While our romantic encounters used to take place casually in public places, our mobile apps now allow us to manage our encounters from a distance and throughout the day. The pace of our romantic meetings has changed; the importance of bars and cafes has declined while our daily routes have taken on a new significance because of geolocation based matchmaking.
The project Sex, Love and Geolocation aims at exploring the synergies between Tinder’s design, the mobilities brought about by the app, and the types of encounters and urban sociability it gives rise to.
Christian Licoppe is a professor of sociology of information and communication technology at Télécom ParisTech. For the past several years, he has been conducting research on the relationship between mobility, communication and sociability in urban areas. He has also developed an ethnographic, workplace studies-type approach, based in particular on the analysis of video data. It is in this framework that he is studying the development of forms of remote participation in the relationship between organizations and their various audiences.
Laurent Camus is a social scientist, a postdoctoral researcher at Télécom ParisTech (SES) and an associate member of the CEMS (IMM, EHESS). His research focuses on new forms of sociability on location-based dating apps. He recently presented a thesis on the media coverage of live sports events (Télécom ParisTech – EHESS), using a video-ethnography approach to studying audiovisual productions.
Ethnologist and sociologist
Julien Morel is a senior lecturer at Télécom Paristech where he teaches analysis of interactions and activities in technologized environments. He is pursuing research on the natural organisation (ethnomethodology, conversation analysis, ethnography) of interactions in situations of co-presence and remote communication (PC/mobile): videocommunication, geolocation apps, instant messaging, games, etc. He is also invested in the development of innovative video recording methods and the improvement of transcription and visualization techniques.
Geolocation mobile apps have been the subject of ongoing interest for the past decade, in the field of games (Mogi, Ingress,…), social media (Facebook Place, Google Latitude, Foursquare,…) and location-sensitive recommendations (Yelp,…). But it is in the dating world that they have been the most successful; first with the Grindr app and, more recently, with Tinder, a location-based dating app of rapidly growing popularity among 16-to-35-year-olds. This research focuses on this particularly popular app. While based on the same operating principle as its predecessor Grindr, Tinder integrates a variety of uses, from brief sexual encounters to the search for true love.
The project Sex, Love and Geolocation, led by Christian Licoppe, Julien Morel and Laurent Camus, aims at exploring the synergies between Tinder’s design, the mobilities brought about by the app, and the types of encounters and urban sociability it gives rise to.
While our romantic encounters used to take place casually in public places, our mobile apps now allow us to manage our encounters from a distance and throughout the day. This changes the meaning we give to romantic encounters, the moments they take place, as well as the places where we physically meet and the role played by public spaces (cafes, bars, clubs, museums…).
This raises the question of co-presence. Geolocation-based apps allow users to choose beforehand the people they wish to meet in person in order to avoid unnecessary encounters. But does this necessarily reduce the number of people they meet every day, whether romantically or not? How do virtual encounters redefine our need for physical meetings?
Furthermore, the apps’ matchmaking functionalities favour geographical proximity. The researchers suggest that, just as for other geolocation-based apps, these functionalities might drive users to change their daily routes, in order to take advantage of the potential matches that daily commuting may offer.
But, however game changing these enhanced mobilities may be, are they equally as effective regardless of the distances covered to reach daily activities? Are the apps used in the same way in a big city like Paris and in smaller towns, where the people encountered are not as anonymous?
The project is an 18 month study launched early 2016. The study is based on the original methods that the research team has been developing for several years. Two waves of semi-directive interviews (in two cities that have not been chosen yet) are combined with video recordings of the users’ activities over several days. This enables researchers to have access to chat activity, to observe first-hand the various uses and to understand the possible similarities or differences compared to the uses of other apps. The recordings include ambient noise, as well as additional contextual information useful in describing complex uses.
All these data provide information on relational biographies, participants’ habits and changes in their use of mobile and non-mobile dating apps, as well as their perception of these apps.
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