Past Event

Colloquium series- Apryl Williams

May 10, 2021
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
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Abstract: Online dating platforms seek to improve the offline dating experience by curating profiles for users based on information provided by individual profiles. However, the processes by which digital dating platforms’ algorithms decide who is shown to whom is based on several social indicators including gender, race, and attractiveness. Many of these indicators are enshrouded in bias on the programming end and explicit racism disguised as personal preference on the user end. Using data from a resume audit style experiment on a popular dating platform and 100 semi-structured interviews, I interrogate the illusion of choice provided by mobile dating applications. I hypothesize that the structure of dating platforms leads users to believe that they have access to the entire universe of users in a geographical range when, in fact, users are guided to make choices from a curated set of profiles. I find that women of doubly color suffer from this algorithmically curated process. They are particularly vulnerable to racialized interactions on digital dating platforms. They report higher frequency of fetishized interactions with other users while using mobile dating applications. I frame this fetishization as a dual consequence of sexual racism on the individual level and of exclusionary programming coded into dating platforms' algorithms. I explore the implications of lack of protections for non-normative and non-White daters on digital intimacy platforms and question the degree to which platforms are responsible for discriminatory and sometimes violent outcomes.