A Brief Note on Location-Specific Cybersubculture

The intriguing aspect of studying geo-location enabled mobile applications is how the users’ experience will change depending on the location that they are in. Additionally, subculture within these applications changes from location to location. Of course, there will always be similarities in these apps universally (such as the critical functions of sexual gratifications and meeting potential romantic interests), but the differences are far too striking to be ignored.

Gay hook-up/dating mobile applications, such as Grindr and Jack’D, tend to cater to different subcultures and audience within the gay community. For instance, Grindr in New Zealand  is seen as the prominent ‘cybercottage’ for the purpose of sex-cruising, whereas Jack’D is seen as a social networking platform with less focus on hook-up. This preliminary suggestion/assumption is based on my initial observation on both of these applications.  Grindr has significantly more users with topless pictures of themselves, and Jack’D in comparison, has more users with pictures of their face on their profiles instead of topless/naked pictures of themselves. However, as pointed out by Zhou (n.d.) in his recent study of cyberqueer techno-practice in China, Jack’D has a totally different audience base in China, in which its users are seeking for sexual gratifications rather than social networking on it. This is completely different in comparison to the cyber-subculture of Jack’D in New Zealand.

This leads back to my earlier point on how the users’ experience, the subcultures within these applications is very location specific and oriented. The geo-location technology that comes with these mobile applications, or commonly known as GPS, transmits location-specific data that are meaningful to its users. It makes these data relevant to its users, allowing them access to information that is  pertinent to their geographical location and context. In relation to gay hook-up/dating mobile applications, the location specific information translates into particular cyber-subcultures that reflects local expectations and social codes. In other words, the ways in which people might use Grindr here in New Zealand might differ from how people in Los Angeles use it.The purpose and the orientation of these mobile applications differ accordingly, and the users have to be able to socialise into these positions and expectations before they could expect any positive results from these applications. For instance, the possibilities of someone successfully establishing a meaningful relationship with others on Grindr is lower than on Jack’D in New Zealand. This is of course, a rather simplistic and deterministic claim, as the possibilities are also depending on a lot of other factors, such as ethnicity, age, and physical appeals. The difference lies within the fact that these applications are labelled with certain social codes that attract different audience, and for some people, they might choose to use certain applications because it has a certain reputation that fits into their expectations of what type of interactions and crowds they will get from it.

My impression (which derives from my own experience of using these mobile applications)is that they have different crowds and types of interactions on these different platforms. For instance, if I am looking for a casual hook-up, I would consider Grindr instead of Jack’D. There are definitely overlaps in terms of the types of interaction, and it is not mutually exclusive. This means that there are still some people looking for casual hook-up on Jack’D, but the overall interactions on Jack’D is still very much social networking-oriented. As for Grindr, there are users that might be looking for a meaningful relationship or looking to establish their social network, but the general impression and environment is very focused on sexual hook-up due to their interface designs (which I will elaborate further in another post).

On this note, the cyber-subculture within these mobile applications differs from location to location. These applications not only are grounded by its physical location, it is also being localised and have its functions reinvented by its users within a specific location.

 

Bibliography

Zhou, T. (n.d.). Techno-practice and Offline Gay Male Experience in Contemporary China. Retrieved from http://www.inter-disciplinary.net/critical-issues/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/zhouerpaper.pdf

 

© 2015 Joe Xie Quin Lim

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