Jacob Gaboury on Regimes of Identification

11 Jun, 2019

Jacob Gaboury on Regimes of Identification

Jacob Gaboury recaps an incredible year as a 2018 BCNM Faculty Seed Grant recipient.

Regimes of Identification explores the transformation of identity as a structuring category for queer and marginalized communities under digital media technology. The project is interested in the transformation of identity as a political category into identification as or with a set of data or metrics, as well as the development and effects of new technologies of identification on marginalized communities, including facial recognition, computer vision, and artificial intelligence.

The project explores these themes first by exploring a queer history of early computation through archival research and oral histories with queer identified computer scientists in the United States and Europe. It supplements this work through the analysis of queer objects and practices in the contemporary field of computing that call into question the normative imperatives of computational systems, from esoteric programming language design to digital art practice.

The BCNM Seed Grant was instrumental in pushing this project out of the developmental stage and into several early publications. In the summer of 2018 I was able to publish two articles related to this work, including “Critical Unmaking: Toward a Queer Computation” in The Routledge Companion to Media Studies and Digital Humanities, and “Becoming NULL: Queer Relations in the Excluded Middle” in a special issue of the journal Women & Performance on Queer Circuits in Archival Times. I also presented research from the project in the fall of 2018 at the Fotomuseum in Winterthur, Switzerland, as well as at Duke University’s Incomputable Futures symposium and the Jacob’s Institute for Design Innovation at UC Berkeley in the spring of 2019. Thanks to the support of the BCNM I was also able to design a doctoral seminar related to this project to be taught in the fall of 2019 in the Department of Film & Media and as an elective course for the DE in New Media through the BCNM. Titled “Technologies of Identification,” the course extends this project to engage contemporary work on critical race theory and disability studies as it intersects digital media theory and practice. Moving forward I also plan to organize a series of small speaker events related to this work in the Spring of 2020, bringing together engineers, artists, and theorists to discuss the changing landscape of identity under digital media technologies. This work will additionally be supported by a fellowship from the Townsend Center for the Humanities, which I have been awarded for the 2019-2020 academic year due in large part to the support of the BCNM in helping me clarify and articulate this project at this early stage of research. I want to thank the BCNM again for allowing me to push this project from the conceptual stage into a number of exciting new works. I look forward to moving the project in new directions in the future.