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  • Queer OS
  • Kara Keeling (bio)

From new media’s eccentric temporalities and reliance on reading codes to their relationships to ephemera, publics, viruses, music, and subcultures, new media intersect with queer theories in a variety of ways. Scholars working at the interfaces of new media, queer theory, and LGBT studies have produced valuable insights into the roles and usages of new media in creating and sustaining forms of LGBT sociality, experiences, and ways of knowing. Vital scholarship on LGBT and queer cybercultures from a variety of perspectives and compelling descriptions and explorations of the role of new media in LGBT, and queer people’s lives, have helped scholars understand the centrality and significance of LGBT participation in new media. Important work on representations of LGBT people in, on, and through new media is ongoing.1

Within this scholarly milieu, less attention has been dedicated to the interfaces of new media as they have been theorized through conceptualizations of “the digital,” “software,” “computation,” “manufacturing,” “information,” and “code,” and what currently are perceptible as queer ontologies; theories of queer embodiment and materializations; and other issues, logics, and expressions that comprise queer theory, such as, for example, theories of queer temporality, critiques of homonationalism, and investigations into the relationships of queerness, forms of racialization, and contexts of settler colonialism, among others.

Yet as the opening lines of this brief contribution to an evaluation of contemporary intersections of LGBT studies, queer theory, and cinema and media studies suggest, the materiality, rhetorics, forms, and ontologies of new media readily lend themselves to a theoretical encounter with queer theory that might enliven and enrich both film and media studies and queer theory, thus deepening the capacity of each to attend to the sociopolitical registers of contemporary life.

Existing theoretical scholarship on race and new technologies illustrates that new media scholarship that attends to race also might [End Page 152] engage with vital and still-generative scholarship happening in queer theory, but it rarely makes an explicitly queer new media studies or technology studies (or even queering new media and/or technology studies) part of its project. Similarly, compelling work on feminism and the cultural logics of new media technologies is suggestive of a direction amenable to a serious engagement with queer theory, but that work rarely substantively stages such an encounter. With this lacuna in mind, in what follows, I offer preliminary thoughts toward a scholarly political project that I call “Queer OS.”2 As I discuss here, scholarship that might be collected under a rubric of “Queer OS” already exists, and provocative and promising work is currently being produced that might contribute to a project at the interfaces of queer theory, new media studies, and technology studies, such as the one I sketch briefly here.

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 name those among the most active in the United States today), to be mutually constitutive with sexuality and with media and information technologies, thereby making it impossible to think any of them in isolation. It understands queer as naming an orientation toward various and shifting aspects of existing reality and the social norms they govern, such that it makes available pressing questions about, eccentric and/or unexpected relationships in, and possibly alternatives to those social norms.3

I have suggested elsewhere, following Antonio Gramsci’s work on hegemony, Marcia Landy’s reading of Gramsci’s work in the context of film studies, and Wahneema Lubiano’s work on “common sense” in black nationalism, that common sense is a linchpin in the struggle for hegemony that conditions what is perceptible such that aspects of what is perceptible become generally recognizable only when they work in some way through “common senses.” In this context, queer offers a way of making perceptible presently uncommon senses in the interest of producing a/new commons and/or of proliferating the senses of a commons already in the making.4 Such a commons would be hospitable to, perhaps indeed crafted from, just and eccentric orientations within it. Queer OS makes this formulation of queer function as an operating system...

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