To sort, to match and to share: addressivity in online dating platforms

Rosamond, Emily. 2018. To sort, to match and to share: addressivity in online dating platforms. Journal of Aesthetics & Culture, 10(3), pp. 32-42. ISSN 2000-4214 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This paper analyses addressivity in online dating platforms, with OkCupid as its focus. Drawing from Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of addressivity, I argue the need for a generic account of online dating – one that focuses on the particular kinds of address that typify expressive scenarios on its platforms. Rather than focusing solely on how users address themselves to other users, I instead examine several layers of addressivity within the online dating scenario: (1) users addressing other users, (2) users addressing platforms, (3) platforms addressing publics, and (4) companies addressing investors, and (5) investors addressing users. I argue that within surveillance capitalism generally, and within online dating platforms in particular, there is an imbalance of addressivity: though online users are broadly aware that their data may be collected and analysed, they are nonetheless unconscious of and/or uncomfortable with this form of sharing, because it does not easily fit into previously known narratives of dating. In other words, the automatic gathering and analysis of data by OkCupid is a background condition of all its users’ activity – but this is not sufficiently accounted for in users’ generic understandings of online dating. OkCupid cofounder Christian Rudder’s continual efforts to make online dating data analytics both understandable and palatable for users (via OkCupid’s promotional material, TED-Ed talks, a blog, and a book on data) aims, in part, to address this imbalance. These stagings of the platform’s address to its users aim to garner interest in, and acceptance of, becoming part of aggregated, privatized data sets – and indeed, coming to be witnessed and assetized by the automated gaze of data analytics.

Many accounts of online surveillance reiterate paranoid modes of enquiry (‘they are watching us’). Alternatively, this article investigates how surveillance capitalism produces libidinal investments in automated match-making, naturalizing platforms’ layered modes of address.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


online dating; big data; addressivity; Bakhtin; surveillance; surveillance capitalism; platform capitalism; financialization; assetization

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


25 October 2017Accepted
22 December 2017Published Online

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

28 Nov 2017 12:06

Last Modified:

07 Jan 2021 15:06

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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