Penetrating the Digital Love Industry

This week I’m starting with a broad look at how sex and relationships are augmented and grow to accomodate new forms of cyberculture, robotics and communications. There are so many ways to tackle this subject; so many perspectives that I could explore. Whether we’re investigating the exploration and safe expression of niche sexual desires via simulation or virtual reality, the evolving communications frameworks of digital love,  the involvement of networked technology and robotics in love and sex, or the complex human psychological patterns developing in response to these subjects, there will be much ground to be covered.

While I am trying to work out which subject I would like to specifically, I am curating a general list of resources with short annotations on my blog. I hope that this short list will help me to determine exactly which area holds the most promise for the focus of my Digital Artefact.

A broad place to start on my quest for knowledge is VICE’ short documentary on The Digital Love Industry. The documentary centres on many of the areas relating to my research subject: cybersex, virtual reality, interactive digital spaces, the limits of human connection to simulated experiences, and the judgements that accompany these subjects. Virtual Reality LA Co-Organiser Jonnie Ross makes the point that virtual reality pornography or sexual experiences are going to reflect current digital encounters; they will not be purely about porn or purely about long term relationship supplementation, but about the choice to experience new sensations no matter what you’re looking for. Where First-Person Shooter simulation technology may have been used to emulate the shudder of a gun firing, it will also be used to create realistic physical sensations which can effectively mirror the actions of your partner online. Touch sensors will enable modern day couples to communicate every aspect of their affection while separated by distance but brought together by an app accompanied by sex-tech. While this comprehensive view of the beginnings and current trends in cyber-love is a great ‘jumping off point’, I also feel that it is very much weighted towards male and couple relations, with a noticeable lack of emphasis on visuals and experiences which provide a view to what VR and sex-tech might have to offer women. Jordan Kushins of Gizmodo agrees: ‘Female anatomy might be more complex to navigate, but if the tech is there to send the signals, it’s a shame they [haven’t] figured out a way to make the feelings mutual.’

There are many more areas to discuss, especially when we begin to involve concepts of morality and ethics in relation to A.I., equality and the significance of virtual relationships. More to come… pun intended.


4 thoughts on “Penetrating the Digital Love Industry

  1. kehteh says:

    This is a really intriguing topic you have chosen. It is grounded in some deep psychological questions about what is real in terms of love and sex in the virtual realm.

    It reminds me of this documentary I saw once called When Strangers Click. It was about five different tales of love and connection that were facilitated online. One that was particularly interesting and possibly relevant to you was this one about a couple who fell in love on Second Life. They talk about how they simply enjoyed doing mundane things together like eating breakfast and watching the sunrise. The guy even became famous after being picked up by a record producer after performing live in the game. He used the money from that to fly over and meet his love in real life. The interesting part though, is how they still stay together now, but have no attraction to each other in the real world. They are together in real life because they are still in love with each other’s avatar. I suggest checking it out.

    The movie Her is another good resource, delving into the concept of love with an AI operating System and if that love can be considered real.

    Your comments in class last week about affairs online stuck with me and I found this, don’t know if you’ve seen it.

    For your final project have you considered making a second life account, to gain an understanding on online relationships?


  2. charmainelily says:

    Hey, really interesting/ relevant research topic! I think it’s important that you’ve outlined that research/ technological advances in this area has been generally geared towards men/ couples. There is definitely a gender disparity at play here and could make for an interesting area to look into. This article provides a general look at gendered technology, which could be applied to your specific topic: In regards to researching morality/ ethics in relation to AI, I’d be interested to see research into the notion of consent: does consent apply in this area, for example, sexbots with AI? And is it possible for AI to give consent? I think there’s a lot of potential in researching this area, these articles may be of interest to you:,, There’s a lot you can do with this topic, I’m interested to see where it goes!


  3. Sam Cavanagh says:

    One direction that you may find interesting is the use of robotic sex workers, and the ethics of such in which David Levy touches upon in this article: (

    With digital sex already developed into a multi-billion dollar industry, the concept of robot prostitutes has made way for recent discussion. Levy, D. states that the primary use of a ‘sexbot’ is through assisting the user achieving orgasm without another human present. With an movement towards Artificial Consciousness the concept associated with “the study and creation of artefacts which have mental characteristics typically associated with consciousness such as (self-)awareness, emotion, affect, phenomenal states, imagination, etc.” Thus if we accept that, where does that leave the ethical and legal obligation for robots within society. Additionally with the introduction of ‘sexbots,’ society is faced with a further dilemma of redundancy of human sex workers and thus harming their prospective employment.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s