Looking: Storytelling and Flânerie in the Arcades of Grindr

Class Year


Access Type

Archival Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department or Program

Media Studies Program

First Advisor

Michael Joyce

Second Advisor

Paul Russell


It is through storytelling, Walter Benjamin believed, that wisdom and experience are shared, letting open narratives achieve an amplitude that information lacks. And Charles Baudelaire considered the window-shopping flâneur to be the observant ne plus ultra of urban modernity. By combining these two literary modes–storytelling and flânerie–Looking engages a new media object of the 21st century: Grindr. On the gay male geosocial app, a user’s common opening line in a chat is “Looking?” meaning, “Looking for sex?” But what else are the men on Grindr looking for? This meta-critical essay and memoiristic narrative explores not ‘what has happened’ but rather ‘what is happening’ in the arcades of gay male virtual spaces today. By drawing on 19th-century Paris, summers in New York City, Roland Barthes, Edmund White, more gay men, and field notes after dinner, Looking details new experiences, paints a new picture of modern life, and looks at new ways of being together and being alone.

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