On Behalf of Queer Archives: Recounting the QIS Workshop a Year Later

In celebration of the year since the absolutely magical Queer Internet Studies (QIS) workshop, I went and realized that the final notes from our conversations never posted. Oy! I take solace in the fact these even exist and can still be shared. As described in this great final post from the QIS site by my colleague, friend, and QIS co-organizer partner in crime, Jessa Lingel, most of our panelists and presenters highlighted the digitization and import of queer archives, including the likes in New York City alone of the Downtown Collection at NYU, NY Public Library Gay and Lesbian & AIDS/HIV Archives, LGBT Community Center National History Archive, Lesbian Herstory Archives, and OutHistory.org.

When we broke into discussion groups at the end of the day, our conversations repeated five key topics.

  • The internet affords a space to convey the import of our queer history while making space for queer youth to learn and develop archives, and conveying the archives to radically different audiences
  • A space for play within the archives in order to get youth connected to digital materials and make space for teaching archives — all of which begs questions of access, connectivity, and humanizing digital collections
  • We kept returning to our queer economies in regards to interacting with capital and maintaining our integrity — we assume strong leadership and constant turnaround of free queer labor with innovative workarounds but how do we unite these projects, grant efforts, and support the labor that undergirds the digitization of our history?
  • Respond to the distancing, two dimensional computational aspects of too much history by highlighting the affective via non-heirarchical, open access (OA), well designed, and linked systems for web searches and databases, such as Collective Access, Omeka, and other free OA database software
  • Still, there is a shock amongst those who came out through the early 2000s that “queer archives” is even a term, and their burgeoning number refuses the “it gets better” conversation as it sheds a light on difference and the affective pain of our queer past

Just as we finished the night, two participants shouted, ”We keep coming back to capitalism…,” followed by, ”And how we want information to be free!” Even with the first of two(!) Queering Archives issues out by the Radical History Review representing the surge of interest and research in this area, the sentiment has not changed over the last year.

[Originally posted on jgieseking.org.]

Queer Internet Studies: Workshop Recap

Back in September, I asked Mark Hansen about sponsoring a workshop for people who work on queerness and online technologies.  Mark directs the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, which awarded me and my collaborator Adam Golub a grant to study social media use in Brooklyn’s Drag Community, and in addition to being deeply supportive of that project, he was immediately enthusiastic about the idea of workshop.  Six months and many emails later, the workshop came into being (yesterday!) with the (deeply, deeply appreciated) support of Brown, JustPublics@365 and Microsoft Research, not to mention the efforts of my co-organizer, the indefatigable Jack Gieseking.

We started off the day with a group of activists, artists, thinkers and makers who shared how they see the politics of technologies playing out in their work with queer organizations and institutes.  Hadassah Damien spoke about her work with the Interference Archive, and in addition to explaining all the awesome things they do, she opened up discussions of how archives and activists construct the concept of public(s), access and visibility.  Kalle Westerling came back to this topic when talking about CLAGS, and thinking about both the institutional affiliation of CLAGS and questions of how best to manage outreach. Rachel Corbman‘s talk on the Lesbian Herstory Archives used the Wayback Machine to illustrate technological change.  Highlights for me (everyone, really) included getting to see pictures of Gayle Rubin in chaps and a 1982 photo of Judith Butler sporting a t-shirt, tie, shorts and Chuck Taylors.

I was struck (and concerned) by the shared precarity of these institutions, all of which are at risk of losing their funding.  During our Q&A, Irene Javors raised a really terrific point about consequences of increasing acceptance of queer subjectivities in mainstream society, which requires re-thinking how we tell our stories, conduct outreach and conceptualize queer identities.

The afternoon starting with Jack leading a really fun and really productive map-making project.  After grouping us by the decades people came out, we started mapping queer New York, which opened up some really fascinating conversations of where our queer experiences, interactions and travels have taken place.

Our second set of speakers was focused on different experiences with and ideas about queer technologies.  Merrie Cherry got us started by talking about how social media technologies have intervened in her life as a drag performer, and I loved her openness about issues of policing speech as well as bodies.  Jacob Gaboury shared some of his work on queer technologies, and encouraged us to think about queer failures, as well as how to tell histories of marginalization that simultaneously do justice to alterity while not reifying those groups as always-already in a position of victimization. Bryce Renninger talked about politics of race and sexuality in the context of online dating technologies, bringing together some really compelling questions of intersections of race, sexualities and technologies. Maggie Galvan made the case for thinking about feminist and lesbian history in the 1980s, arguing that it’s an era that’s simultaneously understudied and theoretically rich. Drawing on her research on the technological practices and fluencies of queer homeless youth in New York, Jessie Daniels made me think about the stereotypes we (tend to) carry about who uses technologies and how. David Phillips closed out the panel by talking about queer surveillance, the pleasures of marginalization and possibilities for contesting big data.  Summarizing these talks in one sentence is a series of brutal condensation, but the panel provoked a really generative set of discussions that I hope will lead to some really wonderful projects, collaborations and interventions.

I’m so grateful to the amazing line-up of folks who came to share their work, to Jack Gieseking for his brilliance, patience and sunshine-y warmth, and to the organizations that backed us.  Special shout outs to Mark Hansen, Michael Krisch and Kate Crawford for their support – I am so, so thankful for the different ways you made yesterday possible.

QIS Prep: A Mental Mapping Exercise

In our conversations about how to best open a generative space for forging activist and research connections and partnerships, we began to imagine what sort of group exercise could bring us to the table with open minds and imaginations.

Therefore we have a small and important request. In our conversations about how to best open a generative space for forging activist and research connections and partnerships, we began to imagine what sort of group exercise could bring us to the table with open minds and imaginations. Therefore we ask each QIS participant to draw and bring your own mental map of queer NYC to the QIS workshop.

A mental map is your own hand-drawn or labelled map–by “labelled map” I mean using a GoogleMap printout or NYC subway, for example. Include all of the places and spaces that you would identify as queer. You can spend as long as you like on drafting your map, use color or not, and they only need be 8.5″x11″ (a regular size piece of paper). All levels of drawing skills are expected and welcome. It does not matter when these places existed, but do your best to label them. It also does not matter what your sexual identity is or if you are from NYC or beyond; everyone’s geographical imagination of the queer city is key regardless of how detailed or recent it may be. The map will be a part of the afternoon group workshop to kick off conversations and collaborations. Just like every voice matters, every map matters.

See you soon with your mental maps!

Update: Workshop at Capacity, More Details to Come

Thanks to everyone who’s filled out our participation form to attend the Queer Internet Studies Workshop in April.  Jack and I have been blown away by interest in this workshop, and we’ve had to close the form because we’re well over capacity.  In the next week or so, we’ll be reaching out to those of you who’ve signed up to attend, confirming that we have you on our list of participants and soliciting feedback for topics you’d like to discuss during the workshop.

In the meantime, thanks again to everyone who’s supported this workshop (especially our sponsors, the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, JustPublics @365 and Microsoft Research). It’s really exciting to see this project come together!

Queer Internet Studies Workshop: Key Objectives in a Nut Shell

We’re very excited to have the Queer Internet Studies Workshop coming together, and are currently in the process of confirming a really terrific group of writers, thinkers and makers.  Thanks to the awesome support of the Brown Institute for Media Innovation and Just Publics 365 we’re pulling together a one day series of conversations, presentations and art-making.  As we gear up for April 4, we thought we’d spell out our main objectives for the QIS workshop.

+More than anything else, we want to bring together people working on different components of queerness and technology.  In academia, queer studies and internet studies are areas of scholarship that span a number of disciplines, which sometimes means that people end up working in isolated silos rather than collaborative conversations.

+In addition to providing a space for those conversations to happen among academics, we’re bringing artists and activists (who have their own experiences of silos!) who do work that in some way draws together queer issues and technology.  We believe that awesome things happen when you invite people with different experiences and backgrounds to participate in robust, complex discussions.

If you’d like to join us, just fill out this form.  Space is limited, so we’re doing this on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Looking forward to seeing you in April!

Announcing #QIS2014

Network analysis of friendships on Fb's Queer Exchange group. Made with Gephi. CC BY-NC 2014 Jack Gieseking
Network analysis of friendships on Fb’s Queer Exchange group. Made with Gephi. CC BY-NC 2014 Jack Gieseking

The Queer Internet Studies conference (#QIS2014) brings together thinkers, makers and doers in a workshop format who draw upon social scientific methods to do work at the intersection of queer life and the internet. Taking Samuel Delany’s (2001) call for lgbtq contact and networking to heart, we seek to bring together researchers who investigate the construction of queer communities, the development of queer knowledge production and cultures, and assess how queer identity is understood and archived. This workshop is geared towards fostering scholarly, activist, and journalistic opportunities for digital technologies and queer storytelling and visualization. We look to identify existing projects as well as suggest future collaborations of writers, scholars, and technologists interested in possibilities for supporting the development of the queer internet and queering the internet.

The conference will take place on Friday, April 4th, 2014, at Columbia University in NYC.

NYC 4/4/14 @ CU

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported
This work by Jack Gieseking & Jessa Lingel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported.