Sunday, September 19, 2010

Analyzing Demographic Data on Dating Sites

©2010 OKCupid/Humor Rainbow, Inc.

I read an interesting article last week in Bust Magazine Online, written by Katie Zanin, that looks at a recent data analysis conducted by an online dating service called OKCupid. Like many (most) sites, OKCupid does research on its users, analyzing the various forms of data that users contribute willingly, as well as inadvertently (through Cookies, etc.). The site is somewhat unique, however, in its openness about at least some of its data collection practices, publishing a blog called OKTrends where they talk about their research on user interactions, profile data, etc.

Zanin's article explores a recent post on the OKTrends site, entitled "The REAL ‘Stuff White People Like’" (written by Christian Rudder, in reference to the Lander blog/book), which examines trends within the likes that users have posted to their profiles, which the site has categorized in terms of race and gender. What I find particularly interesting about Zanin's article is her discussion of the ethics & politics of categorizing taste based on these types of demographic classifications. It's interesting, because gender and race are both very common and very contentious types of data gathered in social research (as discussed in Chapter 3). A good example of how issues discussed in a methods class - or during a research design process - can also appear within everyday cultural discourse. We're not the only ones thinking about operationalization and generalization!


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