How queer hook-up/people nearby application (PNA) users navigate hybrid digital and local space in rural and urban areas: results from a multi-region qualitative scoping study in the United Kingdom (UK)

Richard Rawlings*, Genavee Brown, Lisa Thomas, Lynne Coventry

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Before the millennium, finding other queer people often involved travelling to a queer venue in a city. Consequently, queer people have been at the forefront of internet technologies such as hook-up apps, namely $2 . Rural hook-up app use is under-researched, and queer visibility may be more carefully negotiated in rural areas than in cities. We carried out a qualitative study to establish whether location and/or technology use shaped social, sexual and romantic network creation and/or quality. Thirty-eight participants in cities and rural areas across the UK took part. We found hook-up apps to be the only source of local queer connection for some rural participants. Users speak of being drawn to these technologies when lonely, yet find they can contribute to feelings of isolation. Being visible, which the pictorial logic of some hook-up apps demands, can be difficult in rurality due to partial ‘outness’ about sexuality. Some fear meeting other app users in public in rural areas due to potential homophobia, yet lack access to private spaces. Some users find innovative ways to meet goals of friendship and community beyond the perceived affordances of sexual hook-ups, such as forming friendship and community groups via or beyond apps. This demonstrates that hook-up apps are inadequately-tailored tools for participants’ queerness, which extends beyond visible sexuality to negotiated communities and relationships of trust. This contributes to wider understanding of technology’s role in shaping social cohesion across diverse geographies and groups and the demands of visibility of such technologies on users.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAoIR2023
Subtitle of host publicationSelected Papers in Internet Research 2023. Research from the Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers
PublisherAssociation of Internet Researchers
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2023
EventAoIR Conference 2023: 24th annual conference of the Association of Internet Researchers - Temple University (TU) and the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), Philadelphia, United States
Duration: 18 Oct 202321 Oct 2023

Publication series

NameAoIR: Selected papers of Internet Research
PublisherAssociation of Internet Researchers
ISSN (Electronic)2162-3317


ConferenceAoIR Conference 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address

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