The TubeCrush as Connected Intimacies project aimed to explore the website TubeCrush, which allows people to take and share unsolicited images of attractive men on the London Underground. From this website, the project sought to study how such a practice is shaped by desire, digital culture, masculinity, and the urban space of the major financial city of London.
We enacted in a ‘mobile methodology’, following TubeCrush on and offline. The research conducted included a sustained analysis of the TubeCrush website, alongside Tube-based interviews with TubeCrush users and people who had been photographed and posted onto TubeCrush, and an interview with the TubeCrush founder. A significant amount of data was produced through the project featuring in The Daily Mail, which created substantial discussion in the comments section (2,400 comments). In addition, the project followed TubeCrush along lines of wider social issues, including: feminist activism and uses of public space (e.g. #manspreading); antifeminist sentiment and accounts of ‘reverse sexism’; concerns with privacy and non-consensual image capture; and emotion (especially desire) in large, urban and busy spaces. To conceptualize our understanding of TubeCrush, we theorized the creation of a ‘postfeminist intimate public’, where attractions to particular ideals of masculinity are shared as insider knowledge. Empirical evidence for this included material collected from the project website, where a dominant feature of the men appearing on TubeCrush is their adherence to normative notions of desirable masculinity, i.e. white, wealthy, abled bodied, and often either wearing a suit or on the way to the gym. The project has understood this in the context of both the problematizing of financial masculinities in the ‘era of austerity’, and the critique of ‘masculine strength’ by the feminist movement. Thus, the research we have conducted has suggested that TubeCrush neutralizes the politics of men’s image, especially through humor. A further line of inquiry in the project has been developed in line with current directions in human geography, especially given the interaction between digital culture, the on and offline and the urban space of the Tube for enabling the taking and sharing of non-consensual image capture.
The project concluded with an end of award event, where different lines of inquiry in the TubeCrush project were tied to other academic research to create a wider network of ideas. The end of award event included research on: social media and selfies; the mobile phone as an object of comfort; nomadic methodology; and research on women’s experience of advertising in public space (including on the Tube). In addition, the event incorporated two workshops: 1) Lego Serious Play, with models on gendered experiences in public space, and 2) an open café discussion on future research directions/collaborations.
05/2017 to 01/2019