Over the past several weeks, I’ve been interviewed twice about location-based dating apps. These are mobile applications that connect people with others in their geographic proximity, often in real-time. Popular examples include Tinder, Grindr (and its counterpart, Blendr), and SinglesAroundMe. The apps are largely photo based, and offer an opportunity for serendipitous meet-ups, in which users can potentially find love, sex, or general companionship.
The fact that I was invited to take part in these interviews is a bit odd, since none of my own empirical research pertains specifically to dating or dating technologies. I did, however, write a post for Cyborgology about race and online dating sites, which got some attention, and I do (obviously) maintain research interests and projects in new technologies more generally. So anyhow, I agreed to fumble my way through these two interviews, offering the interviewers caveats about my knowledge gaps. In the end, I’m glad that I did, as their questions—much of which overlapped—pushed me to think about what these applications afford, and how they intersect with the realities and politics of love, sex, and gender relations. (more…)
Confession: I watched the Apple event yesterday, and I’ve watched at least part of every product announcement for the last several years. Apple announcements are the opposite of a guilty pleasure; they are a burden that I take on with pride. They are insipid and represent everything that is wrong with Silicon Valley and yet I feel obliged to watch them because they let me stare deeply into this heaving morass of Cronenbergian lust for technology. It always feels like we’re one year away from Phil Schiller offing himself with an iGun after screaming “LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH!” When I watch Silicon Valley spread out on the Moscone Center stage I feel prideful (to a fault perhaps) that these events just seem so… transparent. They’re so easy to read and so easy to critique they amount to social science target practice. (more…)
From an augmented perspective, technologies both reflect and affect social structures and hierarchical relations. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that theorists of science and technology have long recognized how technologies are gendered. This goes beyond probing technologies of female reproduction, or masculine tools of object manipulation. This pervades even those seemingly gender neutral technological objects, and the ways in which we talk about, use, and make sense of them.
Awhile back, I talked about the gendering of Siri. I argued that the female voice, coupled with her designation as a “personal assistant” created an environment ripe for highly sexist/sexualized personification of the iphone application, and iphones themselves. Far from Haraway’s utopic de-categorization, this melding of mechanical and organic solidified gendered meanings and strengthened interactional gender inequalities.
With this understanding, I still couldn’t contain my exasperated eye-roll when, after hooking up television in my home for the first time in almost a decade, I saw this (video after the jump): (more…)
The Today Show recently did a special on sexting, and NBC reporter Abigail Pesta wrote a piece about it, with a video link, here. Much of the piece is based around the expert opinion of Catherine Steiner-Adair, a psychologist who wrote a book on the topic based on interviews and observations with teenage students in the U.S.
In what follows, I leverage a rather harsh critique of the piece and the research that it cites. I do so because I think they show promise, but go wrong in very important ways. This critique is meant not as a fight, but as a push to researchers, policy makers, and general citizens to check their assumptions about the relationship between bodies, behaviors, and technologies. And moreover, it is an imploration to address root level issues, rather than seeking out blamable objects with naive hopes of eradicating social problems through destruction of material stuff. (more…)
Image credit: EliniGibbs on deviantART
Once upon a time, when I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 or 12 years old, it was my job to go with my mom to the laundromat to help do my family’s laundry. I wasn’t a huge fan of this—the nearest laundromat was kind of sketchy, to this day I remain mediocre at folding t-shirts, and there’s just something a little uncomfortable about having to fold your parents’ and brother’s underwear—but there was one thing I really liked about those trips, and that was the 20 minute lull in between when the last load went into a washer and the first load demanded sorting and partial transfer to a dryer. During that downtime, my mom would read her book, and I was free to do whatever I wanted. Invariably, I sat at a little folding station and, sheltered from view by washing machines on three sides, pretended to do my homework while reading from the laundromat’s stack of “trashy” magazines.
With rapt attention and furtive glances over my shoulder, I read ALL the sex tips (in Cosmo and in other such fine publications). I studiously absorbed articles that subtly (and not-so-subtly) encouraged me to feel insecure about body parts and features that I didn’t even have yet. I was also a huge fan of Ladies’ Home Journal’s “Can This Marriage Be Saved,” even though I was already developing opinions that sometimes clashed with those of whoever was doling out advice to unhappy wives.
Somewhere in all that secretive studying was when I first read about (what I think of as) The Marble Thing. (more…)
The Cyborg project, as articulated by Haraway, is at its core, a utopic project. It is the melding of mechanical and organic, digital and physical, human, machine, and animal in such a way that categorizations cease to hold meaning, and in turn, cyborg bodies break through repressive boundaries.
And yet here we are, at the pinnacle of a cyborg era, inundated with high tech, engaged simultaneously in digital and physical spaces, maintaining relationships with organic and mechanical beings, constituted with and through language, medicines—and increasingly—machines, and we STILL have to deal with bullshit like this (click below to view):
So far, I have been a silent observer of the Dualism debates unraveling over the past few weeks both here on Cyborgology and around The Web (as well as in conference lobbies, coffee shops, and university hallways). Super brief recap: Nicholas Carr is cheezed off at Cyborgologists for their insistence on critiquing digital dualism and digital dualists, and argues that supposedly “dualist” experiences should be taken more seriously. Alternately, Tyler Bickford is peeved that the critique of digital dualism is not taken far enough, and that the Augmented Perspective assumes, incorrectly, that there is some base reality from which to augment. Cyborgologists have worked furiously to address these points, arguing about the role of bodies and emotion, correcting misleading characterizations, clarifying linguistic ambiguities, reintroducing the “Other” theorists, and pushing the theoretical program forward.
People, I am certain, use Snapchat in myriad ways and for all kinds of reasons. Surely, people use the disappearing-message app to document juicy gossip, send goofy but not save-worthy photos, cheat on an exam, share an inside joke, engage in insider trading, or co-view a sunset in the fleeting moment in which the red-purple sky loses its light. I especially like Nathan Jurgenson’s deeply theoretical and thought provoking analysis of Snapchat in terms of image scarcity and abundance. And yet, when I think about Snapchat, my mind always goes to the same, possibly immaturity-induced, place: sexting.
Sexting, made particularly famous by such figures as Tiger Woods, and Anthony—I can’t believe this is your real name—Weiner, is the act of sending illicit images of oneself and/or erotic messages via SMS. Humans are sexual, and have long engaged the technologies of the time in their erotic practices (if you don’t believe me, read James Joyce’s pen-and-paper love letters to his wife).Despite moral panics surrounding sexting (especially among *gasp* teenagers) the problem with this phenomena has less to do with erotic communication, and more to do with the medium of erotic communication coupled with the affordances and dynamics of networked publics. Snapchat is a technological solution to the problem, but one with unique—possibly problematic in a different way—implications of its own. (more…)
R.U.X. (Rockwell Universal Sexbots), written by Maurice Martin and directed by Sun King Davis, was first written and performed as a charity effort to raise money for HIPS (Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive); it ran as a five-part serial in Arlington’s October 2011 Hope Operas. It was rewritten as a full play for DC’s 2012 Fringe Festival, where it took the award for best comedy. The show just finished up a brief encore at Fall Fringe. While this comedy has already been widely and positively reviewed by DC theater critics, it deserves a piece that engages its rather weighty themes.
The story takes place in near-future America (similar in setting to the spate of early twenty aughts robot films such as Bicentennial Man, A.I., and I, Robot), where anthropomorphic robots have become a common consumer product. Louis Rockwell Jr. (John Tweel) has just been made acting CEO of the Rockwell Universal Carebots company, after his father (Frank Mancino) fell into a coma. Louis Jr. has a new vision that would transition the company away from producing robots designed for childcare and, instead, move it into designing robots for—you guessed it—sex. After rebranding the company “Rockwell Universal Sexbots,” he hires Dr. Callie Veru (Aubri O’Connor), a young and romantically inexperienced software expert to program the robots with the capacity to fulfill human desire. To program robots to respond to human desire, however, the characters must first understand it, and this interrogation of human desire becomes the axis on which the entire plot rotates. (more…)
This is part of a series of posts highlighting the Theorizing the Web conference, April 14th, 2012 at the University of Maryland (inside the D.C. beltway). It was originally posted on 4.11.12 and was updated to include video on 6.5.12. See the conference website for additional information.
I am very happy to have the opportunity to preside over the panel on technologies of identity. Internet is intimately related to people’s identities; a point that is almost self-evident. People express, reinforce and even sometimes construct new identities via the Internet. But how exactly does this happen? through what mechanisms? How, for example, do people who date online maintain or challenge their identities concerning their sexual preference, class, race, etc. in ways similarly and differently than those who date exclusively offline? Or, how do second-generation immigrants take advantage of the Internet to reshape society’s perceptions of them? How, for instance, do people’s conception of consumption change when faced with the new possibility of shopping online? How does our desire for power and pleasure manifest itself through online social networks? …the questions are endless…
Internet meet identity are both fascinating topics: we expect expect analyses that are both interesting and insightful. And that is the promise our presenters try to fulfill with their intriguing papers.
*Note: Due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict, Nicholas Boston will not be able to attend the conference.
[Paper titles and abstracts after the jump.]