Online Dating

I am interested in conceptual changes that undergo the natural language and in structural changes in schemes of reasoning that are caused by increasing digitalisation of the world.

In 2014 Kasia Kasia (Warsaw Fine Arts Academy) and I started collaborating on Philosophy of Online Dating. Three drafts are now under edition.

The Medium is the Romance. Virtual and face-to-face relations: an example of a romantic relation in the context of online dating (co-authored with Kasia Kasia)

Submitted to Journal of Aesthetics and Culture in April 2017.

In this paper we evaluate the role that online dating plays in establishing successful and sustainable romantic relationships. We reject radically optimistic accounts (online dating enables creation of particularly successful relationships) and radically pessimistic accounts (online dating is destructive for relationships). In our argumentation in favor of a moderated liberal position we rely upon the conceptual framework of American pragmatism (James and Rorty) and in particular upon their analyses of “experience”. Rorty’s account enables us to speak of interpersonal experience that does not involve physical contact and relies uniquely on the language. In such cases the language stops being a medium and becomes the experience itself. This is our main tool to speak of experience in the context of interpersonal relations fully mediated by internet. Building upon American pragmatism, we use the concept of an “extra-layer” of experience that covers internet-mediated interpersonal relations. We claim that the extra-layer fully integrates with other layers of human experience, and enables us to speak of “mixed reality”. We conclude that internet-mediated interactions – ubiquitous nowadays for a non negligible part of the society – shall be treated as an inevitable extensions of physical face-to-face experience. As such they become a natural part of our lives and as such cannot be proclaimed simply good or simply bad. In consequence, there is no one possible way in which online dating can be evaluated uniformly as a separate phenomenon.


An Ethical Query into Big Data problems. The case of online dating services

In the recent years, several data-breach scandals shook the media. Breaches in the online dating industry were particularly disturbing, because of the sensitive nature of the unveiled data. Probably the most outrageous were the scandal with Ashley Madison, an online dating site specialised in helping its customers in finding extramarital relations. In July 2015, a group of hackers attacked the site, stealing information about millions of users. In consequence of the publication of personal data – including real names, home addresses, search history, and credit card transaction records – huge group of service’s users got exposed to humiliation and shaming. Because of the character of the site, also another group got harmed, i.e., users’ children and betrayed spouses, who not only received the information about the infidelity of their parents or partners but had to deal with this knowledge and suffer in public.

In 2014 Katarzyna Kasia and Paula Quinon presented at Lund’s “Knowledge in Digital World” workshop an unpublished paper “Trust in the context of online dating” where they addressed a question of what does it mean to trust an online dating provider? This work revealed several contexts of “trust”, focusing on the effectiveness of data basis structure and matching algorithms. In this talk, we will reevaluate this taxonomy by providing additional ethical dimension to the findings.

The case of Ashley Madison reveals several problems related to the ethics online dating. For instance, according to the analysis performed by Annalee Newitz (Gismondo, 08/28/2015), the service is much more often used by men, supposedly the majority of female profiles were fake in order to attract the subscribers. If, as the researcher shows, many female profiles are generated by the same IP-address, we can ask the question of whether the site did not abuse the trust of its customers. This question is even more interesting when one observes a great popularity of the service that suggests that the service successfully fulfilled customers’ expectations and needs. We are also going to address the problem of the use of anonymised data for statistical investigations. In 2014 Charles Rudder, the Harvard mathematics alumni and one of the founders of OkCupid, published a book “Dataclysm” in which he openly reveals which kind of study are made by online dating services providers on the data gathered from its clients.

In this talk we will focus on the value of trust in the context of online dating, asking if we can think about data sharing in terms of moral deontology. What is the difference between the approaches of the users and the providers? Why is it important? Our analysis will be based on applied ethics and on the other hand, on perfectionist Kantian proposal. Applied ethics functions as a philosophical justification of specific moral standpoints connected to particular areas of social life. Its aim is to reconsider the circumstances of moral choices from various perspectives based upon different definitions of ethical values (e.g. in utilitarianism or theory of virtue). We would like to compare this approach to the Kantian ethics based upon moral law expressed in the categorical imperative and the notion of moral duty.