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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

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