7.22.10 Editor’s Desk

By : Steve Blanchard
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SteveBlanchardHeadshotWhile piecing together this issue of Watermark, I was reminded of a mid-term paper I wrote for my Journalism 101 class during my sophomore year in college. The assignment was to discuss how evolutionary media would affect society. We could talk about its effects on our professional interactions, our ways of getting news and communicating and our socializing skills.

Of course, as a college-aged, closeted gay man still figuring out his own sexuality, my first instinct was to write about sex.

Since the web was pretty unorganized at that time—I used Netscape, for God’s sake—I had to venture into an actual library to learn more about the ways technology had influenced our bawdy behavior—gay, straight or bisexual. I researched everything, including the invention of the camera and its influence on both still and moving pornography that led to the XXX video empire of the 1990s. I also discussed newspaper classifieds and their ability to find like-minded, consenting adults. I think I even referenced the “Pina Colada Song.” I would have been remiss if I had excluded the telephone and its spawning of phone sex and the U.S. Postal Service’s PO Boxes and how they could be used specifically for sexual encounters in conjunction with the aforementioned newspaper ads.

Of course, the internet bulletin boards that were popular at the time and “new” sites like Gay.com and the chat program Mirc (and others) were prevalent in my discussion as well. I even remember researching the forthcoming introduction of web cameras and how they would revolutionize our sexual interaction. I pictured an X-rated episode of The Jetsons.

Despite the information I found about the above technology, I could not have imagined that it would all combine in a hand held device like a cell phone—and this was only 13 years ago!

In this Learning and Technology issue of Watermark, reporter Kirk Hartlage tells us about Grindr, a new smartphone application that was created by a gay man for gay men. It’s essentially a technologically advanced version of gaydar—our instinctive “is he or isn’t he” ability to seek out other gays. On a side note, my gaydar doesn’t work all that well. I’ve had my fair share of “misses,” including a recent one when I complimented a supposed couple, only to learn they were both married to women.

The short of it is that Grindr can physically locate gay men and direct its users to them locally. It actually tells you how far away the nearest user is to you—from a few feet to several miles. It’s intriguing, if not a little creepy.

I won’t give away all the details here, but the story on Page 35 discusses costs, how many men in our readership use the application and its success rate among a few local subscribers.

It makes you wonder what’s next.

Predicting the future of technology is impossible for those of us not directly involved with its creation. What is unimaginable to us today is likely to make an appearance within a decade or so, and if history is any barometer, LGBTs will be at the forefront tailoring it to our specific uses.

I’m not saying that LGBTs are focused solely on sex. Applications involving mapping, event listings and news sources geared toward LGBTs are gaining popularity and everything from television and radio programming to websites are now LGBT-specific. But where is the line when it comes to technology overtaking our personal space? Today it seems everyone is typing on their phones or updating Facebook profiles detailing their latest, inane household chore. “Doing laundry on my day off.”

I’m just as guilty as the next guy for such posts. But we have to remember to unplug once in awhile to enjoy the real face-to-face interactions within our community. Technology still has a ways to go before it can replace that.

Oh, and by the way, that mid-term paper earned me a “B” in the class and led to the discovery that the cute Teacher’s Assistant was also gay. So, there is still something to be said for old-fashioned research.

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