“Netflix and Chill” by Dustin d’Arnault

Digital Culturist // Issue 6: Digital Romance

June 4, 2017

In this special Issue of Digital Culturist we’re taking a focused dive into the world of digital romance to explore how people navigate dating, love, and sex in the modern age. We invite you to indulge in an exploration of the future/current state of sexual technologies; an analysis of the act of using digital communities for sex advice; a positive ode to Tinder; a raw confession in digital anonymity; a fictional look at what a relationship in the digital age can be and more.

Artificial Desire

An exploration by Shane Saunderson

Regardless, if we push all that dull ethics and stigma stuff to the side for a moment and run with the premise of artificial sentience — that we will one day create robots capable of emotion — then isn’t the idea of people falling in love with robots not only plausible, but pretty much inevitable? A truly sentient AI should, in theory, be indistinguishable from human intelligence and therefore, falling in love with a robot should really be no different from falling in love with a person. Even if we haven’t quite perfected the hardware, one only need to look to the wedding parties in World of Warcraft or Second Life to realize that recent tech generations aren’t too bothered by the lack of physical form.

Sex, Love, and 700,000 Strangers

An analysis by Britney Summit-Gil

It is easy to demonize the internet for interfering with our offline social lives or creating echo chambers that have negative effects on our political discourse. In the wake of a massive, ongoing misinformation campaign online that has had enormous consequences around the globe, and two decades of fear of alienation and changing cognition caused by the internet, it is important to remember the anonymous 15-year-old who received potentially life-saving advice. And the 50-year-old-man who turned his marriage around. And the couple who decided, after receiving copious advice, that communication was the only thing that could prepare them to pursue a sexual fantasy without destroying their relationship.

Dear Tinder: Thank You for Everything

A thank-you letter by ERIN KIM

Thank you for introducing me to a kind policeman in Berlin, whom I otherwise never would’ve met. A face I had seen on a screen turned into a one-and-half-year long journey of a meaningful, long distance relationship that I will never forget. You introduced me to my first serious relationship that was unlike any romance film or story I’d ever seen in media. You sparked a peaceful love I hadn’t ever experienced until you introduced us. He became someone I cared for every single day for many days, and someone who would surprise me each day by caring for me back. You sparked the ups and downs of our love.

Velveteen Rose

A fictional story by Claire Simon

The first thing Steve sees when he wakes up is the wall. Laying on his side, with his arm constricted under his body, he sees a flat beige wall.
The second thing Steve sees when he wakes up is the ceiling. The ceiling is neither beige nor flat. Rather, it is off-white and has the consistency of cottage cheese. Steve thinks that he might be able to count the number of bumps on the ceiling.
The third thing Steve sees when he wakes up is the reflection in his phone screen. He looks at the date on his phone. March 12. Steve cannot remember the night before. He gropes for a memory that is not there. Fumbling with the lock-screen, he has a moment of panic when he realizes he does not remember his passcode.
Staring at the black screen into his panicked face, he realizes he does not know who he is.

Blind Dates and Romance: Relics of the Past

A commentary by Stella J. McKenna

On a blind date, you’re going in with a blank slate. On a Tinder date, you’re going in with the odds stacked in or against your favor, depending on how well the social media version of you aligns with real life you.

Confessions of an Anon

An anonymous personal analysis

If you open any gay dating app in any city, you will see a reflection of what the gay community is and isn’t. The gay male community is diverse, but it isn’t safe. It is quickly gaining privilege among the cisgender white male community, but the privilege isn’t being shared. It is more accessible than it has ever been, yet below the shiny torsos and perfect teeth lies internalized homophobia. Every individual is working through their digital identity to reach for true connection. Men looking for men, who are looking for surface level interactions, craving discussion, affection, and validation. Lust and intimacy are blown wide open to singular encounters that last minutes or hours, only to fade away to shame and guilt.

Consent in VR Porn

A statistical analysis by Sprott Woods

Multiple people expressed their concerns about how more immersive pornography would not only have negative psychological consequences on relationships and personal development, but it would also propagate addictive tendencies. Nicolas Conn states it poignantly in his VR Focus article, “Help 4 Addiction: Will Virtual Reality Pornography Addict a Generation of Users.” He writes, “Some people are addicted to sex. Some people are addicted to pornography. Some people are addicted to gaming. Now there are places someone can go to experience elements of all three combined in what is being described as the ultimate sexual experience you can have (without a partner).”

Graceful Creature

A poem by Fabian Broeker

Graceful Creature is a poem written loosely from the perspective of an Instagram model, but as an abstraction of the admirers the model is conversing with. So the idea here is of a false love, not propagated by the medium, or the model, but rather by the audience itself. The whole poem acts as a critique or breakdown of the beauty and fame we see in images on social media and with which many people fall in love.

To be Vulgar

A poem by Fabian Broeker

To be Vulgar is a poem about the sense of false sanitisation that comes from the use of the internet, a space where love can be experienced as purely spiritual, a meeting of the minds. On the other hand, it is also a space where one can see the most perverse, erotic pleasure one desires. But there is a huge gap between watching and experiencing. There is an element of sterility, a lack of bodily fluids and organic matter, which distances one from traditional concepts of love based on the idea of two bodies uniting.

Love in Virtual Reality

An exploration by Dr. Lindsay Portnoy

Some researchers are afraid that virtual reality will usher in an age of greater isolation and disconnection, while others argue that VR is a tool that will supplement in-person interactions while deepening existing physical relationships. If in-person interactions can be supplemented, there may also be a possibility to utilize the embodied environments of virtual reality to deepen those connections and move towards attraction with the ultimate goal of love.
All stories edited and curated by Clayton d'Arnault.