11:00am - 11:20am
“I still want to know they’re not terrible people”: Negotiating trust, pleasure and queer ethics in LGBTQ+ young people’s dating app use
1Swinburne University of Technology, Australia; 2The University of Sydney, Australia
Dating and hook-up apps constitute spaces of intense negotiation around issues of sex, identity and intimacy, in which norms are tested and reinforced. This paper examines discussions of ‘ideal app use’ which emerged in qualitative workshops conducted in 2018 with 23 LGBTQ+ app-users aged 18-35 in urban and regional New South Wales. We explore how a reading of in-app practices - such as messaging, picture-sharing and blocking - through a lens of queer ethics can inform LGBTQ+ young people’s ‘rules’ for app use. Participants were invited to create 'how-tos' for ideal app use, and describe the ways they distinguished ‘good’ (or trustworthy) profiles from ‘bad’ (untrustworthy) profiles via creative design activities. In their discussions, participants articulated their ‘rules’ for filtering matches in relation to particular design features of apps which enabled (sexed and gendered) cultures of accountability to others. As in Duguay’s (2017) research on queer women’s deployment of in-app affordances as ‘identity modulation’, participants interacted with other users and interpreted their profiles in relation not only to sexual desires, but also queer politics and identity. In many instances, this was expressed through a heightened sense of responsibility for self-knowledge and self-disclosure, and a need to connect with ‘good people’ with a shared political sensibility. At other times, participants acknowledged the challenges of negotiating politicised responsibility to others while simultaneously pursuing the kinds of pleasurable connections they sought on apps, and limiting their own self-disclosure as a means of guarding their physical and emotional safety.
11:20am - 11:40am
Trust in Friendship: LGBTQ+ young people and hook-up app safeties
1Swinburne University, Australia; 2University of Sydney
Digital media research commonly explores the use of social media platforms and dating/hook-up apps separately, implying distance between social and sexual communication practices. By exploring how friendships enfold into LGBTQ+ young people’s use of dating/hook-up apps, this paper troubles that delineation. In 2018, we ran four workshops with LGBTQ+ young people (18-35 years) about negotiating safety in dating/hook-up apps. Discussion of friendship featured in all workshops, mostly related to four key themes: the safety of having mutual friends with prospective dates/hook-ups; friend-making through apps; friend-involvement in safety strategies; and friendship advice on app use. Through analysis of these data, we highlight how friendship is an organising force in LGBTQ+ young people’s dating/hook-up app practices, and argue for greater attention to the porousness of media sites commonly defined as social (e.g. Instagram) or sexual (e.g. Tinder). Participants demonstrate that trust in friendship is far greater that their trust in apps, and so this is called upon, at many levels, to negotiate app use. Notably mutual friends (‘mutuals’) offer greater feelings of safety. An overlap between friendship and sexual connections is also apparent in these data, as per discussion of 'sliding into DMs'. Participants who were not cisgender men had greater concern for safety, and thus more knowledge on how to negotiate apps (and dating) safely, particularly through friendship support networks.
11:40am - 12:00pm
Generational differences in social media use, gender identity, and sexuality among young LGBTIQ+ people in Australia
1Monash University; 2University of Melbourne; 3RMIT University; 4King's College, London; 5Swinburne University
For LGBTIQ+ people, the internet and social media are key channels for communicating and connecting with queer peers, and learning about queer life and queer experiences. While digital social spaces have evolved over the past 20 to 30 years, many of the motivations for using these platforms remain the same. This paper draws on data from the Scrolling Beyond Binaries study, centred on a national Australian survey of 1,304 young LGBTIQ+ people. We present key findings from the study examining generational differences across our four age cohorts of our young respondents: 16–20, 21–25, 26–30 and 30–35. Even among this group of young people, we find stark differences by age in self-identification related to gender and sexuality, and also patterns of difference in the social media platforms they use. Our younger respondents identify with much more fluid forms of gender and sexuality, and also tend to favour dating and hook-up apps that are more inclusive. We seek to foreground the ways in which the internet continues to be significant for our respondents for social connection and learning. We also add to our understandings of the complex and evolving ways in which young LGBTIQ+ people use and thus (re)produce digital social spaces, returning to Nina Wakeford’s (2000 ) consideration of ‘cyberqueer spaces’.
12:00pm - 12:20pm
Analyzing platform power: App stores as infrastructural platform services
1University of Toronto, Canada; 2University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands; 3Utrecht University, the Netherlands
This paper examines how platform power is operationalized in the specific case of the iOS App Store. We take a first step in developing an analytical framework that critically examines the infrastructural power relations that constitute online platform ecosystems. Building on a relational understanding of power, we propose an analytical vocabulary to systematically interrogate the material power relations among the three main actors active in platform ecosystems: platform operators (e.g. Apple), third party institutions (e.g. app developers, businesses, governments), and end-users (i.e. individuals). To better differentiate among these three different actors in platform ecosystems, the paper proposes to study platform power at five expanding levels, similar to those of ecological ecosystems: individual actors, infrastructural platform services, company platform ecosystems, geopolitical platform ecosystems, and the global platform ecosystem. Studying infrastructural platform services, such as app stores, offers relevant insight into how globally operating platforms are able to set, steer, and bend rules and norms that impact individual actors on the local and national level. In the case of app stores, the paper shows that platform power is not casual or discursive, but highly strategic, uniform, and centralized. By interrogating the operationalization of platform power at the platform service level, the paper demonstrates that platform power is not a property of one platform itself, but a corollary of a platform’s function in the context of other platforms and actors in a dynamic ecosystem.