September 19 – 26 marks #BiWeek 2016, a week dedicated to building bisexual awareness around the globe, including Celebrate Bisexuality Day – sometimes also referred to as Bi Visibility Day – observed on September 23 annually.
This year I am dedicated to making a blog post every day of BiWeek to help build awareness of bisexual issues and identities, as well as share my scholarship about digital tools and identities with a general audience. So often research is written in ways that only other researchers can fully understand or appreciate. These blog posts will hopefully make my research on representations of bisexuality in digital spaces more accessible to all interested readers.
So to start, I think it’s helpful if I try to explain what I mean when I say “Technologies of Visibility” (or ToV for short.)
Technologies of Visibility (ToV) is a term I coined for the everyday uses of technology for identity recognition. Technologies in this sense have two meanings: The first is the idea that technology is the application of knowledge for practical purposes. The second is that technology can also be the equipment or tools we create and use.
So, for example, the clothes we wear can be thought of as tools which serve many purposes: to keep us warm or cool, to protect our skin, and to convey information, like where we work. Clothing can also be used to convey some meaning about one’s personal identity, which means our clothing can be a tool (or technology) that helps us achieve recognition from others. Perhaps you want people to know that you are a bisexual, you can try wearing a “Bisexual is Best” t-shirt. Not all clothing is necessarily a ToV, sometimes we might wear something because we are required to for work or it was the only thing clean in the house. What makes a ToV isn’t the individual t-shirt but the culmination of all the ways we use tools to create an identity that can be recognized or understood by others, and the way we understand that those actions and practices are the application of knowledge: you know you are doing it to convey your bisexual identity. The combination of both the “application of knowledge” along with the “use of tools”, both being used for the purpose of creating an identity you want seen or noticed or recognized by others is what I mean by ToV.
My research focused on the kinds of tools and application that are made possible by the Internet and mobile, internet-connected devices – like the ability to use a symbol for your profile picture or post hyperlinks to other Internet content. When these tools and content are used specifically to help other people correctly identify you the way you want to be identified, this is a ToV.
Now, in the case of being correctly identified as bisexual, well… this gets complicated for a number of reasons, each of which I will explain in future blog posts.
Interested in reading more? Feel free! My work is available for free online: Technologies of Visibility: New Mediations of Bisexuality