Computer-Assisted Indian Matrimonial Services

Computer-Assisted Indian Matrimonial Services

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7368-5.ch033
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The focus of the chapter is on the way the computer has been harnessed to assist both an ancient custom of arranged marriage and its practitioners (known as matchmakers) rather than on the internet usage of people looking for love in the internet era. The principal argument is that the computer-assisted matchmaking, because it offers the opportunity for fine grained analysis, is beneficial to the couple and thus improves the chances that the marriage will be durable and happy for both the man and his wife.
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People seeking romantic relationships have advertised for partners on the internet in both developed countries (e.g. U.S.A.) and developing countries such as India since that first became possible twenty or more years ago. However, advertising patterns differ among societies with more advertisements in the United States by people looking for short term relationships (as evidenced by the success of such sites as Tinder)), and more advertisements in India from people looking for suitable spouses in a society where overwhelmingly people have arranged marriages (Krishnan 2012).

Thanks to its complex nature the matrimonial decision in India, which has great cultural importance, has stimulated the rise of a large thriving industry of computer assisted matchmaking services catering to the millions of Indians searching for suitable spouses. This phenomenon, in turn, has attracted the interest of a variety of disciplinarians, including information scientists and social scientists.

This chapter’s focus is sociological: it concerns the way the computer has been harnessed to assist both an ancient custom of arranged marriage among Hindus and the special occupational group known as matchmakers. The principal argument is that computer assisted matchmaking, thanks to the computer’s virtually unlimited memory, improves the chances that the marriage contracted by a couple utilizing the service will be durable and happy because it offers the possibility for fine grained analysis.

From a sociological standpoint, it is maintained here that Indian matchmaking and medical diagnosis are fundamentally similar phenomena in that both are the result of non-random, non-rational processes that can be efficiently analyzed using the garbage can model of Cohen, March and Olsen, as modified by Zeldenrust (1990) and Fisher (2005). The model itself is a kind of dynamic input-output model that emphasizes flows into and out of the “garbage can” and storage within the “garbage can.” Since its development in the early 1970s the garbage can model has been applied to study “decision making in organizational anarchies” (1972) and government planning (Kingdon, 1984); and in the modified form employed here it has been used to study research problem choices of scientific research teams in the Netherlands (1990) and in the United States and Canada (2005); and to study how to improve medical diagnosis (2014).

Although this chapter focuses on India, some conclusions may apply to other societies where arranged marriages also occur: in Japan (see Blood, 1967), among European royalty from the Middle Ages onward, (see, e.g. Harris, 1989); and among such groups as the haridim (ultra pious Jews). Elsewhere, e.g. among the wealthiest families in the United States, elements of arranged marriage survive in such traditions as debutante balls whose purpose is to enhance the probability that the eligible children of the wealthy elite meet and fall in love with suitable mates, i.e. eligible singles from “good” families. However, as Krishnan points out, in India, the tradition of arranging marriages has survived the homogenization of culture of the modern era (exemplified by the popularity of “pizza, burgers, denim and rock music in India as in Europe and North America”) with the result that “in most Indian communities” people feel “the need to conform to traditional marital practices” (p.18).

This chapter first briefly considers the complexity of the marriage decision as a consequence of constraints that must be satisfied, especially as it bears on the variety of data to be collected and analyzed. In India, the first constraint is that the marriage ceremony be performed as required by the tenets of the Hindu religion. This can be hugely expensive. According to Yee (2008), “the ceremonies are very colorful, and celebrations of the nuptials may extend for several days.”

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