Hello from new RA at MSR

I’d like to introduce myself as a new RA at Microsoft Research’s Social Media Collective. I’ll be around for the next year, and hopefully interesting posts and updates will accompany that. I’ve also added a link to my *new* blog in the sidebar (no posts yet but stay tuned!). Hopefully I’ll be using that space to share whatt interests me in the world of media, and especially social media. A bit about myself professionally: I just finished my MA at New York University’s department of Media, Culture, and Communication. My research interests focus primarily on the ways in which new media redefine intimacy, sexuality, and cultural understandings of the body – particularly in the context of an increasingly rationalized society in which we find ourselves moving closer to a world of Cyborg Citizenship (to borrow from Donna Haraway!). My thesis, entitled Mediated Matchmaking: The Romancing of Second Selves was born out of an interest in the intimate, online worlds we create, and why we create them. What leads us to examine personality as a measurable trait? Why do we believe that matching can be optimized through the use of algorithms? How does this speak to new understandings of human-machine interaction and, in turn, human-machine intimacy? These are the questions at the heart of my work. I mean to approach these topics with an open mind and boundless curiosity – not to criticize, not to condem, but also not to condone. I want to understand what I see happening around me, among my peers, in my culture, in my WORLD. When I tell people what I am interested in researching, I often am asked questions about whether or not online dating is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The truth is that I don’t know the answer, and I don’t think it is an answerable question. I am not critical of online dating (which I prefer to refer to as mediated matchmaking) because I myself have used it and have found it appealing for its unique attributes: optimal matching, a searchable database of other singles, control over my own self-image. Despite having been a user of such sites, I am also fully aware of the micropolitics at play in the various sites: the complexity of the relationships users have with the machine. All of these experiences have lead me on a quest to find out more about social life in the age of the internet: an age in which our interactions with machines are as important as our interactions with others. These are the reasons I am thrilled to be here at MSR, surrounded by people who find themselves asking the same questions, asking questions I never would have thought of on my own, approaching all of these topics from different angles, and entering into conversations with each other and with classic theorists to come closer to understanding the world in which we are living. I’m happy to be here, happy to meet all of you, and looking forward to an exciting year!