A marked feature of recent developments in the networked society has been the growth in the number of people making use of Internet dating services. These services involve the accumulation of large amounts of personal information which individuals utilise to find others and potentially arrange offline meetings. The consequent data represent a challenge to conventional analysis, for example, the service that provided the data used in this paper had approximately 5,000 users all of whom completed an extensive questionnaire resulting in some 300 parameters. This creates an opportunity to apply innovative analytical techniques that may provide new sociological insights into complex data. In this paper we utilise the self-organising map (SOM), an unsupervised neural network methodology, to explore Internet dating data. The resulting visual maps are used to demonstrate the ability of SOMs to reveal interrelated parameters. The SOM process led to the emergence of correlations that were obscured in the original data and pointed to the role of what we call 'cultural age' in the profiles and partnership preferences of the individuals. Our results suggest that the SOM approach offers a well established methodology that can be easily applied to complex sociological data sets. The SOM outcomes are discussed in relation to other research about identifying others and forming relationships in a network society.
|Journal||SOCIOLOGICAL RESEARCH ONLINE|
|Publication status||Published - 2006|
|MoE publication type||A1 Journal article-refereed|
- self-organising map
- neural network
- complex data
- internet dating