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Intimacy and the Internet: Dating Via Computer,About the Author

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They determined the parameters of what made a good date and who should be matched with whom. These young bachelors were anything but impartial: many started dating services in part because they wanted to use their own systems.

The topics and emphases of the questions they posed to users were filtered through their own particular worldview and priorities, both as businessmen and as potential users of the system. Their service implicitly positioned women as a product, and assumed that men were the users around whose needs the service should be built. News media lauded it as an example of American progressiveness, grounded in the ingenuity of young, male technologists.

But computerized dating, so often imagined to be a uniquely American invention, had been used in European countries for some time. Across the Atlantic, matchmaking services used computers to arrange special mixers for participants, rather than matching them up one-on-one. In the second year of Operation Match, roughly 70, college students all across the US sent completed questionnaires and three dollars per person in to the three founders.

Operation Match set up offices in New York, Cincinnati, Chicago, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Bloomington, Detroit, and Boston to advertise their services and distribute questionnaires. In their Cambridge office headquarters they employed three women to do the work of data processing and accounting and bought time on an Avco computer to collate responses.

Across the Atlantic, British women were early adopters of computer dating—both as users and proprietors. The first computer dating company that attained commercial success in Britain was run by a woman. It was not only the first example of computerized dating in Britain, it also preceded Operation Match by a year.

Ball already ran a marriage bureau and escort service—women required male escorts in order to attend most nighttime functions; the service was not sexual—so the leap to computer dating seemed logical. She drew on the client base of her marriage bureau business to start the computer dating service, initially running both side by side. Her computerized dating company, the St.

James Computer Dating Service, did its first computer run to pair up clients in and incorporated the following year under a new name after merging with another woman-run marriage bureau to expand its user base and make better matches.

In , the newly merged companies rebranded themselves as Computer Dating Services Ltd. In some ways, this is not surprising. The heyday of computer dating occurred during a period when British women were still largely reliant on their relationships with men for their economic stability.

In the s, British women were not afforded the legal protection of equal pay a national equal pay act did not come into effect until the mid s , and they were—like their American peers—concentrated into sections of the labor force that did not allow them to make nearly as much money or have as many career prospects as men. Source: Mavis Tate, M. Women were also not able to get a mortgage without a male relative to co-sign even if they qualified for a loan, and this includes the best personal loans for bad credit.

Marriage was an economic necessity for many women. Fewer than twenty years had elapsed since the change in the law that had barred women from working while married in the Civil Service. The government had failed to remove their formal marriage bar until after World War II, when the main clerical union vociferously supported the measure because its membership was now majority women. The first evidence of Com-Pat advertising in the Times of London appears in the August 22, issue, but—for reasons that will be discussed below—this is not an accurate indication of its earliest date of operation.

Ball was a thirty-something who kept her marital status private, and her business partner Marjorie Smith was in her sixties with an adult daughter who also worked at the bureau. Their service had only clients at the outset, and catered to a slightly older crowd, including people who had been divorced or widowed. It seemed to take its role as a matchmaking intermediary somewhat more seriously than services targeting younger demographics, like Operation Match.

Nonetheless, Com-Pat faced a respectability problem early on, which hurt its ability to advertise in major publications. Many newspapers and magazines would not sell advertising space to either marriage bureaus or computer dating firms on the assumption that these businesses were fronts for immoral or illegal activities. Com-Pat therefore owed its initial survival to another technology at the margins of the establishment: the illegal rock stations that operated from ships off the coast of England in the s known as the pop pirates.

These stations sold Com-Pat advertising when no other respectable venues would, and Ball noted the great debt she owed to them. She believed people were not socializing as much due to an increase in television watching. Com-Pat focused explicitly on making matches for marriages, and this represented an important division between the two types of dating services operating in the industry at the time.

These tended to focus on making a profit through providing a dating service with heterosexual marriage as the implicit goal. In practice, users might go on many dates and never find a spouse. Smaller Com-Pat, which came out of the marriage bureau industry, did not scale up their profits by collecting a massive user base and pairing up people with lots of partners. Instead, it earned more modest returns attempting specific pairings designed to lead to long-term relationships. The ultimate goal remained heterosexual marriage, in a context where the problem of creating stable marriages and turning back the rising tide of divorcees was an increasing concern.

Although this element of the story has been largely ignored in American narratives of computer dating, it is much more apparent in the British context. By the number of divorced women had increased by more than 60 percent, peaking in the age group, and by the late s one in every 15 British marriages would end in divorce.

One of the earliest reported Com-Pat marriages was a colorful exception that proved the rule. Com-Pat was so intent on avoiding what Ball considered uncomfortably diverse pairings that its system focused on allowing people to specify the things they would not tolerate in a potential match, rather than simply answering questions about themselves and the things they were looking for in a mate. For the most part, however, matching people according to race and social class was taken as a given.

Matching a white Briton with an Italian might be viewed as surprising, but it was tolerable to most potential white users of the service.

Racial segregation and animosity within British society made other matches taboo. Though many objected to the crude racial stereotypes in how the figures were drawn, in a broader sense the cartoon accurately showed what many people imagined and feared when they thought about computer dating at the time.

Consciously or not, most early users hoped for a match with someone just like themselves when they sought the supposedly perfect, unbiased logic of a computer pairing. By catering to these attitudes, and enshrining them within supposedly logic-driven systems, computer matchmaking services further institutionalized social biases and hierarchies.

Source: Powers-Samas Gazette , Patterson, an unemployed college graduate with a mechanical engineering degree, shared the ideals of the founders of Operation Match. He came up with the idea for Dateline after seeing a Harvard computer matchmaking service, possibly Operation Match or its competitor Contact Incorporated, in operation on a visit to campus in Like Com-Pat, Dateline likely bought time on a mainframe at a computer bureau to run their programs before they were able to afford their own computer.

By , Dateline was gaining close to clients each week, despite charging a fee of £5. For comparison, the salary range for most women office workers in this period was between £ and £ pounds. With a database of 50, people, the company had easily pulled in at least a quarter of a million pounds by , in just 5 short years of operation.

A veneer of sleaze plagued Dateline. Later, he fought and won a lawsuit that claimed his ever-growing computer dating empire was getting its profits from pornography. In Dateline was advertising on the London Underground, and its advertisements were being seen by hundreds of thousands of people.

It reportedly paid its advertising company close to £50, for the campaign. If the answer is yes, you must take part in this great social experiment. A sizable minority of Dateline applicants—more women than men—admitted to having been previously married.

Nearly a third of the women were divorcees. Only a tiny minority of users were people of color. Most lived in London, and most sought matches in the late fall and winter. Surrounded by recording equipment and monitor screens, Gonzaga can listen in on the interactions that are taking place in the next-door rooms, where couples are talking about their lives: love, lunch, laundry.

I haven't been married for 30 years, for instance — so I don't know what's going to be important 30 years from now. Gonzaga has been with the company since and is genuinely passionate when he talks about relationship science, but I remain sceptical that a computer algorithm can fathom the heart. He picks up a napkin and starts drawing a flowchart on the back of it, combining phrases like "dyadic adjustment scale" and "regression analysis", with helpful little diagrams of stick people.

The more something impacts relationship satisfaction — having the same faith, say, or being a similar personality type — the heavier they're weighted in the algorithm. It's like walking into a party and instead of having to talk to all people, here are the 10 you should start with, the ones you have the best chance to get along with in the long haul. He points out that they have taken 12 months studying British couples, in partnership with Oxford university, to refine the psychometric questionnaire for a UK audience.

It turns out you can't just use the same algorithm across continents: "Things like passion for life, or desire displayed toward the partner, tend to be a little more impactful in Brazil, for instance," says Gonzaga, "and religion, that's a little more impactful in the UK than it is in the US. Mention eHarmony in LA and it seems that everyone can tell you of a friend or a relative who met a wife or husband through the site.

Often you hear them add: "And that was the first person they'd dated on the site! And then when we met I realised she was hot, too…". Gonzaga sends them into one of the surveillance rooms. It's been set-designed with armchairs, lamps and a coffee table to look like a lounge, although there's also a sinister hint of the dentist's waiting room, not to mention the hidden cameras and the disembodied voice that issues instructions from speakers in the wall.

We watch on monitors as the pair are asked to talk about their week. Gonzaga jots down notes. It's a really strong sign for the future health of a relationship. Surely she was just being polite and agreeing with him? It's about whether the couples understand what's important to each other.

She's telling him: 'I know you. By the time I leave, I'm so convinced of the power of eHarmony that I'm ready to start picking out my wedding dress. When I return to the site, I've finally got a few matches. A new profile is emailed around 8am most mornings, a clever ruse, because there's no better way to start your day than to have the prospect of eternal love arrive in your inbox with a satisfying ping.

And unlike other sites I've been on, I don't feel overwhelmed by the sea of available profiles, or anxious that my perfect mate might remain hidden if I don't click on just one more page…. But it's not all good news. Whereas most sites encourage flirting through instant chat and email, the eHarmony site comes across as a matronly chaperone, keeping a keen eye and a restraining arm on you and your prospective lover. Once I've found a likely looking man, I have to send him an eHarmony-approved "icebreaker".

I'm not sure I want the first thing I say to my future husband to be "Wink! Why don't you finish your About Me questions? The "guided communication" system that follows is as time consuming as a tax form, and about as sexy. Before you talk to your date, eHarmony wants you to get to know them through a series of closed and open-ended questions, which get straight to the serious stuff: "Financially, how would you characterise yourself?

Choose from: Growing Apart, Marrying the Wrong Person, Being Hurt. I settle on "Good Hygiene" and "Not Racist". It's an infuriatingly slow burn that doesn't do much to distinguish between the Darrens, Johns and Peters and makes the banter rather earnest "If you had three wishes, what would they be?

To meet you. You can have the spare two in exchange for a kiss. I manage to arrange one date with a chap who has a list of similarly geeky interests to mine, but I have to call it off after a curious phone conversation in which he puts me on the line to his cat.

After six months on the site, I haven't had a single date. Eventually I spot Phil, a friendly, cuddly looking chap who in his profile photo is standing on the Spanish Steps in Rome, one of my all-time favourite places. This time, I skip straight to the email option which eHarmony does not recommend and we agree to meet up for a drink after work. Saul Levine M. But who we end up becoming and how much we like that person are more in our control than we tend to think they are.

Our Emotional Footprint. Intimacy and the Internet: Dating Via Computer Online dating is widely used for social connection in a world of loneliness. Posted December 29, Share. About the Author. Online: ouremotionalfootprint. com , Facebook. Read Next. Back Psychology Today. Back Find a Therapist. Get Help Find a Therapist Find a Treatment Center Find a Psychiatrist Find a Support Group Find Teletherapy Members Login Sign Up United States Austin, TX Brooklyn, NY Chicago, IL Denver, CO Houston, TX Los Angeles, CA New York, NY Portland, OR San Diego, CA San Francisco, CA Seattle, WA Washington, DC.

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Source: The New Yorker , February 14, , cover. By the early s, mainframes had crept into the popular consciousness through news reports and advertising. They were still poorly understood by the public at large, and many people were unsure about what these new machines could actually do, as well as what sorts of tasks they should do.

By the s, popular discourse on technological change highlighted concerns that computers would eventually take over most intellectual tasks, and perhaps even more than that. Source: ICT House Magazine , July The flip side of these fears about what computers might do was the fact that early computers still required an enormous amount of labor in order to successfully and completely run programs.

Early mainframes were prone to breakdowns and human labor was a key part of the fiction of effortless automation represented in the popular press. The operators who made this possible in the Anglo-American world tended to be women. The idea that these masculine-identified machines might sexually harass women workers as proxies for real men often figured into jokes and cartoons of the era see cartoon below. A reminiscence from a worker at LEO, an early British computing company—and the company which created the first dedicated electronic business computer—described how LEO bucked the norm of hiring female operators and hired men instead.

In addition, employing women on overnight shift work with men was perceived as unseemly. Source: ICL News , Written and designed by men, these computer dating programs promised to take the messiness of human interaction out of the process of meeting women.

Today, the idea of being matched with a potential romantic partner via computer has been normalized to the point of seeming quotidian. In the early days of computer dating, however, machine-mediated romantic interactions were often considered untoward or slightly shocking, for reasons similar to the ones that kept women from working alongside men at night. The idea that women and men might meet casually, for sex, instead of within a social context that positioned marriage as the objective, hindered computer dating.

They cultivated predominantly white, straight, middle-class user bases in the hope that the perceived respectability of this user base would transfer onto the new technology. Services also aimed to pair people up using the most conservative measures of compatibility—matching like with like in the realm of social class, race, and religion, and focusing exclusively on a demographic constructed as, and assumed to be, heterosexual.

Because sexuality structures our technological interactions as much as it structures our social ones, sexuality intersects with the history of computing in important ways.

Technology is itself an extension of society and social organization. The history of computer dating is a good point of entry because it is a topic whose very nature requires a discussion of sexuality.

Up to this point, however, historians of computing have paid relatively little attention to the ways in which sexuality molded outcomes and determined patterns of change in the history of computing.

By investigating the discourses surrounding early British and American computer dating, it is possible to model one way of applying the insights of sexuality studies to computer history. Dating and mating were already intertwined with technology by the mid-twentieth century—everything from cars, to telephones, to movie theatres, to photography and postal mail. The hidden side of this history, however, is the fact that conservative cultural and technological undercurrents structured this technology and made it relatively popular from very early on.

This seemingly revolutionary use of computing power was in fact anything but, and was predicated upon reinscribing conservative social norms into a new set of technological systems.

Inattention to this history has the effect of obfuscating the origins and assumptions of present-day technologies used for similar purposes. By investigating how sexuality structured computing in the past, we can gain greater insight into how identities and technologies are co-created, and the ways in which computing has played a progressively larger role in structuring sexual norms under the guise of offering greater objectivity.

In some respects, this was nothing new: from personal ads to marriage bureaus, technologies for finding mates existed long before computers. What was new, however, was the idea that computerized dating and marital matchmaking could somehow make a messy and imperfect emotional process into a clean, scientific, and rational one—one in which both parties could find their perfect complement and shift with ease into a long-term relationship, secure in the knowledge their match had been electronically vetted.

Currently, the online matchmaking industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, promising to match up participants better than they would be able to do themselves. The most popular entry point into the history of computer dating is the Operation Match program started by two Harvard students Jeffrey Tarr and David Crump , and an outside partner Douglas Ginsburg , in Nor were they interested in sharing any other Harvard amenities with women, like the better, more centrally located dining halls and dormitories reserved for Harvard students.

As such, they were kept at a distance from the centers of social life within the Harvard community. The president and vice-president of Operation Match—incorporated under the name Compatibility Research Corporation—apparently saw no irony in wanting to keep women undergraduates banned from most communal and social spaces at Harvard while developing a computerized system to help themselves and other young men find women to date.

This contradiction points to a deeper issue at play in the design of most early computerized dating services. Such services did not simply encourage the pairing up of men and women, they also centralized control over matchmaking in the hands of the mostly straight, white, and privileged young men who designed the systems.

They determined the parameters of what made a good date and who should be matched with whom. These young bachelors were anything but impartial: many started dating services in part because they wanted to use their own systems. The topics and emphases of the questions they posed to users were filtered through their own particular worldview and priorities, both as businessmen and as potential users of the system.

Their service implicitly positioned women as a product, and assumed that men were the users around whose needs the service should be built. News media lauded it as an example of American progressiveness, grounded in the ingenuity of young, male technologists. But computerized dating, so often imagined to be a uniquely American invention, had been used in European countries for some time. Across the Atlantic, matchmaking services used computers to arrange special mixers for participants, rather than matching them up one-on-one.

In the second year of Operation Match, roughly 70, college students all across the US sent completed questionnaires and three dollars per person in to the three founders. Operation Match set up offices in New York, Cincinnati, Chicago, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Bloomington, Detroit, and Boston to advertise their services and distribute questionnaires.

In their Cambridge office headquarters they employed three women to do the work of data processing and accounting and bought time on an Avco computer to collate responses. Across the Atlantic, British women were early adopters of computer dating—both as users and proprietors.

The first computer dating company that attained commercial success in Britain was run by a woman. It was not only the first example of computerized dating in Britain, it also preceded Operation Match by a year. Ball already ran a marriage bureau and escort service—women required male escorts in order to attend most nighttime functions; the service was not sexual—so the leap to computer dating seemed logical.

She drew on the client base of her marriage bureau business to start the computer dating service, initially running both side by side. Her computerized dating company, the St. James Computer Dating Service, did its first computer run to pair up clients in and incorporated the following year under a new name after merging with another woman-run marriage bureau to expand its user base and make better matches.

In , the newly merged companies rebranded themselves as Computer Dating Services Ltd. In some ways, this is not surprising. The heyday of computer dating occurred during a period when British women were still largely reliant on their relationships with men for their economic stability. In the s, British women were not afforded the legal protection of equal pay a national equal pay act did not come into effect until the mid s , and they were—like their American peers—concentrated into sections of the labor force that did not allow them to make nearly as much money or have as many career prospects as men.

Source: Mavis Tate, M. Women were also not able to get a mortgage without a male relative to co-sign even if they qualified for a loan, and this includes the best personal loans for bad credit. Marriage was an economic necessity for many women. Fewer than twenty years had elapsed since the change in the law that had barred women from working while married in the Civil Service. The government had failed to remove their formal marriage bar until after World War II, when the main clerical union vociferously supported the measure because its membership was now majority women.

The first evidence of Com-Pat advertising in the Times of London appears in the August 22, issue, but—for reasons that will be discussed below—this is not an accurate indication of its earliest date of operation.

Ball was a thirty-something who kept her marital status private, and her business partner Marjorie Smith was in her sixties with an adult daughter who also worked at the bureau.

Their service had only clients at the outset, and catered to a slightly older crowd, including people who had been divorced or widowed. It seemed to take its role as a matchmaking intermediary somewhat more seriously than services targeting younger demographics, like Operation Match. Nonetheless, Com-Pat faced a respectability problem early on, which hurt its ability to advertise in major publications. Many newspapers and magazines would not sell advertising space to either marriage bureaus or computer dating firms on the assumption that these businesses were fronts for immoral or illegal activities.

Com-Pat therefore owed its initial survival to another technology at the margins of the establishment: the illegal rock stations that operated from ships off the coast of England in the s known as the pop pirates. These stations sold Com-Pat advertising when no other respectable venues would, and Ball noted the great debt she owed to them.

She believed people were not socializing as much due to an increase in television watching. Com-Pat focused explicitly on making matches for marriages, and this represented an important division between the two types of dating services operating in the industry at the time.

These tended to focus on making a profit through providing a dating service with heterosexual marriage as the implicit goal. In practice, users might go on many dates and never find a spouse. Smaller Com-Pat, which came out of the marriage bureau industry, did not scale up their profits by collecting a massive user base and pairing up people with lots of partners. Instead, it earned more modest returns attempting specific pairings designed to lead to long-term relationships. The ultimate goal remained heterosexual marriage, in a context where the problem of creating stable marriages and turning back the rising tide of divorcees was an increasing concern.

Although this element of the story has been largely ignored in American narratives of computer dating, it is much more apparent in the British context.

By the number of divorced women had increased by more than 60 percent, peaking in the age group, and by the late s one in every 15 British marriages would end in divorce. One of the earliest reported Com-Pat marriages was a colorful exception that proved the rule. Com-Pat was so intent on avoiding what Ball considered uncomfortably diverse pairings that its system focused on allowing people to specify the things they would not tolerate in a potential match, rather than simply answering questions about themselves and the things they were looking for in a mate.

For the most part, however, matching people according to race and social class was taken as a given. Matching a white Briton with an Italian might be viewed as surprising, but it was tolerable to most potential white users of the service. Racial segregation and animosity within British society made other matches taboo.

Though many objected to the crude racial stereotypes in how the figures were drawn, in a broader sense the cartoon accurately showed what many people imagined and feared when they thought about computer dating at the time.

Consciously or not, most early users hoped for a match with someone just like themselves when they sought the supposedly perfect, unbiased logic of a computer pairing. By catering to these attitudes, and enshrining them within supposedly logic-driven systems, computer matchmaking services further institutionalized social biases and hierarchies. Source: Powers-Samas Gazette , Patterson, an unemployed college graduate with a mechanical engineering degree, shared the ideals of the founders of Operation Match.

He came up with the idea for Dateline after seeing a Harvard computer matchmaking service, possibly Operation Match or its competitor Contact Incorporated, in operation on a visit to campus in Like Com-Pat, Dateline likely bought time on a mainframe at a computer bureau to run their programs before they were able to afford their own computer.

By , Dateline was gaining close to clients each week, despite charging a fee of £5. For comparison, the salary range for most women office workers in this period was between £ and £ pounds. With a database of 50, people, the company had easily pulled in at least a quarter of a million pounds by , in just 5 short years of operation.

A veneer of sleaze plagued Dateline. Later, he fought and won a lawsuit that claimed his ever-growing computer dating empire was getting its profits from pornography. In Dateline was advertising on the London Underground, and its advertisements were being seen by hundreds of thousands of people.

It reportedly paid its advertising company close to £50, for the campaign.

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Posted December 29, Share. After a week, I've still not had a single match, so I decide to look at the results of my psychometric report. By the early s, mainframes had crept into the popular consciousness through news reports and advertising. Marriage was an economic necessity for many women. Topics Online dating The Observer Dating Internet Relationships features. Every site has their gimmick — chatboards, notes of recommendation from a friend, virtual gift-giving — though most are based on the same formula: browse people's profiles, look at their pictures, engage in some mild flirting over email. What is salient for all participants is caution and vigilance.

Computer Love: Replicating Social Order Through Early Computer Dating Systems. Patterson, an unemployed college graduate with a mechanical engineering degree, shared the ideals of the founders of Operation Match, computer online dating. My hope in unpacking and correcting some of this history is to add to the modest but growing number of queer histories of computing which interrogate the infrastructure of heteronormativity instead of taking it for granted, as well as to contribute to the large and growing set of conversations across multiple humanities disciplines about diversity in technology. Puzzle Games. As long as daters and internet sites are responsible, dating computer online dating be enjoyable and enhancing to the vast computer online dating of participants.

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