Departing Glances: A Sociotechnical Account of “Leaving” Grindr

Speaker  Jed Brubaker

Affiliation  UC Irvine

Host  Kate Crawford

Duration  01:01:48

Date recorded  20 June 2012

On Grindr, a location-based social networking application aimed at gay men and their smartphones, the objective is to see and be seen. Within this context this study asks, “Why do users leave?” In contrast with previous literature on non-use that focuses on ubiquitous infrastructures or services, Grindr is a non-ubiquitous system that never the less has gained broad adoption with its target demographic. Drawing on qualitative interviews with sixteen men who have “left” Grindr, this paper explicates the site of departure, the means by which individuals leave, and the significance of their departure. Analysis of the diverse experiences shared challenges normative definitions of “leaving”, as well as of the application itself. I argue that leaving is not a singular moment, but an attenuated process involving layered social and technical acts; that understandings of and departure from location-based media are bound up with the individual’s location; and finally, that these stories of leaving Grindr destabilize normative definitions of both “Grindr” and “leaving”, and in turn expose a set of relational possibilities and spatial arrangement within which people move around. I conclude with implications for theories of non-use and technological departure.

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