This past weekend was an amazing one, full of rich discussions of digital media at the UCLA Queer Studies Conference on the "Techno-Queer Self Fashioning: Digital Theory by Digital Praxis" panel with myself, Alexis Lothian, Amanda Phillips, Margarat Rhee. Then, following that I demonstrated my new wearable electronic project designed to create local wireless mesh networks to increase community autonony, Autonets, in the Queerture QUEER + COUTURE Fashion Show.
Additionally, the plenary talks by both Jack Halberstam and Karen Tongson were absolutely inspiring. As Alexis said, Halberstam's Gaga Feminism Manifesto, taking much inspiration from was positively rousing! Tongson's talk resonated deeply with me though, effortlessly tying together her childhood memories of listening to the post-punk lyrics of Scritti Politti with her thoughts on disciplinary promiscuity. One comment that struck me though, was when Tongson was discussing how Queer Theory used to be seen as a "hip, trendy" field to be in, when people still thought it was ripe with possibility for disruption and that now it seemed more institutionally tamed. (It's hard to convey here the combination of sarcasm and actual sense of dissolusionment) Similarly, she said, with a bit of irony perhaps, that the Digital Humanities is the new hot, sellable commodity. (If so, then perhaps our panel was the most hipster thing around, Ha!)
I merely want to spark this fire and see if other people have thoughts on this subject without getting into a lot of analysis here, since I have to get back to a paper I'm working on! But one thing a couple of people told me they appreciated about our "Techno-Queer Self Fashioning" panel was that we were able to effectively bring together critical critiques of heteronormativity, racial production and sexual norms with a deep understanding of technologies including social media, gaming and wearable electronics. I actually signed on to post an announcement about the Critical Code Studies (CCS) event at USC tomorrow, which you can find below, but I wanted to comment on this weekend's excitement and the CCS event ties into this discusion well. At times I fear or I feel that CCS discussions, or Digital Humanities discussions, can run down a road that is very conservative, by trying to bring together technologists/coders with humanities people/critical theory people/artists, yet never really getting beyond the initial conflicts of interest. Perhaps my concern is that the lack of a shared commitment to feminist, anti-racist, queer critiques involved in such a broad grouping creates a situation in which a lot of ground work has to be laid, and all the time gets spent laying that ground work.
My questions are: Is queer new media really so rare? Or are queer/feminist/women of color analyses of new media really so rare? Do you think there is often something very conservative, even sellable, that is appealing to corporations or to university regents or investors, that is often present in discussions of the digital humanities? Do you think there is still some radical potential for queer theory or new media or the digital humanities to disturb hegemonic systems of power that facilitate violence against certain groups of people every day and protect the interests of others?
Yes, these ar big questions, but hopefully there's something here that is offensive enough or resonant enough for you to be interested in responding. Forgive me for being something of a troublemaker, it's something I strive for. To pull out a quote I used in my talk on the Techno-Queer panel, from Halberstam's The Queer Art of Failure, "we must be willing to turn away from the comfort zone of polite exchange in order to embrace a truly political negativity, one that promises this time, to fail, to make a mess, to fuck shit up... to breed resentment, to bash back."
CCS Lunch & Learn at the Annenberg Innovation Lab