‘Rendering queer bodies against the automated gaze’ Auryn Reeve, δημοσίευση στο CLOT Magazine [24/1/2023]
In the current formation of society, informatics and the pursuit of data have produced a surveillant system in which predictive methods reformulate the world and how we interpret it in the name of optimisation. However, embedded within these systems are problematic histories of oppression and marginalisation that culminate in biases that can directly impact the lives of those who do not identify with the majoritarian subject.
For the queer and non-normative body, the interaction with the virtual creates a conflict with the dominant surveillance structures. This predictive gaze attempts to figure these identities out through the collection, categorisation and commodification of their data to be utilised for corporate interest. The collective body of work named Queer Technologies (2008) by Zach Blas provides strategies for the queer individual to confront these systems of control. This assemblage of tools in Queer Technologies, applications and interventions such as ‘transCoder‘, ‘Gay Bombs‘, and ‘theSoftQueerBody‘ inscribe themselves within a genealogy of practices which critique the heteronormative, capitalist, militarised underpinnings of technological architectures .
The virtual extension of our reality provides, for the queer individual, a site to explore and experiment with identity. As Jean Du Toit notes in their essay from 2020, The (oh-so-queerly-embodied) virtual, there is in the enmeshment of oneself with others in the virtual a creative space of communion and bodily engagement that stretches beyond the confines of traditional descriptions of sexuality and perception to a new form of sexual and sensual relationality .
Firstly, this space provides a means to connect with a global community of people with shared perspectives and values. For queer youth, the physical world can be an isolating experience when trying to navigate a society that regularly demonises and dehumanises alternative modes of expression. Yet, with the virtual, these expressions can be shared and congregated into communities that James Williams defines in Alienation as demonstrating that we are not individual and self-contained beings defined by a core essence, ideal, consciousness or body. We are multiple processes connected across different forms and places . This global connection highlights a relational matter and sense of belonging, a key attribute of the queer experience. Often formulated through societal alienation from peer groups, families and media representations, this can be an impressionable point in time for queer youth.
Williams adds that alienation can imply dependence on a power other than ourselves when we become a marketable commodity or when we are manipulated by others through our feelings and affections . In the same moment that these prevailing, archaic structures of power and heteronormativity refuse to recognise these non-normative identities, their data footprints are harvested and commodified by the predictive gaze in support of capital. Despite these alienating power structures, the queer individual can establish strategies of refusal through their own exchanges of information within online communities and virtual embodiment before physical connections and intimacies can be established.
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