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There is a rich history of queer subcultures sending coded messaging to each other. A message that only an insider would parse. Historically, in the Western world people assigned female at birth have used various codes to signal their queerness: neckwear, hairstyle, keychains, rings, and more. People assigned male at birth (and particularly within working classes) developed a sophisticated “hanky code” for communicating varying levels of interest in specific forms of engagement. Someone outside queer subculture wouldn’t think much of seeing a light blue bandana on someone’s back pocket, on the right side. To a person who can read that message, that communicates that the wearer is interested in providing oral sex. Historically, this has been an act of hiding in plain sight, and a way for people to find each other and connect efficiently, with or without words. It’s a very customized usage of presentation to communicate preferences outside dominant social norms.
Since front end coding performs acts of presentation, I’m interested in what can adaptive, fluid coding contribute to how bodies in real life transgress dominant social norms. In my view, possibilities can become examples, and examples can become referent points for progress.
Looking for an answer to this question led me to one project addressing gender fluidity, but this project was specifically about mapping human experience, and visualizing data points/feelings: Plot me Genderfluid. There’s so much value in this project, from so many points of inquiry, I enjoyed it so much! Yet, Plot me Genderfluid remains within the limitations of ‘code as we know it’ not code being questioned, or summoned to challenge our own imagination in real life. Not because coding is by itself some kind of oracle, but because it can bring about new points of/for inquiry. Plot me Genderfluid exposes, it does not instigate.
Increasingly we talk about how less dominant forms of gaming and mobile games can be a catalyst for empathy. An example of this is the mobile game Bury Me, My Love in which the Syrian refugee crisis is the setting for experiences designed for the player to feel empathy. But we don't consider code that way, do we? We don't discuss code as having the potential of generating empathy through its syntax, composition, and delivery (of an experience, rather than data).
My questions to the group are:
1) How can we shape fluid modes of coding so that such forms can instigate forms of transgression? Specifically, through experiences, not just the presentation of data.
2) How can fluid syntaxes invite us to imagine ways of being more at ease in the real world, as queer people? As a member of marginalized communities?
3) What we can do to respatialize micro*** digital infrastructures to prioritize equity in real life?
How each of these possibilities are made, navigated, and re-ordered is of high interest to me.
*** I use 'micro' to mean individually crafted, independent projects, rather than a 'macro' apparatus, an existing corporate entity, or projects derived from existing corporate legacy products. Example: micro=github; macro=Oracle
For further reading:
Untucking the Queer History of the Colorful Hanky Code, Out.com, June 2019.