Inspired by Cho’s ethnographic work with queer of color users of the platform Tumblr and using the Tumblr presence of Filipinx transfeminine visual and performance artist Mark Aguhar as a recurring touchstone, this work-in-progress talk’s provocation is that the assumptive ways in which a social media platform “should” be designed—singular identity, linear text exchanges, direct messaging, traversable connections, and more—in fact instantiate a model of “Man” that can be traced back to the epistemological violences of European colonialism. Relying on Sylvia Wynter’s invocation of the idea of homo oeconomicus as well as Lisa Lowe’s historical analysis of the colonial-era origins of the modern liberal subject, this talk excavates the assumptions of the specific manner in which “Man” is instantiated online and offers design examples that resist this logic, inviting us to imagine digital sociality from a standpoint of interdependence instead of the stance of the assumptive liberal individual.
Alexander Cho is a media scholar, digital design researcher, critical theorist, and pop culture geek. He teaches classes at UCSB on Asian Americans in media as well as on gender and sexuality. His research combines critical race theory, queer theory, design thinking, and ethnography to explore how marginalized populations use social media as a tool for self-expression and social change and explores how social media contain values and power structures built into their design.
Cosponsored by the IHC’s Asian/American Studies Collective Research Focus Group and the Department of Asian American Studies