Magazine article Artforum International

R. Luke DuBois

Magazine article Artforum International

R. Luke DuBois

Article excerpt

BITFORMS GALLERY

Curious about the geographic distribution in the United States of men and women who characterize themselves as, say, submissive, shy, bored, or lonely? If so, you'll likely be delighted by R. Luke DuBois's project "A More Perfect Union," 2008-, for which he created statistical maps of the nation describing the ways in which people represent themselves on online dating services--and the qualities those people are seeking in a possible mate. In 2010, DuBois, who might be considered something of a polymath (he is an artist, composer, performer, and a coauthor of the software Jitter, which facilitates real-time manipulation of data), joined twenty-one online dating services (these included match.com, chemistry.com, eharmony.com, christianmingle.com, gay.com, blacksingles.com, and jdate.com); then, utilizing custom software he had been developing since 2008, he compiled and analyzed the online profiles of roughly nineteen million Americans, culling more than twenty thousand key words from the dating data. From this swarm of information, DuBois generated two sets of maps that propose alternate cartographies of the United States.

The more visually appealing of the two is based on the map of US congressional districts; rather than indicate political polling data, however, each district signifies the quantity of men and women in the region who have characterized themselves according to a given adjective. So, for example, we are presented with the "kinky" map, the "shy" map, the "funny" map, the "lonely" map. (More appear on the artist's website.) Each district is colored a different shade of purple, with the concentration of a given demographic apparently indicated by the saturation of blue (for men) and red (for women)--a play on the red state/blue state divide. In their conversion of sociological and subjective data into visual language, these maps do have a certain sensuous, aesthetic vibration (albeit in a kind of reductive digital-painterly manner)--not to mention a utility in identifying the social enclaves inhabited with potential love partners.

Moving to a smaller scale, the other set of maps (occupying most of the gallery) focuses on individual states and cities of the union, substituting place names with key words that predominated in the dating profiles of the inhabitants from that area. …

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