I am a PhD candidate at University of Illinois at Chicago. I study the relationship between sexualities and digital media in the U.S. using a queer feminist epistemology, paying particular attention to intersections of gender, race and sexual identity. My work lies at the convergences of sexualities studies and science and technology studies, contributing to fields such as LGBT studies, queer theory, critical heterosexuality studies and media studies. My teaching experience includes specialized courses in sexualities as well as general and introductory courses and research methods.
In my dissertation I intervene in academic and popular debates about changing sexual and gender norms and the cultural effects of new technology. My dissertation uses the case of smartphone dating applications known colloquially as “hookup apps” to analyze how technology mediates sexual identities, practices, bodies and affects. The multi-method study combines 41 interviews with app users recruited through Facebook, analysis of news media coverage, and discourse analysis of popular cultural productions such as movies and widely circulated YouTube videos. I compare Grindr, marketed for men seeking men, and the primarily heterosexual app Tinder, which is also popular with lesbian, bisexual and queer women, and transgender app users. Users of these apps now number in the tens of millions and have received increasing attention in mainstream discourse. My dissertation is funded by the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality and the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Contrary to much popular and academic discourse, I argue that these apps are not making people overly rational, shallow and superficial, nor wildly promiscuous. I argue that social norms around dating and sex are changing, but the reasons for this have far more to do with changing forms of intimacy in late capitalism than with the mediation of mobile internet technology. I challenge deterministic accounts of the effects of new technology on social life by showing how the quite different features of the apps Grindr and Tinder rely on pre-existing sexual scripts for gay men and heterosexuals. The subversion of the gender and sexual binaries, built into the design of Tinder, by women looking for women and by transgender and gender non-conforming users reveals the queer potential of normative technologies and the subtle and not-so-subtle means of visually and textually conveying sexual identities and desires on a social media platform.