A few weeks ago I was accepted for Newcastle Culture Lab’s Metadating research trail.
The research was more about our attitudes to sharing personal data than dating. However they did invite singles and included a number of events which included speed dating. I guess also meta-dating would be factually correct as we were talking about dating while dating.
There was homework which had to be done on the run up to the event. You were given a booklet which you could fill in as much as you were comfortable with. On top of that was some blank generic graphs which could be filled in with our own data. When I say our data, it could be any Quantified Self data, from how many coffee’s you had over the week to you’re more intimate data like you’re sleep cycle daily. Everything was up to you to declare, which gets around the problem of using Quantified Self data in research. But it also makes it difficult to compare. Luckily this wasn’t about the data metrics.
Once at the event (I rolled it into a wider visit to Newcastle’s Culture lab where I talked about ethics of data, a visit to Newcastle’s Makerspace and Campus North. Didn’t make it to the beach however). I was one of the first to turn up as I was heading home to Manchester on the last train. It became clear the problems I had with thestarter, were pretty much reversed as very few women turned up. (this is a issue I’d love to spend some time sorting out one day)
The PhD students lead by Christopher had bought some nibbles (olives, cheese sticks, etc) and lots of Cava. By the time we done the icebreaker it was down to the group discussions about our data with a Cava in full swing.
We were split into two groups and we started critiquing the anonymously data sheets. It was fascinating to hear other peoples views on data points, dread to think what people said about my sleep cycle and steps per day. It also became clear the data may have been fudged in parts by others. To be fair I did use real data but choose to leave off some of the measurements. Everything was recorded by camera and audio dictation, which I bet made for some very interesting insight into data sharing.
By the second half, the cava was certainly having a bit of an effect and peoples lips loosened. Just in time for the speed dating portion. Now to be fair Chris and the other students had never been speed dating, so it was a little odd but the imbalance in men, meant we had to do it in two parts. On the speed dating, we discussed each others data sheets and more (ooeerr!) We were given the opportunity to write something to each person later.
Another eye opener for me was at the very end when we constructed the perfect and worst dating profile for set people from data we made up. The eye opener for me was building a dating profile for a women who was career driven. All the guys around me seemed to not like her, while I was asking if she was real and where can I meet her? (Cava had certainly kicked in by then)
The event ended about 8:45pm so quite a bit over time but as people started shifting to the local pub, I had enough time to quickly have a drink then head to Newcastle Station for my long train ride home.
The metadating event was fun and to be honest the culture lab students may have gained a ton of insight from the frank and slightly loose lipped participations on the night. I imagine the Cava was bought expecting the full board of people but with the smaller number and the stand ins, there was plenty to go around.
I am surprise I didn’t fall a sleep on the train. However to be honest it was so busy down to York, theres no way I could fall a sleep. I’ll save my journey for another day…
Well getting the last train back from Newcastle was quite an experience. Wondering if the guy I gave love advice took it?
— Ian Forrester (@cubicgarden) December 7, 2014
The metadating event was great fun and from a research point of view I’m very interested in what comes out of it. Its a shame a bunch of women didn’t turn up but the students did a good job thinking on their feet and making it work. I suggested to Chris and Bettina that if they did it in Manchester or London it would be packed out, and I would certainly support them in the research.