Jean Burgess (@jeanburgess) is Professor of Digital Media and Director of the Digital Media Research Centre at Queensland University of Technology. Burgess’s work aims to improve the public understanding of digital media technologies and cultures. Her co-authored and co-edited books include YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture (Polity Press, 2009), Studying Mobile Media: Cultural Technologies, Mobile Communication, and the iPhone (Routledge, 2012), A Companion to New Media Dynamics (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), and Twitter and Society (Peter Lang, 2014); with two new books in preparation – the Handbook of Social Media (Sage) and Twitter: A Biography (New York University Press).
“Hookup apps’ vernacular data cultures”
Dating and hookup apps are animated by and generative of multiple, intersecting data cultures; these data cultures are entangled with multiple, intersecting cultures of gender and sexuality. The apps’ publishers routinely monetise and redeploy location-based, behavioural, and external social media data; and data analytics are at the heart of their broader commercial value proposition. But the same metrics that generate value in these data markets are also used by technically proficient users to modify and improve their own experience or ‘performance’ on dating and hookup sites, or to develop add-ons and ‘off-label’ applications of them extending far beyond the intent of the developers. In this paper, I discuss in detail a number of such examples; and the ways that vernacular data cultures articulate to particular cultures of gender and sexuality—as in, for example, the use of data science and hacks to manipulate and ‘game’ dating sites by ‘pickup artists’—understood as a particularly marked formation of geek masculinity, one with far more widespread manifestations in digital culture. The paper concludes with the implications and opportunities of vernacular data cultures for digital media research more broadly, including especially for the public understanding of digital media technologies.