Sex, Gender, and Sexuality: Infrastructural Failures in ‘Feminist’ Dating App Bumble. Canadian Journal of Communication, 43(3): 441-459.

Bivens, R. (2018) Exploiting a Dystopic Future to Unsettle our Present-Day Thinking about Sexual Violence Prevention. Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, No. 13. doi: 10.5399/uo/ada.2018.13.5

Bivens, R. (2018) Coding Sexual Violence, or Realizing your ‘Survivor’ Identity is Part of the Problem. No More Potlucks, 49.

Bivens, R. and Hasinoff, A. A. (2017) “Rape: is there an app for that? An empirical analysis of the features of anti-rape appsInformation, Communication & Society. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/1369118X.2017.1309444

Bivens, R. and Haimson, O. L. (2016) “Baking gender into social media design: How platforms shape categories for users and advertisersSocial Media + Society. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/2056305116672486

Bivens, R. (2015) “The gender binary will not be deprogrammed: Ten years of coding gender on FacebookNew Media & Society. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/1461444815621527

Bivens, R. (2015) “Under the Hood: The Software in your Feminist Approach” Feminist Media Studies. doi: 10.1080/14680777.2015.1053717

Bivens, R. (2015) “Affording Immediacy in Television News Production: Comparing Adoption Trajectories of Social Media and Satellite Technologies” International Journal of Communication 9: 191-209.

Bivens, R. (2008) “The Internet, Mobile Phones and Blogging: How New Media is Transforming Traditional Journalism” Journalism Practice 2(1): 113-129. doi: 10.1080/17512780701768568

*reprinted in: Benyahia, S. C., Gardner A., Rayner, P. and Wall, P. (2014) Media Studies: The Essential Resource, 2nd edition, New York: Routledge.

Book Chapters

Bivens, R. (2019) Programming the Rules of Engagement: Social Media Design and the Nonprofit System, in M. X. Delli Carpini (ed.) Digital Media and Democratic Futures, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Bivens, R. and Fairbairn, J. (2015) “Quit Facebook, Don’t Sext and Other Futile Attempts to Protect Youth” in S. Tarrant (ed.) Gender, Sex, and Politics: In the Streets and Between the Sheets in the 21st Century, New York: Routledge.

Bivens, R. and Li, C. (2009) “Web-Oriented Public Participation in Contemporary China” in G. Monaghan and S. Tunney (eds.) Web Journalism: A New Form of Citizenship?, Brighton: Sussex Academic Press.

Refereed Conference Proceedings

Handel, M. J., Bivens, R., Brubaker, J. R., Haimson, O. L., Lingel, J., & Yarosh, S. (2015) “Facebooking in ‘Face’: Complex Identities Meet Simple Databases”, in Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference Companion on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (pp. 122–125). New York, NY, USA: ACM. doi:10.1145/2685553.2699337

Encyclopedia Articles

Bivens, R. (2014) “Morozov Principle” in K. Harvey (ed.) Encyclopedia of Social Media and Politics, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Bivens, R. (2014) “Shirky Principle” in K. Harvey (ed.) Encyclopedia of Social Media and Politics, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. 


Obar, J. A., Taylor, G., Antoine, D., Bivens, R., Caidi, N., Johnson, A., Middleton, C., and Skinner, D. (2014) “Mapping Digital Media: Canada”, New York: Open Society Foundations.

Fairbairn, J., Bivens, R., and Dawson, M. (2013) “Sexual Violence and Social Media: Building a Framework for Prevention”, Ottawa: Crime Prevention Ottawa/Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women.

Blog Posts

Bivens, R. (2016) “Programming Violence: Under a Progressive Surface, Facebook’s Software Misgenders Users”, Cyborgology, 27 January.

*cross-posted on Culture Digitally, 27 January 2016.

Bivens, R. (2015) “Interrogating Crystal’s Design Flaws Highlights Options for Technical Advocacy”, Culture Digitally, June 9.