Mediatised intimacy: The digital go-along as research tool

Kristian Møller

Research output: Contribution to conference - NOT published in proceeding or journalPaperResearchpeer-review


More and more aspects of everyday life are being intertwined with media technologies. These mobile technologies carrying social media services can be taken anywhere, and are in turn responding to these places. To more and more people the intimate practices of dating, doing relationships, and having sex are felt as if they depend on such media technologies. Thus they can be said to mediatised in the sense that the media at hand are experienced as indispensable. With the rise of proximity based dating and hook-up services such as Grindr and Tinder, questions of spatiality arise: what spaces are there, and how may we as researchers access them.The understanding of the Internet as a rich space of possibilities for research have been widely accepted. Early works of Internet research – or ‘cyberspace’ as it was dubbed – approached screen and network based media as radical opportunities to do away with the power relations embedded in the body and its spatial context. A sobering and response to such works were Christine Hine’s book ‘Virtual ethnography’ (Hine, 2000) that legitimised the Internet as a field site for ethnographical inquiry, while championing an understanding of the internet as connected to material space, and relating bodies and meanings to both. In the wealth of Internet research that followed, eg. the four Hine edited volumes ‘Virtual research methods’ (2013), in between the online-only methods of data extraction, surveys and participant observation, works with phenomenological and geographical approaches appeared. Such research asks the following questions: what is the body and where exactly is it (Campbell, 2000)? How do we grasp not only the textuality of the Internet but also its visual and experiential aspects (Pink, 2001)? How do we understand rich online material without succumbing to media centricity (Hepp, 2010)? How do we navigate these possibilities in a way that is ethically sound and responsible (Markham, Buchanan, 2012)? This article leans on Margarethe Kusenbach’s method of the ‘Go-Along’ (Kusenbach, 2003), which she positions in-between ethnographic observation and interviewing and argues is “a tool particularly suited to explore two key aspects of everyday lived experience: the constitutive role and the transcendent meaning of the physical environment, or place” (Kusenbach, 2003: 458). It is in the line of above questions that this article approaches the study of proximity based dating and hook-up apps’ relation to intimate practices. The research questions then become: to study mediatised intimacy practices, how can interview and participant observation methods be combined? What different understandings of the researcher, media technology, informant, as well as their interaction, do such approaches offer, and what opportunities and challenges for research does the Digital Go-Along entail?
Original languageEnglish
Publication date13 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes
EventNordMedia 2015: Media Presence – Mobile Modernities - University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 13 Aug 201515 Aug 2015


ConferenceNordMedia 2015
LocationUniversity of Copenhagen
Internet address


  • Media technologies
  • Proximity-based dating
  • Mediatised intimacy
  • Ethnographic methods
  • Digital Go-Along


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