❤️ ❤️ An Artistic Exploration of Contemporary Online Courtship
By Kenzie Housego
❤️ ❤️ explores contemporary courtship language and symbols. Combining embroidery, craft, and technology such as LEDs, motion sensors, and chatbots, viewers are invited to engage in a dialog with the artwork literally and conceptually.
What inspired you or what is the idea that got you started?
In completing my Masters of Fine art in new media 2021, I decided to focus my research on contemporary online dating. Statistics demonstrate that online dating apps and matchmaking websites have become a mainstream pathway to finding love in the 21st century. Online profile descriptions, emojis, acronyms, and sexting have become the new visual codes that communicate desire, attraction, and romantic (or non-romantic) intention. As a millennial born in 1985, I am very familiar with using dating applications, reading and interpreting online dating profiles, and navigating attitudes in these digital domains of communication and online representation. Like many others, I eventually met my partner online. ❤️ ❤️ started when I created an anonymous online questionnaire, that surveyed thoughts, ideas, feelings, or experiences related to contemporary courtship – online dating, digital communication, and/or miscommunication. 109 individuals from a wide age range and demographic took the survey.
What is your project about and how does it work?
❤️ ❤️ includes 5, round 2D interactive artworks that mix craft and technology like LEDs, motion sensors, and chatbots. “Emoji Bot” has a phone linked to a chatbot that people can text. The bot responds to texts, in real-time, and only uses emojis. “Flirt Bot”, programing by Gabrielle Odowichuk also has a chatbot, that interprets texts. Message sent back to texters trigger emoji animations displayed on the artwork. Animations are pink hearts, winky faces, angry faces, smiley faces, fire, and purple devil emojis.“Primary Data” uses Floriography the art of arranging flowers with meanings. Displaying 3 LED roses; a yellow that connotes jealousy, a red representing true love, and a blue signifying the unattainable. Words from online dating profiles are embroidered around the roses. “Selfie Guys” has 12 embroidered guys taking selfies. LEDs display a lighting effect mimicking cell phone camera flashes when a sensor is triggered. “SEND NUDES” softens the statement by using delicate textile.
What did you learn by doing this project?
This research and project is deeply personal to me and tied to life as I know it, specifically because my partner and I met through an online dating application six years ago, and we are now about to embark on the adventure of parenthood together. I cannot help but think of how Christian Rudder’s book Dataclysm (2014) describes the impact of online dating on society in personal terms. Rudder estimates that “tonight, some 30,000 couples will have their very first date because of OkCupid. Roughly 3000 will end up together long-term. 200 of those will get married, and many of them, of course, will have kids” (Rudder, 2014, p.10). Soon my partner and I will have a sleepy, crying, and (I’m sure) very adorable newborn baby who will exist in the world because of the Internet, a dating website, and because I chose to answer a dating app message. This project has helped me reflect on current online communication trends and tactics specifically related to 21st-century dating and romance.
What impact does your project have on others as well as yourself?
Love it or hate it online dating uses unprecedented new technologies to connect potential romantic partners and theoretically enhance the chances of finding true love (if that is your goal). ❤️ ❤️ highlights how romantic communication is transmitted, interpreted, and misinterpreted through technology. “Primary Data “and “Selfieguys” address self-representation within online contemporary courtship with text and visual images, respectively. “SEND NUDES”, “Emoji Bot”, and “Flirt Bot” explore online communication mediated through screens. Interactivity is built into "Selfieguys", "Emoji Bot", and "Flirt Bot" providing a way for viewers to participate with the art. Ultimately, ❤️ ❤️ invites viewers to participate in the co-creation of knowledge about online dating rituals, in particular digital communication, and self-representation, and creates space for deeper discourse and understanding of the experiences of others.