Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
Dating Apps
Friday, 04/Nov/2022:
3:30pm - 5:00pm

Session Chair: Ben Light
Location: EQ-203

65 seat horseshoe

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A Match Made in Heaven: Queer Christians & Dating Apps

W.E. King

University of Washington, United States of America

Dating apps pose particular challenges for queer Christians, reproducing oppressions and experiences of dispossession in the context of seeking intimate relationships. Queer Christians using dating apps complicates an already sensitive combination of social and cultural commitments, values, and beliefs. Dating apps position themselves in the dating market in a variety of ways, however all function to help people meet other people for dates. Some apps are known for facilitating hookups or catering to queer populations, others are used more broadly and aim to facilitate long-term relationships. Dating apps, along with other social media sites, independently create and control the categories users interact with. On dating apps, users expect the app interface to enable them to represent their unique identities. However, dating apps are often designed with dominant populations in mind and end up excluding those who do not fit the model of their ideal user. Ultimately, my analysis reveals how queer Christians know and express gender and religious identities on dating apps but dating apps do not allow for this complexity to be easily visible or searchable. Queer Christians wrestle with dominant narratives, deviate from social scripts, and resist condemnation to a life without hope for loving partnerships. Dating apps offer fine-grained means of seeking and finding a match made in heaven while simultaneously constructing a hellhole of exclusionary, discriminatory, and oppressive binary categories. Still, queer Christians depend on dating apps, both to do queer identity work and to help them seek and find their match made in heaven.

Imagining algorithms to believe in: comparing OkCupid and Tinder users’ perceptions of algorithms to uncover alternatives to algorithmic exploitation on dating apps

gregory narr

Harvard, United States of America

Exploitative algorithms used by touchscreen phone apps are well known. Yet people continue to use these apps because alternatives are hard to imagine. This paper explores this imaginative closure for mainstream online daters, who have adopted phone apps to find dates over the 2010s. It does this by comparing how OkCupid and Tinder users perceived their respective algorithms through an analysis of subreddits and 48 interviews. This analysis uncovered algorithmic affordances OkCupid users valued prior to the widespread uptake of dating apps. As these affordances are well-suited for social connections, I argue they could inform more compelling alternatives to algorithmic exploitation than the many calls for more privacy being advocated today. Imagining better algorithms within particular media contexts is important if critical algorithm scholars wish to motivate users to seek alternatives to exploitative platforms. And this motivation is a precondition for incentivizing platforms to design algorithms users can believe in.

‘What are you looking for?’: Sexual Imaginaries and Affordances on Grindr and Scruff

Christopher Jahmail Persaud1, Calvin Alan Liang2

1University of Southern California, United States of America; 2University of Washington, United States of America

For queer men, sexual imaginaries have come to accomodate hybrid physical and digital location-based cultures (Miles, 2017). In short, what is possible in terms of intimate connections with other queer men has opened up in exciting, sometimes scary, and radical ways. However, this expanded imaginary of what is possible can also lead to an existential questioning of what an individual person wants—simply and nothing more than sex, a fleeting summer fling, a new group of friends, to fall in love? More? Less? A combination of all of these things at different moments in time? In the face of such uncertainty, we argue that queer men develop a range of practices as they negotiate their shifting relationships to sex and romance as mediated through virtual intimacies (McGlotten, 2013).

In this study, we explore how queer men learn about, interpret, and reproduce sexual and romantic norms on two dating and hookup platforms, Grindr and Scruff. Our approach builds on Sharif Mowlabowcus’s (2016, pg. 60) notion of cybercarnality concerning the “erotic economy of gay male corporeality” and Pym et al. (2021, pg. 399) study of queer community “imagined as an affective sense of shared ethics” on intimate platforms. Drawing on our digital ethnographic and speculative design data, we develop the concept of multivalent intimate interests to capture the ambivalent socio-cultural context and situated nature of queer men’s sexual and romantic practices.

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