Queer digital cultures

O'Riordan, Kathleen (2018) Queer digital cultures. In: Somerville, Siobhan (ed.) The Cambridge companion to queer studies. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. (Accepted)

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Abstract

Queer digital culture refers to the ways in which LGBTQ+ identities, practices, and theories have been mixed up in the emergence, design, and constitution of digital technology. There have been significant shifts at the intersections of queer identity and politics and digital communication technologies from the 1980s to the early twenty-first century. A digital artefact that helps to open out these shifts, across many of these categories, is the 1998-1999 Brandon Exhibition. Created by Shu Lea Cheang, a leading digital artist, the Brandon Exhibition was one of the first digital art works to enter the Guggenheim art collection. Inspired by the life of Brandon Teena, a transman murdered in Nebraska in 1993, the artwork was experimental, exploring both Brandon’s life and the capacity for digital technology to facilitate rethinking and experimentation around gender, sexuality, and technology. Created on the cusp of a shift from a text-based environment to an audiovisual internet, it signals the digital aesthetics and practices of the 1980s and 1990s. It features a largely black or white background with high-lighted text, pop-up images and a scrolling back screen. It is based on hand written HTML, with use of Java applets. Because contemporary browsers no longer support most of the features, it had to be restored in 2017, making it again a front-runner, as one of the first examples of a large-scale digital art restoration project (Philips, et al, 2017). The project signals shifts in media art practice from experimental digital forms (like net.art) into a more mainstream art world, and the emergence of a broader discourse about trans and gender identity as a political project. It also explores questions of identity performance and aesthetic experimentation. The shifts reflected in the Brandon Exhibition also characterize scholarship on the intersection of queer culture and digital communication technologies over the same period.

This essay will explore these developments in queer digital culture across the following categories, tracing the gradual shifts from:
• textual to audiovisual;
• subcultural to mainstream;
• utopian political aspirations (Afrofuturism; cyberfeminism; cyberqueer) to commercialization
• identity play and performance to consumer authentication
The following entry explores the way that shifting digital cultures have been embedded in the increasing visibility of queer cultures since the 1980s.

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
Research Centres and Groups: Sussex Humanities Lab
Subjects: H Social Sciences
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Depositing User: Kate O'Riordan
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2018 09:43
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2018 07:23
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/78599

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