For our final project, we have chosen to investigate dating websites, and to analyze what dating site users look for in the opposite sex. We will set up fake profiles, creating women of various beauty standards, races, and body types. We will examine the data voluntarily provided by online contacts, and we will draw conclusions based on what is found.
We believe that this type of data is important to helping women and men understand what happens in the strange world of online dating, and interpersonal communication in general. Our research will delve into the connection between technology and our personal lives, and how we can use data to make unrelated tasks such as dating more efficient.
Our world is determined by the first impression, but it is shaped by our deeper personalities. We aim to find how a photograph and few lines of text can draw in a user, while a slightly different bit of information is met with disinterest. What can we find by looking into the methods used by users in finding their desired match? We will look into the data we find and examine trends that the users follow.
Keywords and Distant Reading:
1: Sex: While this may be seen on the surface as the driving force behind a user seeking a partner, is it the only factor? What kind of companionship is a user seeking when they look online for a connection?
2: Attraction: This is a number of traits rolled into a general feeling, from appearance, to familiarity, to compatibility. What pulls a user towards one particular user versus another?
3: Race: We will examine the differences between not only white profiles and black profiles, but also create a profile that features a black woman who falls into the Eurocentric beauty standards, ie straight hair, fair skin, and compare it to a more “traditionally black” woman, short curly hair, stronger features and so on.
4: Beauty: What standards of beauty will users find attractive? Will the traditional eurocentric standards attract every man, or will some prefer other types? When we say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, we must consider what shapes the viewer’s perception of others.
5: Desirability: Desirability is different from attraction in that it relates more to the feelings projected on others. What traits can pull other users in?
What is a man looking for when he goes on a dating site? What draws him to one profile over another? Does he prefer familiarity, or new experiences? What does a woman want from a man? Is she constrained by society’s expectations and limitations? We want to examine how people interact, what they expect of each other. We hope that the conclusions from this project will help to understand interpersonal interactions when dealing with others online.
Another question will be the broader impact of putting our personal lives on the web. When we become a data point ourselves, how can we be affected by the world we are connected to? We need to use data to improve our lives, but our lives become someone else’s data. If everyone uses the optimal methods to complete any tasks, then that becomes the standard and we seek new ways to optimize our lives.
We hope to determine the trends that arise from the clashing of our base desires and our best technologies. The psychological effect that every detail has on the user is a factor in their decisions, and we can determine the outcome based on these results.
Research Protocols and Data Gathering:
Our data gathering will mainly be personal and survey type. We will set up the profiles, respond to a number of messages, and gather keywords from the conversation. The base level of our research will simply be the number of messages that each profile receives. Since the unofficial customs of online dating have men contacting as many women as they are interested in, they will serve as their own data points. For female data, we will be messaging a number of profiles chosen at random and gathering data from the responses. Unsolicited messages from women will be given a special data weight.
We will have a set of questions that we will be asking, and following a script in our responses to keep the data pure. Some sample questions that we will utilize, such as, “Be honest, do you like this hair?” will hopefully yield the data that we are searching for. We can gauge responses based on past responses, and determine the interest in a profile based off of keywords and the data.
We predict that the traditional eurocentric standards of beauty will attract more Pullman men, the majority of which will be white Washington state residents. However, women will be attracted to a variety of different people. We believe that attraction is based off of experiences and familiarity, and that the overwhelming result will be exactly what we would expect.
We hope to gain new insight into the way that everyone communicates and analyzes each other, not just in the dating world, but in the workplace, at home, at every place we socialize. The way that we react when we see another person can often tell us more about ourselves than that person. When we can understand how the world sees us, we can see the world in a new light.
Bibliography of Relevant Texts:
Doctorow, Cory. Homeland. New York: Tor Teen, 2013. Print.
This text is relevant to our project because it deals with the link between technology and our personal lives. In the book, Doctorow discusses many aspects of personal relationships, including love, attraction, and desirability. He focuses heavily on how technology has become engrained into every action and emotion that dictates our lives.
Essig, Todd, PhD. “From Screen to Fantasy and Back: What People Really Do at Online Dating Sites.” Psychology Today. N.p., 3 Nov. 2010. Web. 3 Oct. 2016.
This article deals with the realities of online dating and managing our expectations. Essig uses several approaches in examining how a user is drawn towards another user. He writes with how dating sites use our psychology to engage us in a way that forms a mild addiction.
McLuhan, Marshall. The Medium is the Message. New York: Random House, 1967. Print.
This is a text from my other DTC class that I’m currently taking. It deals with the art of communication, from print to media. It is relevant to this project because the information that a user receives is presented as a web site, they are basing decisions off of a few photos and lines of text. We plan to delve into the aspects of how the design of the website and information presentation can affect decision making.
Rudder, Christian. Dataclysm: Love, Sex, Race, and Identity- What Our Online Lives Tell Us about Our Offline Selves. New York: Broadway, 2015. Print.
Rudder writes about large scale and small scale social research through data harvesting. He speaks of race, sex, and interests in a way that relates them from the online world into the real world. This is very relevant to our project because it is essentially the type of data that we are looking for. We are hoping to gather a large enough sample size to eliminate too much bias.
Webb, Amy. Data, a Love Story: How I Cracked the Online Dating Code to Meet My Match. New York: Plume, 2014. Print.
Webb has investigated much of the same material as we are researching, however with a more personal interest. She has several analyses on the way that dating sites are used by the users, and they are useful in determining methods for data gathering.
Weinberger, David. Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room. New York: Basic, 2011. Print.
Weinberger talks about gathering data from a large pool of sources, which is exactly what we plan to do. He infers that the best method of answering a question is to make sure that your data pool is large enough to cover a good amount of the population. We will make this relevant by surveying enough users to get an accurate data pool.