Books

Logon and Find Someone New: 'Love in the Time of Algorithms'

Can computer processing power beat old fashioned courtship?


Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Mating

Publisher: Penguin
Length: 268 pages
Author: Dan Slater
Price: $25.95
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2013-01
Amazon

These days you can sift through thousands of potential mates’ profiles on dozens of online dating sites without breaking a sweat. We used to be limited in our choice of significant other by the small number of people we might encounter due to social and geographical constraints. Now anyone can peruse countless profiles of people we would likely never have met if it weren’t for the Internet. Contacting them is easy, going out on a first date is exciting even if it doesn’t end well, and there’s always that potential of finding The One. If that's what you're after.

Is all this choice messing with our sense of romance, our ability to commit? Are we missing the point of why online dating was developed in the first place? Dan Slater rolls up his sleeves and dives into the foundations of computer-mediated dating to investigate how this industry became the powerhouse that it is today.

It used to be taboo to admit you met someone online, especially in the dating context, but online dating has definitely gone mainstream. Slater notes couples from ten years ago who would have lied at their own weddings about where they met, when now the stats show that online connections are responsible for more than one in five marriages in the United States today. And now, people are willing to talk about it.

A hookup or relationship is not always the goal or ideal outcome. I got my start as a podcaster when a guy I met on Plenty of Fish and I discovered a shared love of podcasts, though we didn’t share any physical attraction. We became friends and launched The Dating Digital Podcast. After a year of podcasting, we ran out of fodder from our own experiences with online dating and ended up letting the show lapse, but it was a fun way to share what we had learned with a wider community. At the risk of revealing my own potential bias in favor of online dating, we both met our current partners online and had to admit we should pass the torch to those currently part of the scene to give advice and recommendations to listeners.

With online dating, people will take chances, talk long distance with strangers, and even move across countries to try a life with someone they’d never have crossed paths with in the past. They also go out on one-off blind dates that often end badly -- but they had to take a chance, right?

Online dating has exploded in the past ten years, though it has earlier roots than you might imagine. Slater gets into the nitty-gritty of the origins of online dating, starting with college computer geeks who fed survey data into early computers. On the other end the printer spit out five or ten matches based on a small number of preferences, such as how much sexual experience the respondents had. One of those early computers spit out the match that resulted in Slater’s parents meeting and getting married.

These days there are conferences dedicated to the science behind matchmaking and there is a niche dating site for just about every religion and hobby, give or take. Slater just spoke at the annual iDate “super conference” in Las Vegas in January 2013 (see video at the end of this review). iDate 2011 in Miami is where Love in the Time of Algorithms launches, with Slater there, appropriately enough, with an online date in tow.

Slater notes that in 2010 about 30 million single people in the United States had a profile on at least one online dating site. He delves into what differentiates the major sites from each other (eHarmony.com, Match.com, PlentyofFish, the list goes on), and reveals bits of the algorithms and formulas that match users up and keep them coming back for more.

The efficiency of online dating has convinced some that the future will hold more divorce and less commitment. It’s just so easy now to logon and find someone new. We keep setting the bar for a mate higher, we make our self-assessments more lofty. We’re losing our fear of being alone forever as meeting someone online becomes more and more common among friends and coworkers. As Slater wrote in a recent piece in The Atlantic (“A Million First Dates”) the profit models of online dating sites mean they’re not really invested in helping us find long term love, and people’s expectations of their perfect match keeps getting higher.

While reading Love in the Time of Algorithms it seemed like everywhere I turned I saw another news story about online dating or heard the topic discussed on one of the many podcasts I pass the time with during my daily commute. A February episode of Spark included an interview with Sam Yagin, CEO of OkCupid and a major player in Slater’s book. (Full disclosure: I’m a little partial to OkCupid myself, just saying.) Host Nora Young went out of her way to get lots of listeners' input and viewpoints from a bunch of different demographics, including online dating for the elderly.

Whether you see it as a money-making machine, a sad indicator of the way technology is taking over our lives, or the root of all your happiness, online dating seems here to stay. With countless apps for meeting potential partners in close geographical proximity (Grindr, Blendr), and mobile apps for dating networks so that you can connect wherever you are, whenever you want, we’re spoiled for choice. And it’s up to each of us to decide if choice is what we’re after, or if we can stay focused long enough to find the right match among all the potential out there. Slater provides a great overview of where online dating came from, and where it’s headed.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image