Recounting #QueerData: Desire and Tension in the Production of Media Ecologies #AAG2015

Frustrated by the focus on data as merely “big data” the neoliberal rhetorics often reproduced within, Gregory Donovan and I were interested to hatch a conversation with scholars from very different backgrounds to talk through and across what a project of queering and queer data could offer scholars and activists alike. The conversation below took place with @jgieseking, @gdonovan, @JennyKorn, @djputoronto, & @erandolphj at the Association of American Geographers (#AAG2015) on Saturday, April 25th. The storify is below.

Besides this incredibly panel, #AAG2015 was brimming with stunning author-meets-critic sessions (Cowen, M.Joseph), a mindblowing lecture by Lauren Berlant, getting able to contribute to the continually stunning #CritGIS sessions, Cindi Katz’s lecture and acceptance of the James Blaut award, and merely seeing all of my nearest and dearest friends and colleagues in the span of five days.

This panel considers “queer data” as an alternative paradigm to “big data,” and situates the latter as a modernist metanarrative and superstructure that reproduces neoliberal practices of privatization, securitization, and commodification from the global to the intimate. Proponents of big data argue it can alleviate public problems by making everyone and everywhere healthier, smarter, and more efficient. What is assumed to be accurate and actionable information redraws the boundaries of everyday life: from our cities and bodies to schools and homes. More critical perspectives on data production reveal contradictory ecologies of private space, media, and desire that are left underaddressed by big data. Queer theory, in particular, affords a provocative approach for reinterpreting and reorienting these shifts as it calls for a recognition of the incompleteness, fluidity, and flux of hierarchies and power structures, as well as an understanding of systemic tensions. We consider queer data as an ecology of critical counternarratives and intimate infrastructures that resist patriarchal, heteronormative, and colonial constructs. As “data-driven” development increasingly orients the production of space, how–and where–data gets generated, aggregated, and analyzed becomes a crucial area of academic inquiry. In examining the mutual shaping of data and space through a queer lens, we ask what an ecology of queer practices, platforms, and data might look like? How can we “flesh out” the politics of big data within media ecologies? Finally, how might queering the sociomaterial methods of data generation, aggregation, and analysis lead to more just visualizations, algorithms, and presentations of life? With @jgieseking, @gdonovan, @JennyKorn, @djputoronto, & @erandolphj.