Calculating dating goals: data gaming and algorithmic sociality on Blued, a Chinese gay dating app

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Although studies on gay dating apps have shown the ways through which technical features intervene in sexual sociality, seldom do they shed light on the central feature that undergirds their use ‒ algorithms. This article examines Blued, China’s largest gay dating app, aiming to unfold the data structure and algorithms that navigate the use of its two prime functionalities: browsing and live streaming. Rather than seeing users as passive audiences that are subject to being measured and calculated based on algorithmically filtered information, this article argues that users can act on the data they provide to dating apps to influence and shape the algorithmic dating outcomes. For Blued browsing, gay men are datafied with numbers and tags for users to sort and filter. For Blued live, gay men are evaluated by the yanzhi algorithm, which literally means ‘value of a person’s face’, for users to pinpoint dating goals. By gaming the data and shaping their algorithmic outcomes, an algorithmic sociality is animated through the filter browsing and the yanzhi metric. In this way, algorithms have become ritual tools for gay sociality on Blued. This article ends by opening up critiques on the justification of social biases lurking inside this algorithmic sociality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-197
Number of pages17
JournalInformation Communication and Society
Volume23
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2020

Keywords

  • data
  • algorithm
  • algorithmic sociality
  • dating app
  • live streaming
  • gay

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