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Right swiping on Tinderellas: Exploring a mobile dating app’s regulation of identity performances

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Right swiping on Tinderellas: Exploring a mobile dating app’s regulation of identity performances

  1. 1. Stefanie Duguay, PhD Candidate Queensland University of Technology stefanie.duguay@qut.edu.au @DugStef Paper presentation for Controlling Sexuality and Reproduction University of Lethbridge August 12-14, 2015 Right swiping on Tinderellas Exploring a mobile dating app’s regulation of identity performances
  2. 2. Introducing Tinder https://vimeo.com/tinderapp/itstartshere
  3. 3. • Online dating users most concerned about misrepresentation and safety (Gibbs et al. 2011; Anderson, 2005) • Dating apps intensify intimacy through proximity and immediacy (Blackwell et al. 2014; Hjorth, 2013) • Through its design and promotional materials, Tinder frames this as the need for users to claim authenticity
  4. 4. Theoretical Toolkits - Giddens • “The authentic person is one who knows herself and is able to reveal that knowledge to the other, both discursively and in the behavioral sphere” (Giddens, 1991, p. 187) • The self as reflexive – constantly under revision but smoothed into a cohesive narrative to provide “ontological security” (p. 36) • Intimacy - mutual disclosure of cohesive biographical narratives Image from Estoril Conferences
  5. 5. Theoretical toolkits - Callon • Actor network theory and objects as mediators (Latour, 2005) • Sociology of translation (Callon, 1986): • Problematization - identifies and defines the actors involved; • Interessement - invoking interest from actors and stabilizing their identity; • Enrolment - when actors accept their role in the situation; and, • Mobilization - when actors perpetuate this framing of the problem and its solution to others. Image courtesy of iTunes
  6. 6. The Walkthrough Method • Interdisciplinary + ANT (Latour, 2005; Callon, 1998) • Interrogates app: • Technology • Content • Users • Ownership & governance • Business models (van Dijck, 2013) (Burgess, Light, & Duguay, 2015; Duguay, Burgess, Light, 2014)
  7. 7. Problematization • Problem: Concerns over misrepresentation & safety • Solution: Meet REAL people. • ‘We use Facebook to make sure you are matched with real people who share similar interests and common friends.’ (Tinder FAQ, 2014)
  8. 8. • Facebook and the real name web • Real names as symbolic tokens (Giddens, 1991) • “The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life” (Facebook CPO Chris Cox, 2014) • “Creates a safer environment” and holds individuals accountable
  9. 9. Interessement • Tinder users depicted as authentic • Following day-to-day regimes as “learned practices that entail tight control over organic needs” (Giddens, 1991, p. 62) • Giving rise to lifestyles that “give material form to a particular narrative of self-identity” (p. 81) • Authenticity as displays of self-mastery, conditioning regimes to fit into lifestyles in the narrative of the self Image from Tinder
  10. 10. • Tinder’s marketing promotes normative regimes and lifestyles
  11. 11. Enrolment • “We always saw Tinder, the interface, as a game” (Sean Rad, Tinder co-founder in Stampler, 2014) • Routine is fundamental to ontological security, providing coherence to day-to-day life and giving rise to rituals through which individuals rationalize their activities (Giddens, 1991) • Users become enrolled in Tinder through its game-like design, which integrates the app into their everyday lives Image courtesy of iTunes
  12. 12. • User must conform to the rules of the game
  13. 13. Mobilization • Multiple actors perpetuate Tinder’s problematization of dating as the need for authenticity and its solution in Facebook and appeals to normativity. Image courtesy of College Humor
  14. 14. • Expert systems – authoritative sources of technical knowledge that garner trust from individuals (Giddens, 1991) • Reinforces Tinder’s framing (celebrities as archetypes of normativity) and elaborates on it (media panics can shape user behavior) From HilaryDuffVEVO From The Telegraph
  15. 15. Overflowing • Some users are resisting Tinder’s framing, showing that: • Facebook is not enough to prevent ‘unsafe’ or dehumanizing behavior Video: Tender – It’s how people meat
  16. 16. • Other social media can be used to criticize the app’s normativity
  17. 17. Conclusion • For individuals who do not meet normative standards or who do not have Facebook-friendly identities, Tinder’s framing may affect their well being, safety, expression of sexuality and ability to find relationships. • Current findings limited to app analysis and related materials • Future research: Interviews and analysis of user practices
  18. 18. References Anderson TL (2005) Relationships among Internet attitudes, Internet use, romantic beliefs, and perceptions of online romantic relationships. Cyberpsychology & Behaviour 8(6): 521–531. Blackwell C, Birnholtz J and Abbott C (2014) Seeing and being seen: Co-situation and impression formation using Grindr, a location-aware gay dating app. New Media & Society 00: 1-20 (accessed 26 May 2014). Burgess J, Light B and Duguay S (2015) Studying HookUp apps: A comparative platform analysis of Tinder, Mixxxer, Squirt, and Dattch. ICA 65th Annual Conference: Communication Across the Life Span, 21-25 May, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Callon M (1986) Some elements of a sociology of translation: Domestication of the scallops and the fishermen of St. Brieuc Bay. In: Law J (ed) Power, action and belief. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 196–233. Callon M (1998) Actor-Network Theory - The market test. In: Law J and Hassard J (eds) Actor network theory and after. Oxford: Blackwell, 181–195. Duguay S, Burgess J and Light B (2014) Dating and hooking up with mobile media: A comparative study of Tinder, Mixxxer, Squirt and Dattch. Digcult14: Making digital cultures of gender and sexuality with social media, 28 October, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.
  19. 19. References continued Gibbs JL, Ellison NB and Lai C-H (2011) First comes love, then comes Google: An investigation of uncertainty reduction strategies and self-disclosure in online dating. Communication Research 38(1): 70–100. Giddens A (1991) Modernity and self-identity: Self and society in the late modern age. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. Hjorth L (2013) The place of the emplaced mobile: A case study into gendered locative media practices. Mobile Media & Communication 1(1): 110–115. Latour B (2005) Reassembling the social: An introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Stampler L (2014) Inside Tinder: Meet the guys who turned dating into an addiction. Time. Available at: http://time.com/4837/tinder-meet-the-guys-who-turned-dating- into-an-addiction/ (accessed 1 September 2014). Van Dijck J (2013) The culture of connectivity: A critical history of social media. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Images on slides 3 & 17 are screenshots from #ItStartsHere
  20. 20. Questions? “I joined Tinder as a dog” – Joe Veix, 2014 Stefanie Duguay, PhD Candidate Digital Media Research Centre Creative Industries Faculty Queensland University of Technology stefanie.duguay@qut.edu.au stefanieduguay.com @DugStef

Notizen

  • Entry point
    Online dating studies show that users are most concerned about misrepresentation and safety (Gibbs et al. 2011; Anderson, 2005)
    Intensified by a location-based real time dating app (proximity and temporality) (Blackwell et al. 2014; Hjorth, 2013)
    Through its design and promotional materials, Tinder frames this as the need for users to claim authenticity (and does so in a way that shapes how users present their identity and sexuality)
  • Theoretical toolkits – Giddens
    “The authentic person is one who knows herself and is able to reveal that knowledge to the other, both discursively and in the behavioral sphere” (Giddens, 1991, p. 187)
    The self as reflexive – constantly under revision but smoothed into a cohesive narrative to provide “ontological security” (p. 36) as trust in the coherence of everyday life
    Therefore authenticity is also constructed and communicated through constant smoothing over in revealing one’s biography
    Intimacy as mutual disclosure of cohesive biographical narratives
  • Theoretical toolkits – Callon
    Actor network theory – relations among multiple actors, including human and non-human, with some actors as mediators that shape meaning (Latour, 2005). Interested in mediators of authenticity.
    Sociology of translation (Callon, 1986): - attempts to piece apart the ways that actors become configured in particular sets of relations.
    Problematization: The definition of a problem that identifies and defines the actors involved;
    Interessement: Ways of invoking interest from actors and stabilizing their identity as defined by the problem;
    Enrolment: When actors accept their role in the situation, agreeing on a specific representation of the problem and its solution; and,
    Mobilization: When actors perpetuate this framing of the problem and its solution to others.
    Through the sociology of translation, a situation or a set of relations among actors becomes translated, or framed, in a particular way
  • The walkthrough method – discussed at conferences – Jean at ICA, Ben and I at conferences in Brisbane; working on a paper. A novel digital research method. A way of investigating platforms and apps that combines Science and Tech Studies approaches with cultural studies and social science approaches.

    From an interdisciplinary perspective, it combines practices from the digital humanities, such as close reading of software as texts (Frabetti, 2012), the social sciences, including identification of discourses built into platform architecture (Papacharissi, 2009), and software studies, uncovering the technicity through which users and technical systems influence each other (Bucher, 2012; Crogan and Kennedy, 2008). Operating from an overarching Actor Network Theory (ANT) approach, this method takes into account the role of both human and non-human actors in networks of relations (Callon, 1998; Latour, 2005). It analyses what Van Dijck (2013) identifies as techno-cultural constructs - technology, content, and users - as well as socioeconomic structures of ownership, governance, and business models.
    However, interrogating the technology is a key method of analysis, done through what we call the technical walkthrough.
  • Problematization
    ‘We use Facebook to make sure you are matched with real people who share similar interests and common friends.’ (Tinder FAQ, 2014)
    Real names as symbolic tokens (Giddens, 1991) of identity, used to reference one’s self across multiple contexts
    “The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life” (Facebook CPO Chris Cox, 2014) = consistent self-referencing
    “Creates a safer environment” and holds individuals accountable to presenting a unitary identity
  • Interessement
    Tinder users as authentic - from, ‘Like real life but better’ to ‘It’s how people meet’ and now ‘Any swipe can change your life.’
    Following day-to-day regimes as “learned practices that entail tight control over organic needs” (Giddens, 1991, p. 62)
    Giving rise to lifestyles as sets of practices that “give material form to a particular narrative of self-identity”
    Authenticity is built on displays of self-mastery, conditioning regimes to fit into lifestyles in the narrative of the self
  • Tinder’s marking promotes normative regimes and lifestyles
  • Enrolment
    “We always saw Tinder, the interface, as a game” (Sean Rad, Tinder co-founder in Stampler, 2014)

    The most game-like aspect of Tinder is the swiping motion – in rapid browsing mode, users base their judgment entirely on appearance and information drawn from FB. Similar to ‘hot or not’

    Routine is fundamental to ontological security, providing coherence to day-to-day life and giving rise to rituals through which individuals rationalize their activities (Giddens, 1991)
    Users become enrolled in Tinder through its game-like design, which integrates the app into their everyday lives
  • Tinder’s promotion of normative identities is built into the way it allows users to configure the game. The Discovery Preferences menu is a big part of of this. Age. Gender.
  • Mobilization
    Multiple actors perpetuate Tinder’s problematization of dating as the need for authenticity and its solution in an app that incorporates Facebook and appeals to normativity.
    Celebrities, news articles, social media, bloggers
    Expert systems (Giddens, 1991) – authoritative sources of technical knowledge that garner trust from individuals
    Reinforces Tinder’s framing (celebrities as archetypes of normativity) and elaborates on it (media panics that shape user behavior)
  • Overflowing
    Some users are resisting Tinder’s framing, showing that:
    Facebook is not enough to prevent ‘unsafe’ or dehumanizing behavior (Tender)
    The app favors normativity (Vine)
    Non-normative users can re-appropriate the app’s features for their purposes (Trans individuals)
  • The app favors normativity (Vine)
    Non-normative users can re-appropriate the app’s features for their purposes (Trans individuals)
  • Conclusion
    Apps function through a network effect – they require a critical mass of users
    For individuals who do not meet normative standards or who do not have Facebook-friendly identities, Tinder’s framing may affect their well being, safety, expression of sexuality and ability to find relationships.
    Limitations: Analysis of app and some related materials
    Future research: Talks to individuals, examine their practices
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