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London Cruising: The Impact of New Mobile Technologies on The Way Men Encounter Men in the City

Part 2 Dissertation 2011
Benjamin Koslowski
Royal College of Art, UK
A little over two years ago, in March 2009, a new app for the iPhone was launched in the UK, which offers new ways for men to meet other men. ‘Grindr’ was the first in a series of mobile phone apps that use GPS data to allow us to locate other users nearby. With the app men are no longer bound to a specific location to meet other men and can integrate the activity of cruising into their everyday lives. It offers a tool by means of which they can make themselves virtually visible to others, although they might not be within direct view, undermining conventional notions of ‘public’ and ‘private’ and creating an increased level of ambiguity between the two spheres.

While the app merely precedes a real life encounter, it grants modes of behaviour that any physical interaction out in the territory of the city might prohibit. It is this potential shift in our behaviour brought on by new ambient technologies and the resulting impact on how we relate to those around us that this paper concerns itself with. The use of mobile cruising apps is put into the wider context of the practice of cruising as one might understand it more conventionally and the investigation is enriched drawing on notions of privacy and publicity in the domestic environment, helping to understand how the use of the app blurs the distinction of the two realms. Voyeurism and exhibitionism are key concepts that help to understand the nature of mobile cruising, and further assist to put this virtual form of social interaction into relation with actual encounters.

It becomes clear that, rather than replacing the real life encounter, the application can instead augment the urban experience by adding another layer to the city and allows its users to come out of the digital closet that the internet with its online dating sites had forced them into; they can effortlessly integrate cruising into their everyday lives. Yet, does technology risk cleansing the notion of the male encounter and depriving its users of the excitement of the real life experience?

Benjamin Koslowski

Ms Naomi House
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