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Cait McKinney: The transformative history of LGBTQ communities and their communication needs
"As a media historian, I’m committed to the idea that we can’t understand the cultural politics of technologies in the present without knowing their past."
Cait McKinney joins SFU School of Communication as a sexuality studies scholar, to share her knowledge and research about queer media histories. She is deeply rooted in understanding how people are different from each other and her research is motivated by the possibility of bringing these commitments together. Cait's research focuses on how sexual minorities have understood and transformed new technologies from positions of difference. For example, how did the development of accessible, consumer-grade database software in the 1980s and 1990s pique the interest of trans and queer users, who are committed to flexibility in how identity categories are made and revised.
Prior to joining SFU School of Communication, she experienced four years of volunteering at the ArQuives: Canada’s LGBTQ2+ Archives doing digitization-related work. She has also completed her postdoctoral fellowship on trans and queer archives through the SSHRC-funded LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory, at the University of Toronto. This experience has developed her deep appreciation for the work community archives and archivists do to preserve under-represented histories.
Throughout her academic journey, she has navigated her way into researching queer social movement media histories, focusing on how activists in the late 20th century took up and reimagined new information technologies to accomplish their social and political goals. Her findings explore the relationships between sexuality and everyday digital technology. One of her current project is to understand how ideas about sexual expression honed in queer responses to the AIDS crisis shaped regulatory debates about the internet in the 1990s in North America.
Cait's goal is to better understand and support the information and communication needs of LGBTQ users by engaging with these histories.
Book Recommendation from Cait McKinney
My favourite read from this summer was Amy Fung’s Before I Was a Critic I was a Human Being (Book*hug, 2019). Fung is an Ottawa-based writer and critic, and the book is a series of personal essays that explore the relationship between settler colonialism, the promotion of “multiculturalism," and cultural production across Canada. It’s sharp, rigorous, and also heartfelt.