digital ego, inflated
Jack is an inflatable penis that reacts to user's Grindr activity. More than a real product it is meant to highlight the often toxic and shallow interactions one can find in the Grindr app itself.
This is not a regular product of mine. It's a result of my diploma thesis research, which is about learning how people create digital personas that represent us in online presence, specifically in our dating and sexual life. To further focus my research, I've wanted to take a look at how these curated alter egos communicate in gay community of Grindr app. If you would like to find out more about the studies and thinking behind Jack, feel free to read the full text of my diploma thesis.
Although Grindr may have not been conceived as a place for sex-seeking interactions only, its users admit that even if they weren't looking just for hookups, the hyper-sexualized environment of the app sucked them into conversations predominantly about sex.
Studies show that one of the main reasons for using Grindr is seeking hookups/sex and/or social inclusion, in different words - getting an ego boost - mainly in form of external validation through compliments from other users.
Users also admit that they change their personal identity on this social network based on what they seek while using it. They also admit their Grindr persona has often became more sexual, to comply with its "sexual norm".
Even though many men seek external validation there, a lot of them also feel less satisfied with their bodies after using Grindr. It can be concluded that men with above average BMI or with less than "ideal" body forms, using Grindr is a risk factor for their self image.
One of the most recognized phenomenon of Grindr is the prevalence of "The Dick Pic" and "Penis Culture" - men exchanging photos of their naked penis. It is also often part of their self presentation in profile, where shortcuts such as "XL" "XXL" "hung" "cut/uncut" refer to information about their genitals.
Finally, these pictures are desired and their exchange is expected from users - questions like "do you have more pics?" or "can I see more of you?" have became ubiquitous signals that cybersex is about to begin. Sharing of these also complements users' self presentation, positioning them as an object of sexual desire.
Inflatable penis made of PVC plastics used for making inflatable toys is a clear indication of its reference to pop culture, but also to consumer goods - correlating to consumerist form of interactions found in Grindr.
3 viewed you
Somebody tapped you
Jack inflates the more attention its owner gets, and deflates when no one notices him. It is a glorified representation of user's digital ego.
Jack is a product meant for gay men, who want to manifest how desirable they are and how is their digital ego important to them. They are addicted to Grindr, check it every few minutes, and have forgotten what regular dating life looks like. Always seeking new guys, and if they are not up for hookup an exchange of some picks they can jack off to is ok. If the number of taps or messages is not big enough, they get nervous. Jack is a totem in their bedroom, showing who is the alpha male here.
Jack is a product meant for gay men, who don't take Grindr and themselves that seriously. They buy it just for fun "Inflatable dick reacting to my Grindr activity? I want that lol". And maybe soon enough they would reconsider their relationship with Grindr - taps inflate Jack, but they still haven't found a plus one. Maybe they get hard from the pics, but then the sound of inflating Jack reminds them there is no one to help them with it in the room. Jack is a reminder Grindr is but a mere toy.
Is it a meaningful product, or is it sick?
Is it irony, glorification, highlighting a problem, or all of these?
Would anyone want a penis that evaluates their sexual desirability on display?
Jack isn’t about answering any of these, it’s about silent reflection of a phenomenon that is known to erode the basic principles of what it means and what makes us human.