McGuire, M. L.
McGuire, M. L. (2018). The problem of technological integration and geosocial cruising in Seoul. New Media & Society, 20(1), 369–383. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444816675436
In this article, I challenge a focus in digital anthropology on the integration of media into everyday life. Korean queer men’s experience on geosocial applications suggests that integration is not a neutral methodology but is rather a locally negotiated concern, a management of the connection between spaces. I use the example of the sauna to illustrate that the urban structure of Seoul is frequently orientated around semi-public rooms or bang that are imagined as insulated from the rest of society. The rise of geosocial cruising applications, with their tendency to connect and unite arenas that should be kept apart, have resulted in anxiety over the exposure of men to an uncontrollable totality of social relations.
Geosocial mobile dating applications (or, "cruising" applications) are an increasingly popular pathway for men who have sex with men in Korea to find potential partners. The proliferation of such applications, however, is associated with a transformation of the ability for men seeking sex with men to compartmentalize those experiences and desires from the rest of their lives due to the public nature of the internet. Such applications are connective in nature, in contrast with the physical sites of saunas (the previous most common site where men would meet), which were geared toward anonymity. Results of this study indicate that in a culture where men who wish to have sex with men often seek to maintain dual lives with that aspect of their sexuality compartmentalized, the proliferation of such applications present new opportunities but also new pressures and risks.
Description of method used in the article
Interviews (N = 75) with men who have sex with men in Seoul, Korea in 2013 and 2014. Interviews focus on the relationships between seeking out sexual encounters in physical sites (i.e., saunas) as opposed to digital sites via geosocial software applications (e.g., Grindr and Jack’d). Interviews focused on the affordances of physical sites (e.g., privacy, discretion, face-to-face meeting, and potential for compartmentalization) and digital sites which lack these capacities.
Of some practical use if combined with other research