“Queer fits: Toward a queer theory of media formats”

This presentation proposes a queer theoretical shift in the study of media materialities and infrastructures. As ‘glitch studies’ have begun to demonstrate, a queer approach shows particular potential if we take seriously the material instabilities and failures that haunt media systems and the unexpected affects that arise when users encounter media. One aim of this shift is to loosen up how we understand the articulation of identities and relations to media reception, and a useful starting point is queer theory’s recognition of queer bodies as those that do no fit or are disoriented by heterornormative protocols. This discussion will focus on the material and affective experience of media formats, understood as the taken-for-granted, normative protocols which govern how media operate and how users encounter them. If particular formats fit particular media to ensure the smooth operation of normative protocols, how do we account for formats that do not fit – queer fits? To begin exploring this question, I will offer scenes from my own history of encounters with homoerotic media (eg. discovering queer cinema on analogue TV; piecing together fragments of digital porn). Starting from our own queer histories may highlight the significance of awkward and messy format fits to media history.

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