Imagining Algorithms to Believe In: Comparing OkCupid and Tinder Users’ Perceptions of Algorithms to Uncover Alternatives to Algorithmic Exploitation on Dating Apps

Gregory Narr


Although the advance of algorithmic media into everyday life by phone apps has been decried as exploitative, these apps remain extremely popular. To explore why this is, I compare the algorithmic imaginary of a prototypical dating website (OkCupid) with that of a prototypical dating app (Tinder). These imaginaries were derived from Reddit forums and interviews. By comparing these imaginaries, I show that transparency and reciprocal disclosure of private information were affordances valued by online daters prior to the widespread adoption of dating apps to find dates. I argue these affordances, well suited for the social connections users turn to algorithmic media for, could inform more compelling alternatives to algorithmic exploitation than calls for more privacy.


critical algorithm studies, algorithmic imaginary, media archaeology, surveillance capitalism, surveillance realism, Tinder, dating apps, online dating

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