How does convergence affect the relationship between media technologies and audiences?
In today’s interconnected, technologically shaped society, the world is actively connected to a broader community across various platforms through convergence. Convergence of technological platforms, such as Tinder, greatly affects media technologies and especially audiences, and these outlets in return influence Tinder. The audience aspects of accessibility, participatory culture, activism and online identity shape a strong relationship between Tinder and its users. Tinder is radically influencing social changes regarding romance, where it’s the audience who are generating content and contributing to this change.
Convergence applies to many media platforms and technologies like apps, devices, being both a technological and cultural process (Moore, 2014). Technology and society is continuously changing. Technologies such as Tinder reflect the demands and values of society, and society reflects and influences changes in technology; they are both interconnected and shape each other. Convergence is a term supported and explored by Henry Jenkins, Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism and Cinematic Arts at the Univeristy of Southern California. Jenkins defined convergence as ‘the flow of content across multiple media platforms. Convergence describes technological, industrial, cultural and social changes’ (Jenkins, 2006, pp 2-3). Convergence is triangulated. It shapes and is affected by audiences and technologies, through the movement of information across the world. Technological convergence is shaped by; minimizing costs, user friendliness and practicality. Convergence is also defined as ‘coming together of two of more distinct entities’ (Jones, 2007), which encompasses technology and society. Convergence is a broad term used to describe a broad range of people, technologies and platforms, all of which are affected by convergence.
Cultural and social changes in regards to online dating, relationships and intimacy are epitomized through the dating app, Tinder. Developed in the University of Southern California in late 2012 by three self-confessed hopeless romantics, Sean Rad, Justin Mateen and Jonathan Badeen, they created Tinder to connect you with other people who are interested in you. (App Store, n.d) Tinder exemplifies the concepts of convergence, as described by co-founder Sean Rad, ‘it is a digital extension of our instinct to connect on a deeper level with one another, romantically or otherwise.’ (Rad, 2014) Tinder is a convergent technology because of the various content (photos, text, personal information) flowing across different mediums (apps, websites, smart phones) from people across the world. Tinder requires its users to have a Facebook account for identity verification, where it displays your age, interests and mutual friends along with six photos. Tinder also requires various platforms to function and you can also exchange email addresses, phone numbers and meet in person, emphasising the state of convergence of Tinder. Whilst the app is wildly superficial, Tinder does reflect the current changing societal perspectives of relationships, intimacy and hook-ups (Morris, 2014). The strong relationship the audience has with this technology is enhanced by the relationships created on Tinder, satisfying the migratory audience’s online social desires.
Tinder complies with the concepts of convergence predominantly due to the ease of accessibility and limited gatekeeping, allowing high rates of participatory culture and audience engagement. Tinder is a diologic technology, which has minimal gatekeepers or restrictions promoting participatory culture (Moore, 2014). This is achieved through the accessibility of the app. A user must have a Facebook account to download the app for free on Apple and Android phones, and once your identity is verified, you are ready to use Tinder. With lack of monitoring and gatekeeping, it permits people to more actively engage with Tinder and creates a unique participatory culture, where people use ‘computer screens as a mask, where we aren’t confronted by the consequences of our actions, where we gain a false sense of freedom and confidence’ (Haynes, 2014). You can access the app on your phone anytime of any day, permitting you have internet access, with users checking Tinder approximately 11 times per day (Ayers, 2014). Along with the ease of using the app, the technology of Tinder influences and affects its audience, where they can engage in easy social interaction with minimal effort. The ease and freedom of Tinder is a primary convergent concept, strengthening the relationships between audience and technology.
Through the ease of accessibility comes strong participatory culture, where the audience connects with people and the app itself. Jenkins defines participatory culture as ‘a culture with low barriers to expression and engagement, support for creating and sharing, the audience believes their contribution matters and they feel a sense of social connection’ (Jenkins, 2006). Audiences engaging in Tinder initiate or receive conversations with their ‘matches’ creating a sense of community as participants talk about themselves and their interests. The majority of Tinder’s audience are Millenials who are more likely to engage is casual hook-ups than serious relationships at university (Bogle, 2008), making this app incredibly appealing and addictive. The app was not designed specifically for hook-ups like its competitor Grindr however, it’s the changes in attitudes of society, which have embraced these opportunities and shaped the purpose of Tinder ‘to get laid’ (Epstein, n.d) ‘http://www.news.com.au/national/south-australia/love-me-tinder-dating-in-the-new-app-era/story-fnii5yv4-1226880118593 … new stigma attached to dating app @tinder#bcm112’(@missaaadelaide, Tweet, 2014) explains how Tinder is changing the societal stigma attached to online dating, through this media it explains the changing affects Tinder has on audiences and the technology itself. Tinder’s audience have a shared understanding that it’s for hook-ups, contributing to the online community created. This convergence of the audience utilising the app has ultimately lead to the success of the app and satisfaction of its users.
Tinder provides many opportunities for its captivated users, requiring the audience to transform from ‘clicktivists’ to ‘activists.’ Clicktivism and Activism is mostly associated with ‘participatory politics,’ however, on a smaller, non-political scale, lies Tinder, which resembles similar difficulties of turning clicktivism into activism. Whilst engaging in clicktivism, you can be swiping left and right, and chatting to matches from the comfort of your home in your pyjamas, requiring minimal physical effort. Obviously depending on the individual you have been engaging with, the act of meeting up to go on a date requires a lot of physical effort, and doing so is converting clicktivism and a lot of flirting to activism. An active user admits he meets with ‘3-4 of those matches per month’ (Thrillhouse763, 2014). The expectation is that you will eventually meet one of your matches as Tinder’s Tweets suggest ‘here’s how to pick the perfect restaurant in London for your #Tinder date: bit.ly/1mEr1nb via @Grazia_Live’ (@Tinder, 2014). However, it is mostly used by clicktivists who where Tinder ‘complements (their) lazy and attention-seeking personality’ (Kent, 2013). According to co-founder Sean Rad, there have been over 1billion matches on Tinder (Rad 2014) where the app is responsible for over 1000 engagements (Piazza, 2014), which is a 0.0000001% success rate, representing that users are remaining clicktivists, or the Tinder flame just doesn’t burn. Despite the convergence of personal information across not only Tinder, the audience appears to leave their dates on their phones.
Individuals who participate in convergent technologies such as Tinder inherently create an online identity, which can expose them to ridicule and abuse. This online identity can be vastly different from their ‘real’ identity because a screen acts as a mask, giving the user a sense of anonymity and associated power. Women have faced many issues throughout history, and now, online, with ‘internet misogyny (often) paralleling the real world.’ The constant misogynist perspectives shown through comments online are; ‘women who have the audacity to show their faces online are asking to be demeaned and threatened with sexual violence’ (Filipovic, 2007-2008). Purely because you identify as a female on Tinder, it immediately opens you up to an influx of sexual messages purely because you are a female. Messages such as, ‘sit on my face’ and ‘I could’ve called heaven and asked for an angel but I was hoping you’re a slut instead’ (Parham, 2013). Whilst perhaps intended as a joke as Parham suggests, the constant bombardment of sexual harassment, slowly takes its toll on the morale of individual women online (Dreher, 2014). Dreher passionately speaks of the struggles of women’s equality online and if change is going to occur, we must stop hiding behind technology to abuse others. With convergence, unfortunately brings some disadvantages for women. Despite the light-hearted nature of Tinder, the affects of the technology on its audience can be more severe than intended.
Tinder encompasses diverse aspects of convergence, with the flow of information greatly affecting its audience and the app itself. Tinder encourages audience engagement and strong participatory culture. Limited gatekeeping addresses social issues, questioning clicktivism and activism, and the constant battle of online identity and equality of women. Whilst Tinder may appear a little app that is a craze of popularity, it epitomizes the key concepts of convergence and how it affects and shapes societies, where society in return shapes Tinder.
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