About Me

Contact: cait.mckinney@utoronto.ca

My work examines LGBTQ social movement media infrastructures, focusing on the adoption of digital and online media in the late 20th century. My research constructs alternative media histories and feminist methodologies for studying media in transition. Across all of my work, I focus on the historical conditions in which sexual minorities and their movements struggle to provide vital access to information. From lesbian-feminist bibliographers learning new database software in the 1980s to AIDS activists building their own servers in the 1990s, I study what organizations do with media and technology in order to move information within crisis conditions, and create new modes for sharing and networking resources and ideas in the process. By telling their histories, my research seeks to illustrate how early information activism by LGBTQ social justice initiatives have shaped current technologies and practices for dealing with issues of privacy, access, data, anonymity, and participation in networked media environments.

Here is a short description of the book manuscript I am currently working on:

The Other Network: Lesbian Feminism’s Digital Past

The Other Network argues that radical feminism has shaped late-20th century information-interface design, offering innovative approaches to classifying, documenting, circulating, and ultimately mobilizing information as knowledge amongst precarious populations. Focusing on U.S. lesbian feminism from the early 1970s to the present, the book develops an original approach to studying this movement’s media infrastructures. Through the histories of various organization, the book frames a transition from paper-based methods to computing, arguing that activists have made information management and interface design into key means of building infrastructural support for social movements. Taking up the technological interventions of groups such as The Circle of Lesbian Indexers, this book expands understandings of how media and technology emerge by foregrounding the creative interventions of queer women. By bringing sexuality studies to bear on the media history field, the book argues that populations with precarious access to control over information respond by resourcefully appropriating common communications and archiving tools, putting into practice cultural techniques that re-shape information management protocols. This book contends that histories of sexuality and feminism must grapple with the conditions of mediation in which social movements do practical forms of communicative and technological work.

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