Research

My research takes an interdisciplinary and transnational approach to study gender, sexuality, communication technologies, and culture. Currently, I am pursuing three projects.

1. Gender and sexual politics in the emerging dating app culture in China

My Ph.D. dissertation project examined techno-feminism, the performance of masculinity, and the transformation of intimacy related to the emerging dating app culture in neoliberal China. This dissertation was based on in-depth interviews with straight-identifying male and female dating app users in China. Currently, I am extending the research through conducting interviews with Chinese gay and lesbian dating app users. Together with the data from my Ph.D. dissertation research, I am writing a book, with new chapters discussing queer world-making and the experiences of app users who migrated to cities from rural areas. This will be the first academic book to examine the impact of dating apps for people across different genders and sexual orientations in the Global South. A chapter of my dissertation has already been published in Communication, Culture, and Critique.

2. Sexual racism 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 project, I am responsible for writing Python scraping codes. The project aims to provide solutions to ameliorate sexual racism on dating apps.

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, I am working with a researcher in China. Unlike most dating apps studies that focus on the users, we adopt a production studies approach. Informed by science and technology studies, sociology of organization, cultural studies of media industries, and queer studies, we are exploring the political, economic, technological, and cultural forces underlying the success of Blued. Our main research methods are ethnography, interviews, and archival research.

Completed project: US gay men’s use of dating apps

Before I commenced my Ph.D. dissertation research in China, I was intrigued by the popularity of Grindr and many similar dating apps for gay men in the United States. I suggest 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 (interviews supplemented by surveys) on gay dating apps.

Published articles from this project: