Dissertation Defense - WE King
You are cordially invited to join us for the dissertation defense of WE King to be held on Friday, June 11, 2021, via Zoom from 2-4 p.m. PDT.
A Match Made in Heaven: Queer Christians and Dating Apps
Dating apps pose particular challenges for queer Christians, complicating an already sensitive combination of social and cultural commitments, values, and beliefs. Dating platforms position themselves in the dating market in a variety of ways, however, all function to help people meet other people for dates. Some platforms are known for facilitating hookups or catering to queer populations, others are used more broadly and aim to facilitate long-term relationships. Dating platforms, along with other social media sites, independently create and control the categories users interact with. On dating apps, users expect to represent their unique identities through the app interface. However, dating apps are often designed with dominant populations in mind and end up excluding those who do not fit the model of their ideal user. Dating apps produce and control categories that are contingent and contribute to cultural knowledge about what identities are datable, reachable, and even possible. Gender, sexuality, and relationship categories are contested and unruly, as are religious identities, even though they appear stable when offered as radio buttons or checkboxes on a clickable menu of options.
This dissertation explores the ways gender, sexual, and relationship diversities that intersect with religious identities are discursively constructed in the context of using dating apps. I use Critical Technocultural Discourse Analysis (CTDA) as a methodological toolkit that views dating apps as cultural representations and social structures that interact with identity work. Technoculture is a matrix that positions white, middle-class, straight, men as the norm to which others are compared. CTDA examines technology artifacts, beliefs about technology, and users in-situ. I conducted fifteen semi-structured background interviews with queer Christian dating app users. Nine of the participants opted-in to follow-up with a self-study of their dating app usage. The nine self-study participants used their notes as the basis for elicitation interviews. I also used the dating apps the participants in this study used. I signed up for and completed user profiles using an abbreviated technical walkthrough of nine of the dating apps mentioned in interviews. I interpret and discuss discourses of representing non-dominant identities in technocultural spaces after conducting a qualitative analysis of user interviews along with dating app interfaces.
Queer Christians navigate presumed discontinuity of being LGBTQ+ and Christian, choosing to embrace what seems a contradictory identity. Participants expressed the importance of making both their queer and Christian identities visible and reachable on their dating app profiles. Queer Christians who want to date other queer Christians are in a very thin dating market and expect dating apps to help them find their match made in heaven. However, Christian dating apps assume users are cisgender and straight or gay, limiting usability by queer Christians who are non-binary or bisexual or both. Dating apps that target queer users limit options for representing religious identities, offering limited or no filterable options for religious identification. Dating apps that do offer religion as a structured profile element, do not offer the nuanced and expansive religious categories found on Christian-based or Christian-targeted apps. Further, filtering for religion often requires payment for premium services. I discuss the ways technoculture informs the creation and implementation of dating app identity categories and matchmaking methods and how queer Christians often do not fit the categories available to them. Structured profile elements and questionnaires are used by dating apps to construct knowledge about users and offer that knowledge to help users find "The One", their match made in heaven.
Understanding experiences of queer Christians who overflow classification on dating apps opens up inquiry into dominant technocultural configurations that privilege social straightness and whiteness. This dissertation makes an empirical contribution to information and digital studies as it explicitly interrogates the technocultural aspects of queer identity work among a multiply oppressed group of users. In this work I privilege the perspectives of queer Christians, contributing a broader understanding of Christians in North America. By advancing our understanding of the ways technological solutions to diversity and inclusion are experienced among a multiply marginalized population, we gain insight into designing app interfaces and identity categories with equity, diversity, and inclusion in mind.
Meeting ID: 962 3889 9876
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- Negin Dahya, Chair
- Anna Hoffman, Chair
- Marika Cifor, Member
- Jodi O’Brien, Member
- David Ribes, GSR