Eighth Brown Bag of the Semester – November 1, 2013

Jeremy Birnholtz, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, Northwestern University

Seeing and Being Seen: Co-Situation and Impression Formation in a Location-Aware Gay Dating App

ABSTRACT: While online spaces and communities once transcended and existed apart from geography, the ubiquity of location-aware mobile devices means that today’s online interactions are often deeply intertwined with offline places and relationships. Social systems such as online dating applications for meeting nearby others provide novel interaction opportunities, but can also complicate interaction by aggregating or “co-situating” diverse sets of individuals. Often this aggregation occurs across traditional spatial or community boundaries that serve as cues for self-presentation and impression formation. In this talk I will explore these issues through an interview study of Grindr users. Grindr is a location-aware real-time dating application for men who have sex with men. I will argue that co-situation: 1) affects how and whether individuals and their behavior are visible to others, 2) collapses or erases contextual cues about normative behavior, and 3) introduces tensions in users’ self presentation in terms of their identifiability and the cues their profile contains relative to their behavior.

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