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ASA 2014 Panel: Queer OS

ASA 2014 Panel: Queer OS

Our panel submission to the next American Studies Association conference was accepted! We will be presenting the following panel at #ASA2014 in Los Angeles, from November 6-9 2014.

Queer OS: Queerness as Operating System


Fiona Barnett, Duke University, Literature and Women’s Studies

Margaret Rhee, UC Berkeley, Rhetoric and New Media

Jessica Marie Johnson, Michigan State University, History

Jacob Gaboury, NYU, Dept. of Media, Culture, and Communication


Zach Blas, Duke University, Literature

Cathy N. Davidson, Duke University/CUNY Graduate Center

Taking as our inspiration Kara Keeling’s recent article by the same name, Queer OS imagines what it might mean to have queerness as our operating system. This panel will consider the structures of feeling and the practices and discursive grammars that make life possible – and pleasurable - in our post-digital century. Keeling notes that the project of “Queer OS would take historical, sociocultural, conceptual phenomena that currently shape our realities in deep and profound ways, such as race, gender, class, citizenship, and ability... to be mutually constitutive with sexuality and with media and information technologies, thereby making it impossible to think any of them in isolation.” She issues a call to action to document and identify provocative and promising scholarship that might contribute to a project at the interfaces of queer theory, new media studies and technology studies, and this panel is one step towards answering that call.

We build on her provocation to understand queer as an orientation, a practice, a habit of being towards shifting aspects of existing reality and the social norms they govern. Queer OS documents kinship between people and systems, and identifies how digital interactions, both intentional and serendipitous, can lead to new pleasures and possibilities -- both online and off. Queer OS imagines the pleasure and pain of queer digital mediations as practices that are inherently organizing and disorganizing. We call attention to the radical collaborative undertakings of survival in Higher Ed, the joys of thinking that place us beside ourselves and next to each other using social media, and the computational methods that might be, even should be, understood as queer. We point out the transformative possibilities of "the fake” - not as a lesser version of the real, as the digital is often understood, but as a radical performance of the real itself.

If Tara McPherson describes the  “operating systems of a larger order,” this panel articulates how queer functions as the OS of technes in our computers and beyond. We consider how the pain of the economic collapse links with the pleasure of aspirational practices, and how networked processes can be imaginative and transformative. By focusing on computer code and system hardware, performance pieces and cinematic moments, communities of collaboration and social justice, and practices of desire and transformation within social media, we imagine how the Queer OS is silently updating and organizing many components in our current moment.

Paper titles:

Jessica Marie JohnsonPlay With Me (So I Know It’s Real): Social Media, Avatars, and Being a Radical Politics of Citation

Jessica Marie Johnson is Assistant Professor of History at Michigan State University and founder of African Diaspora, Ph.D., a blog highlighting scholars and scholarship in the field of Atlantic African diaspora history. Johnson has been blogging and participating in radical womyn of color communities online since 2007. She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in history from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a B.A. in African & African American Studies from Washington University in St. Louis where she was also a Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Fellow.  She’s received awards from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and the Gilder-Lehrman Institute. Between 2009 and 2011, she was a Consortium for Faculty Diversity Fellow in the Africana Studies Program at Bowdoin College. Her current research explores the lives of free women of African descent who resided in the port towns of Senegal, Saint-Domingue, and Gulf Coast Louisiana during the eighteenth century.

Jacob GabouryCompiling a Queer Computation 

Jacob Gaboury is a doctoral candidate in the department of Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU. His dissertation, titled Image Objects: An Archaeology of Computer Graphics 1965-1979, explores the early history of computer visualization and the influence of graphical paradigms on the broad reorientation toward objects in computer science in the late twentieth century. His second project offers a queer theory of computing derived from lives and work of several foundational queer figures in the early history of computation. He is currently a Junior Fellow at the mecs Institute for Advanced Study on Media Cultures of Computer Simulation at Leuphana University Lüneburg, the 2013 IEEE Life Member's Fellow in Electrical History, and a Lemelson Fellow at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

Margaret RheeThe Real and the Fake, The Digital as Drag

Margaret Rhee has published her academic writing in journals such as The Information Society,  Amerasia Journal, and Cinema Journal. She is currently co-editing a special issue of Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media and Technology on “Hacking the (Black/White) Binary” with Dr. Brittney Cooper. As a media artist, she served as lead concept for the Turing Test Tournament, a new media game based on Alan Turing’s test for artificial intelligence and co-lead for From the Center, a digital storytelling pedagogical project for incarcerated women. She is a HASTAC scholar and co-organized “Queer and Feminist New Media Spaces” in 2009. She is a doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley in Ethnic Studies with a designated emphasis in New Media Studies.

Fiona BarnettQueer as Quinoa: The Politics of Aspirational Curation

Fiona Barnett is a Ph.D. candidate at Duke University in the Literature Program and Women’s Studies. She has been the Director of HASTAC Scholars since 2009, where she directs and organizes the program for over 800 interdisciplinary graduate students from around the US and beyond. She has organized over 50 projects at the intersection of the digital humanities and cultural studies, including a collaborative engagement with Race After the Internet, forums on Queer & Feminist New Media Spaces, Pedagogy in the Digital Age and the #transformDH collective. Her scholarly work is at the intersection of feminist and queer theory, the digital humanities, science studies, critical theory and visual studies. She is currently writing her dissertation, Turning the Body Inside Out, which considers the social, scientific, aesthetic and theoretical practices which discursively produce the body as a visible – and thus knowable –  object by repeatedly staging the scene of its dissection. In 2013, the American Academy of Colleges & Universities named her as a Future Leader in Higher Ed.


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