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Queer Internet Studies Workshop, April 4th

On April 4, JustPublics@365 is co-sponsoring the Queer Internet Studies Workshop, which we (Jessa Lingel and Jack Gieseking) are organizing. The workshop (other co-sponsors includeThe Brown Institute for Media Innovation and Microsoft Research), is aligned with the vision of JustPublics@365 in that it brings together academics, activists and artists around a particular topic. The focus of our workshop will be on the topic of technology and queerness."Los Mismos Derechos" Gay Rights march, Latin America

(Image source: Queer Legislation in Latin America)

Why technology and queerness?

Prefixes like inter-cross- and trans- are deeply familiar to people in queer and feminist communities. In our own research about Internet technologies, we constantly struggle to capture both the benefits and drawbacks of using these same technologies in everyday life.

On the one hand, online technologies are an important tool for historically marginalized groups (like LGBTQ people) to connect across geographic distances, to share resources and to work for social change.

On the other, there are many examples of terrible harm caused by online interactions, ranging from the ability to make anonymous threats to policing images of bodies. Here again, queer folks are frequently the targets of such attacks.

Given that queer folks (like other marginalized groups) can both benefit from and be harmed by online technologies, it’s productive and politically important to think through issues of ethical design, the activist potential of online platforms and opportunities for making queer lives better.

Social network visualization of queer friendship networks(Image: The interwoven and interdependent connections between the 7,855 members of the Facebook group, Queer Exchange, as of December 1st, 2013. Source:  Jack Gieseking CC BY-NC.)

With the QIS workshop, we want to create a space where artists and activists can share their work with each other, where academics can reach across disciplinary boundaries and make connections, were people can learn about institutional resources, technologies and tools that can support their existing projects and foster new ones.  In order to come up with topics of conversation, we asked some of the folks who’ve signed up to attend the workshop to share their key questions about how online technologies both help and hinder queer lives.  Here’s a selection of what they think are the pressing issues in thinking about technology and queerness:

  • Thinking about databases, data mining, subjectivity and normativity, particularly as it relates to surveillance
  • Broadening our understanding of queer politics to include class- and race-conscious politics that prioritize social and economic justice
  • Getting away from the academic practice of identifying communities on the Internet solely to prove that they’re there to an academic audience
  • Thinking about the use of mobile technologies by homeless LGBTQ youth
  • Using the lived experience of LGBTQ people to rethink tech policy

We’re excited about the range of ideas that have surfaced so far, and those that are bound to come up on April 4th. For more details, check out our website.

Hope to see you in April!

~ This post was co-authored by Jessa Lingel and jack Gieseking. Jessa Lingel is a post doctoral research fellow at Microsoft Research, you can learn more about her work here

 Jack Gieseking is Postdoctoral Fellow in the Digital and Computational Studies Initiative at Bowdoin College, and co-editor of The People, Place, and Space Reader (Routledge 2014).