Algorithmic Love

Sandra Moyano Ariza, English
Faculty Advisor: Matthew K. Gold.

Algorithmic Love

Living in the “datafication of everything” (Cukier and Mayer-Schöenberger 2013), the current articulations of love and big data revolve around a concern for dating apps, which are reshaping experiences of love today both online and offline. This change is driven by the increasingly automated abilities of digital technologies, which can calculate and predict the chance of love. This has prompted a return to love in recent scholarship that examines how love circulates in neoliberal societies and in the subjective processes of those who use these technologies (Burge and Gratzke 2017, Malinowska and Gratzke 2018). These accounts, however, often miss an aspect that I have come to believe crucial: if these technological shifts have reshaped sociality and individual experience, what has love become? My research expands ongoing concerns about love while pursuing a study of the capacities of love itself after these technological changes.  

The project that I’m starting at the New Media Lab engages with these concerns from a more practical (and digital) perspective. By developing a web-scraping tool to access data about my user behavior in dating platforms, I propose to combine the algorithmic representations of the dataset with my own reflections about the interactions with the app in order to explore the phenomenology and affective relationship between the human and the digital object. I expect to bring these together through the various terms that the use of these technologies have redefined or brought about, like “stalking,” “matching,” “swiping,” “ghosting,” or the more recent ones breadcrumbing” and “orbiting.”  In a context where we are continuously exposed and leaking data, how much can a ghost disappear? How accurate is a match? How much breadcrumbing makes texting pursuing? How much of stalking is just looking? Finally, I also plan to work on data visualization for the project and/or create a platform to display the product of these interactions with the dataset. 

Making data a central aspect of this project understands that digital platforms and technologies act as more than mere media(tors)they condition subjective experiences of love and intimacy, while at the same time interpret cognitive processes on their own, pointing to new nonhuman agencies that surpass human consciousness yet nevertheless impact bodies and governance (Hansen 2015). As such, this project does not only explore how these technologies reshape our experience of romantic intimacy in order to become more critical of the neoliberal practices of intimate surveillance and tracking, but also attempts to envision resilient practices of love and relationships within the condition of being-with technology.