Time: 1:00 - 2:00pm
Speaker: Dr Regan Koch
Venue: City Centre Seminar Room (Bancroft 2.07)
Dr Regan Koch, Lecturer in Human Geography, School of Geography, QMUL
Letting the stranger in: intimacy, technology and new geographies of encounter
Encounter with strangers is a defining feature of urban life, yet there is a tendency in recent literature to neglect the impacts of technological change on where and how these encounters happen. Using the examples of I) location-based sex and dating apps and II) online sharing economy platforms, this paper explores how new forms of encounter are facilitated and reconfigured by the development of digital technologies. Urban inhabitants are not necessarily becoming more or less comfortable in the presence of unknown others, but new modes of scoping, selecting and verifying potential connections are bringing forth novel social and economic possibilities. Of particular note is that many of these encounters take place in domestic spaces of home. With these changes comes an unsettling of longstanding distinctions between the domestic and the urban, the public and private, and other social categories through which intimacy and trust are negotiated. The notion of stranger intimacy is advanced as a way of describing conditional relations of openness among the unacquainted, and examining how affective structures of knowing, providing, befriending or even loving are built. The paper therefore sets an agenda for researching stranger intimacies to better understand their role in generating opportunity, as well as dynamics of inclusion and exclusion, privilege and disadvantage.