A Dating App Autoethnography: Presenting Myself as a Researcher and User

888c835d4039f0da035f887c35abe14fThe Qualitative Report published my article “A Dating App Autoethnography: Presenting Myself as a Researcher and User”. The full article is available online, and the abstract is below.

Matchmaking mobile applications, or dating apps, have become hugely popular in recent years, with millions worldwide swiping through potential romantic partners. The literature on technologically mediated dating has explored how people manage impressions but has rarely taken an autoethnographic perspective: How does the author, both a researcher of dating apps and a user herself, experience self-presentation? In this paper, I first introduce a theoretical focus on impression management on dating apps. Next, I explain the choice of autoethnography as a method. Drawing from various source materials like personal journaling and chats with matches, I present two autoethnographic pieces: one focusing on my self-presentation as a dating app researcher, and the other on my own dating app use. I follow these by analyzing my motivations and impression construction in the dating app environment, keeping in mind theoretical insights. I conclude with a discussion into the challenges of an autoethnographic approach to impression management.

Is There Something Missing? Self-Presentation Practices on Tinder

Today I presented my ongoing research on self-presentation practices of Tinder users in the Netherlands. The conference was the 12th ICA Mobile Pre-Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Slides are available here and an abstract is below:

The desire to connect with other people for romantic or intimate purposes is an age-old activity. Mobile dating applications have exploded in popularity in recent years. As these applications become mainstream, so does the urgency to re-explore the issue of virtual self-presentation: how men and women present themselves to potential partners.

The matchmaking mobile app Tinder has 50 million global users and 1.5 million users in the Netherlands. The research question asks, what are the self-presentation practices of Tinder users? This paper presents the results of 21 semi-structured interviews with Tinder users in the Netherlands.

Analysis revealed two types of users in terms of impression motivation: the indifferent and the ambitious. For all interviewees, impression construction was a carefully chosen process complete with various “props.” Interviewees used photos and texts to illustrate attractiveness, personality and interests, but also their social class and education level. Especially noteworthy was the mirroring of self-presentation with one’s potential matches, as users overwhelmingly reported searching for people “like them.” This research provides both empirical and theoretical contributions into user experiences and perceptions within a still under-researched area.

Zwarte Piet and Facebook

Last week I presented a paper at the North American Conference on Media, Film & Cultural Studies. The conference was held in Providence, Rhode Island and hosted by IAFOR. The research I presented looked at two popular Facebook pages related to the Zwarte Piet debate in the Netherlands. The abstract is below, and the slides are available on SlideShare.

Zwarte Piet, literally translated as Black Pete, has created growing controversy for its racist undertones in the Dutch celebration of Sinterklaas. This paper looks at how Facebook users engage with the debate by quantitatively examining two Facebook pages: “Zwarte Piet is Racisme” (Black Piet is Racism, or ZPIR) and the pro-Zwarte Piet page called “Pietitie.” Analysis shows that ZPIR is a page oriented towards longer-term engagement. User engagement on ZPIR is also more intensive compared to Pietitie, which is very much an incident-based page. We argue that in this case, interpersonal discussion is more developed on a page designed to protest an issue, which may promote both civic participation and political activity of its users.

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How it all began

Den Haag, Grote Markt, a warm Wednesday evening. I’m having drinks with a friend and we’re discussing online dating. Why do we do it? What are we looking for? Do people really want what they say they want on their profiles? Isn’t it all about the photos, anyway? As the beer flowed an idea emerged: I wanted to find out how and why people use online dating apps.

No time like the present, right? So we hopped out of our chairs and started questioning strangers. We quickly realized asking people “Are you on a dating app?” was an offensive question. So, we switched to “Do you know anyone who uses a dating app?” and our research began.

Step one: recruiting Tinder users for interviews about their experiences with the app. Stay tuned for developments.

Reaching citizens online

I published a piece called “Reaching citizens online” on the Weber Shandwick Digital Public Affairs blog.

Many political organizations, politicians and interest groups are anxious to learn how to best reach citizens online. I have researched how youth organizations (based in the United Kingdom) do so, both on their websites and then later on social media. It’s been interesting to gain insight into choices about web presence while keeping in mind how these organizations think about young people as citizens.

I looked at two types of organizations: both those connected to government, and those focused on single issues like the environment or animal rights. Whatever the focus, I found that all organizations subscribed to a similar web strategy. The overarching goal of web content was a wish to create engaged citizens. This was accomplished in two ways: First, web content was used to provide information to young visitors. Second, organizations pursued an “inform then involve” approach to get youth engaged and participating.

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