Completed Projects

1. Gender and queer politics in the emerging dating app culture in China [MIT Press]

Published with MIT Press, The Politics of Dating Apps offers a comprehensive account of dating app use among straight and queer, female and male Chinese urbanites. I argue that dating apps are not merely a platform for seeking romance or hooking up, but also, and more importantly, an arena where gender and queer politics manifest anew.

Drawing from an interdisciplinary body of literature on gender, queer, and technology studies, I foreground the interpretations of dating app users and examine how dating app users make use of the affordances of the technologies specific to their social position. Based on in-depth interviews with dating app users in Guangzhou, a major city in southern China, I document the opportunities and challenges dating apps have presented for women’s empowerment and for men’s reclamation of their gender-based privilege. I also analyze the affects and affordances unique to queer dating app users, linking their experiences of using dating apps with the predicaments they face as sexual minorities in China. I propose “networked sexual publics” as a unifying concept to capture the dynamics of the emerging dating app culture and suggests ways for scholars and students to further investigate this global phenomenon.

As the first book-length monograph on this topic, Politics of Dating Apps is an invaluable contribution to media and communication studies, science and technology studies, gender and queer studies, and Chinese studies.

An interview about this work conducted in Chinese is available here.

2. Racial preferences on gay dating apps

I am part of an interdisciplinary collaborative project team with researchers in the U.S. and Australia to examine the prevalence of sexual racism on gay dating apps. In this study, we are examining self-reported racial preferences and behavioral racial preferences among American and Australian men on Jack’d, a popular gay dating app which positions itself as inclusive. Self-reported racial preferences are those found directly on users’ profiles. Behavioral racial preferences are accessed through the app’s “insight” feature. We wrote a Python scraping code to collect this “insight” data from around 700 users in Los Angeles and 400 users in Sydney. The result has been published in:

  • Chan, L. S., Cassidy, E., & Rosenberger, J. (2021). Mobile dating apps and racial preferencing insights: Exploring self-reported racial preferences and behavioral racial preferences among gay men using Jack’d. International Journal of Communication, 15, 3928–3947. Retrieved from https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/16730/3541

3. The rise of Blued, the Chinese world gay dating app

Blued, a Beijing-based gay dating app, is now the world’s largest dating app for gay men. In this project, Weishan Miao and I examine the production and use of Blued. Our main research methods are ethnography, interviews, and archival research. Published articles from this project:

  • Miao, W., & Chan, L. S. (corresponding author) (2021). Domesticating gay apps: An intersectional analysis of the use of Blued among Chinese gay men. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 26(1), 38–53. https://doi.org/10.1093/jcmc/zmaa015
  • Miao, W., & Chan, L. S. (corresponding author) (2020). Between sexuality and professionalism: Experiences of gay workers at Blued, a Chinese gay social app company. New Media & Society. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444820920876
  • Miao, W., & Chan, L. S. (corresponding author) (2020). Social constructivist account of the world’s largest gay social app: Case study of Blued in China. The Information Society, 36(4), 214–222. https://doi.org/10.1080/01972243.2020.1762271

4. US gay men’s use of dating apps

The transition from industrial society to network society inevitably cultivates a new form of intimacy—the networked intimacy. Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman call the project of the self in the network society the “networked individualism.” The networked individuals rely heavily on their diverse social networks and make use of information technologies to manage these multiple relationships. In this light, networked intimacy can be conceptualized as an emerging form of intimate relationships that is enabled by the increased access to the Internet and the prevalence of mobile phones. In this project, I examined sex-seeking behaviors (surveys), self-representation (content analysis), as well as the nature of intimacy (in-depth interviews supplemented by surveys) on gay dating apps. Published articles from this project:

  • Chan, L. S. (2018). Ambivalence in networked intimacy: Observations from gay men using mobile dating apps. New Media and Society, 20(7), 2566–2581. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444817727156
  • Chan, L. S. (2017). The role of gay identity confusion and outness in sex-seeking on mobile dating apps among men who have sex with men. Journal of Homosexuality, 64(5), 622–637. https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2016.1196990
  • Chan, L. S. (2016). How sociocultural context matters in self-presentation: A comparison of U.S. and Chinese profiles on Jack’d, a mobile dating app for men who have sex with men. International Journal of Communication, 10, 6040–6059. Retrieved from https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/5829