Metadating was a future-focused research and speed-dating event where single participants were invited to ‘explore the romance and future of personal data’. As we collect more and more quantified data about ourselves, we were interested in the future social life of data. Although commonly used to make us fitter, happier, and more productive, we wondered how people might talk, share, make jokes, brag or even lie about their data as it becomes a more common representation of everyday life.
The Metadating project speculated about a dating service where rather than photos, or a profile description, people might use quantified data to meet, judge and date potential partners. We have not designed such a service, or a Metadating app, for example. Instead, we organised a speed-dating event, where participants created ‘data profiles’ about themselves, and used these to ‘date’ other participants. The hand-drawn data profiles were given to participants as part of an invitation one week in advance of their dates. They provided an opportunity for people to reflect on what data they would like to capture and share on a date, and how such quantified data might be reflective of their identity.
The event was a great success. One long-term couple even emerged! In the rich context of dating, we saw a new side to data. Data used to illustrate identity, rather than change behaviour. Data that was playful, ambiguous, illustrative, humble and altogether more expressive.We suggest that such lived qualities are sadly lacking from many current ‘Internet of Things’ or ‘Quantified Self’ technologies. Metadating then ultimately seeks to provoke us to question what data is for, and how we can design new interactions and experiences with people and their data.

This project has been published at CHI 2016 – (pdf).

It has also received significant press attention, including in the New Scientist.

Much more detail on the project, including a press pack can be found at

Chris Elsden, Bettina Nissen, Andy Garbett, David Chatting, David Kirk, John Vines