I am a Ph.D. student of Sociology at UC Berkeley studying online dating, the sharing economy, technology, culture, economic sociology, and social exchange.
Broadly, I am interested in understanding how online technologies shape cultural schemas and offline relationships. Currently, I have two ongoing projects:
Finding Love in Algorithmic Society explores how individuals rely on algorithmic-thinking to make decisions on ‘when to commit’ in the age of digital romance. Singles today often bemoan that online dating has reduced romantic pursuits to a ‘numbers game.’ They say that dating apps have made an overwhelming amount of people available at the touch of their fingertips, but knowing when to stop ‘relationshopping’ and start ‘relationshipping’ has become a great source of disquietude. Taking my research to metropolises such as Shanghai and New York, I ask: how do people respond to and/or play the numbers game? What kind of schemas are urbanites relying on to make dating-related decisions? Furthermore, how do the technologization and quantification of one of life’s most intimate affairs shape modern understandings of selfhood and relationality?
Sharing Bodies in the Sharing Economy is a study focusing on how bodies are used as a reciprocal tool when individuals navigate the sharing economy. Scholarship on the sharing economy largely prioritizes the exchange of commodities and skills, overlooking an integral question—how are bodies shared? In the rare occasion that corporeal concerns are touched upon, debates tend to situate practices within the sharing economy as cases of conventional labor or work fraught with inequalities. This study goes beyond such explorations by honing in on an underexplored, ‘pay-it-forward’ sharing network—Couchsurfing[.com]—to interrogate how bodies are shared through the gifting of sexual labor in an era of platform capitalism. In the context of Couchsurfing, hosts provide hospitality while guests reciprocate using a variety of gifting strategies, with sex being one of them. To delineate how sex is signaled, appropriated, and negotiated both online and offline, I draw on interviews with 82 Couchsurfers and three years of ethnographic data collected in four continents. I argue that against the predominantly negative and troublesome depictions of sex favored by popular accounts, Couchsurfers themselves render sex in ways that are morally and meaningfully diverse. Depending on an individual’s reciprocal-orientation (generalized, direct or negative), hosts and guests portray sex as what I conceptualize to be mutuality, transaction, leverage, and/or abuse.
My research and ideas have been featured on NPR (Morning Edition, All Things Considered), San Francisco Chronicle, GQ, Mashable, HuffPost, and USA Today.