Voyeurism and sex, meet science and technology.
Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute has developed a smart-phone app that asks users across the globe to send intimate details on their personal sexual experiences and any real-life sexually based scenes they observe.
Researchers seek information on everything from fetishes and bedroom experiences to kissing in public and birth-control use, dubbing participants “citizen scientists.”
Institute officials, in an email to The College Fix, defended the app as a way to study human sexual behavior, something the Kinsey Institute has done for decades.
“We are open to finding trends that may emerge – differences and similarities based on geographical location, gender, and many other possible connections and associations,” its officials stated.
People across the globe who download the free app are called “Kinsey Reporters.” The research is collected from reporters via a series of questions. For example, if a reporter observes flirting, they can report if it was a smile, wink, hair play or even a touch. They can also report the location, age, gender and outcome of the flirt.
Institute officials apparently aim to harness people’s voyeuristic tendencies to their advantage.
“People are natural observers,” Julia Heiman, Kinsey Institute director, stated on the organization’s website. “It’s part of being social, and using mobile apps is an excellent way to involve citizen scientists.”
“We expect to get new insights into sexuality and relationships today. What do people notice, what are they involved in, and what can they relate to us about their lives and their communities?”
Heiman, in a video posted on the institute’s website, says learning about sexuality isn’t trivial, it’s just as important as learning about the ocean or outer space.
The Apple and Android mobile platform app was rolled out late last year but was immediately pulled back because of privacy and confidentiality concerns, according to institute officials. It was recently retooled and relaunched with additional privacy features.
Kinsey reporters’ exact locations are not recorded, even if the phone’s GPS is enabled. For reporters wishing to include their location in submissions, an option for “city” is available. To protect the anonymity of the reports, no personal identifiers are recorded or displayed, institute officials state.
To build the app, the institute partnered with Indiana University’s School of Informatics and Computing, using grad students instead of professional developers, so the only cost was student’s time, officials told The Fix.
The app is a modern way to collect the same type of information Alfred Kinsey collected back in the day, but at a faster rate, institute officials told The Fix.
“The database is certainly growing and changing, and that’s the great part of this project,” officials stated in an email. “If we report on findings, we will of course need to identify the numbers and the point in time. The information is there for future analysis, regardless of when it comes in. The more the better.”
The institute, housed at Indiana University, receives financial support from the university’s coffers as well as from grants, its corporate earnings, and gifts and bequests.
Fix contributor Kara Mason is a student at Colorado State University – Pueblo.
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