University of Toronto

Harrison Smith is a second year Ph.D. student from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information. His research explores the production of identity through geo-locative consumer surveillance in order to understand a larger institutional shift towards mobile digital cultures, and is particularly interested in how notions of risk and uncertainty are managed through mobile surveillance.

Consuming Desire: The Politics of Geo-Locative Mobile Dating within Personal Information Economies

An important consideration for understanding differential mobilities concerns the intersection between infrastructures of geo-demographic consumer surveillance and the production of identity within personal information economies. This paper explores this dynamic and increasingly ubiquitous relationship through an examination of geo-locative mobile dating applications for mobile devices. In particular, it explores the production of regimes of sexual identity through a mobile surveillance infrastructure, and considers the social practices of identity management and sexual performance. Here, individuals are mobilized within a nexus of performing themselves as both sexually desiring and desirable, but at the same time, must continually negotiate with the infrastructure, both in terms of the social affordances for identity production, but also in terms of asymmetric visibility and individualized approaches to risk management. As such, the idea of consuming desire demonstrates how institutional powers and techniques of consumer surveillance are embedding individual notions of sexual identity and desire within institutional norms of consumer culture, and seeks to develop a broad theoretical approach for understanding how affect is increasingly being embedded and mediated by differential mobilities, and moreover how aspects of identity, which have traditionally been considered as part of the ‘backstage,’ are increasingly brought to the front through mobile consumer surveillance.