April 29, 2015

Data Collection Comes To The 21st Century With Kinsey Reporter App

Guest blogger Lauren Schrader introduces us to the new Kinsey Reporter App that allows everyone to be a citizen scientist.

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Logo for Kinsey Reporter

Logo for Kinsey Reporter

“We are the recorders and reporters of facts – not the judges of the behaviors we describe.” ~ Dr. Alfred Kinsey

In 1938, Dr. Alfred Kinsey began gathering groundbreaking data on sexual behavior. After a decade of personal interviews and data analysis, Kinsey published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (later Female) that took the field of sex research by storm. Now, nearly 80 years later, YOU can participate in the research behind the Kinsey Institute from anywhere, anonymously, and with your smart phone for free.

Researchers at The Kinsey Institute have teamed up with the Informatics department at Indiana University, utilizing modern technology to gather data on sexual behavior on a global scale, and everyone is invited to participate.

How Does It Work?

The project is called “Kinsey Reporter” and it’s available as a free downloadable app for smartphones in the Apple Store and Google Play. With the app, YOU become the reporter. You select your geographic area and then select a category on which to report. Categories include topics such as “Sexual Activity,” “Flirting,” “Unwanted Experience,” and “Public Displays of Affection.”

Within each category there are subcategories, or “questions”, with pre-set phrases to select that describe current activities in your area, experienced or observed. For example, the questions in the “Flirting” category include details like “flirting location” and “flirt behavior” and tags include “no reaction,” “exchange contact info,” or “kiss.” You can report on as many or as few topics as you want, one time only or every day – it’s all up to you.

What Can The App Do?

Behind the app is a group of creators, including researchers from the Kinsey Institute, and developers from the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research (CNetS) in the school of informatics, among many others. Led by Computer Science professor Dr. Filippo Menczer, the team designed the app as a way to gather data from a new platform on a worldwide scale. Traditional research at Kinsey will continue, but the Reporter app is an added dimension. The team hopes to reach people in all countries, across cultures, beliefs and backgrounds, and to examine how geography relates to sexual behavior.

Is It Anonymous?

After an original launch in 2012, the developers have covered all of their bases for the app’s security. First, after you download Kinsey reporter, no account of login is required for use. There are no personal identifiers of any kind, not even arbitrary participant numbers, a technique sometimes used in anonymous data gathering. Second, the app does not locate you or use your GPS, rather you select your location: town, region, even country are options. Third, nowhere in the app are anyone’s personal responses or descriptions entered; all question categories are answered by selecting tags, and those tags are aggregated over space and time. Last, any information you provide is completely safe – secured with the same security protocols as online banking and purchasing applications.

Where Does The Information Go?

Once you (or any user) answers questions on the app, the data is available to everyone on kinseyreporter.org, mapped in real time across the globe, and combined in infographics  based on topic. Eventually researchers hope to use the information to investigate trends in many different phenomena. Team leader Fil Menczer uses this example:

“What is the prevalence of certain sexual happenings, like condom use, depending on cultural effects in their areas of the world? This technology gives us the opportunity to explore and mine this data in ways that were never possible until now.”

Interested In Joining The Mission?

Download the Kinsey Reporter app through Google Play or the iTunes App Store. Learn more and view trends at kinseyreporter.org and follow Kinsey Reporter on Twitter @KinseyReporter and Facebook.

Lauren Schrader graduated from Indiana University Bloomington, with a degree in Anthropology and specialization in Human Biology.