PhD Thesis

The Metrics of Online Dating.

A sociological study of the matching algorithms

 

With their algorithms, dating sites collect the navigation history and personal information to make the matching happen between two users, as appropriate as possible.

Metadata recovered from websites and mobile dating apps can be sociodemographic: age, gender, location. But mainly, they are subjective: nutritional habits, types of lecture, sexual preferences, personality traits, etc. The entire information is translated in values of measure through a process of objectivization. It allows to compare user’s attractiveness based on a calculation logic. The world of online dating is therefore known throughout quantifiable measures, that is metrics which could become conventions in society.

What are the social issues arising from an encounter operated by algorithms? And overall, what is the awareness of measuring subjectivities bringing out in social interactions? These are the central research concerns that this project intends to answer.

Guided by a pragmatic approach and Sciences and Technology Studies, this research seeks to understand the way in which online dating is being build up by and with algorithms using metrics. An analysis of the process of objectivizing subjectivities will take place with quantitative methods fitting digital platforms and also including qualitative methods. The ultimate purpose of this project is to elucidate, under a new perspective, the business model used by dating sites over past decades.

This doctoral research will take place in the Digital Humanities Institute at the heart of EPFL. One first phase will include analyzing the construction of metrics “in the making” through observations of the developers working dynamics. At the same time, a part of the work will focus on analyzing dating sites patents. A second phase is dedicated to study user’s online practices with participatory observation in order to retrace strategies of objectivizing metrics. At last, the research will conclude by identifying and collecting metrics offered on Swiss online dating sites and applications.

 

Project Doc.CH in the humanities and social sciences (HSS), granted by the Swiss National Science Foundation