Sensuous participation : queer youth of color, affect, and social media

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2015-08
Authors
Cho, Alexander
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Abstract

This dissertation presents the findings of a long-term, qualitative, ethnographic study of the ways queer youth of color use the social media platform Tumblr.com. It synthesizes the author’s own immersive experiences as an active participant-observer in queer of color networks on Tumblr.com for over five years with semi-structured qualitative interviews conducted with users online as well as offline interviews with queer youth of color Tumblr users in the Austin area. Existing at the nexus of critical race studies, queer studies, affect theory, and Internet studies, Sensuous Participation reinterprets the concept of “participatory cultures” to account for the affective motivations for participation in online networks. It asserts that our current understanding of the affective motivations that drive people to participate in online participatory cultures is thin and looks to the practices of queer youth of color, who have developed robust ways of expressing feelings that challenge systemic racism and heteronormative cultural forms, as evidence of the passions that drive participation. Ultimately, borrowing the idea of “the sensuous” from film theorist Laura U. Marks, it argues that social media networked publics such as Tumblr.com must be understood as networks of passion, and it asserts that the cultivation of collective passion in this way has the potential to transit static categories of identity politics.

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