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A shirtless man stands in front of a mirror. How about this one? She has antlers coming out of the top of her head. Neither of these are hypotheticals. Users of dating sites and apps come across these types of images on a regular basis. Thompson researches online dating including how people construct self-identity through stories as well as the politics and practices of online dating in terms of identity, sexuality, race, and gender. Dating, to some extent, has always been a story. First dates are sort of miniature plays with each person performing a version of themselves.
The digital age has changed how we date and how we tell stories about ourselves. The opposite is true now. For starters, the personals section of newspapers have largely disappeared.
What does this look like? Note, this applies only to heterosexual daters. The advent of swiping apps turned the idea of courtship on its head. Instead of working up the courage to walk up to a stranger and strike up a conversation or even read through lengthy profiles, users can flick through a ready supply of profile pics in a matter of seconds. For her research, Thompson has conducted interviews, observations and profile analyses with more than people.
All of the participants either currently use online dating platforms or have in the past. A third of those interviewed are UW Tacoma students, faculty, staff and alumni. The rest are people from elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest and other parts of the United States and six of the interview subjects live in other countries. To this extent, online dating tends to be a very communal affair.
To an extent, Thompson turned her foray into digital dating into research. From there I began asking more and more questions about this process. The title of our show is more than just a clever play on words. The name reflects a philosophy, one that is committed to telling interesting stories about the people, research, initiatives, community partnerships and other issues related to UW Tacoma and higher education.
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