Can Technologies be Queer?

Everyone I interviewed thought that being Queer affected the technologies that they made, either directly or indirectly. Lisa expressed this especially strongly:
‘Queer people make better products…they have thought about how they as people fit into society and how to survive and support each other…Queer people think about other people more than they think about themselves…Queer people become more invested in growing something outside of themselves…Not this that I am doing, [it is] this thing that we are doing because they have had to depend on that solidarity in the past.’
– Lisa (Application developer)

So for Lisa, being Queer means having strong empathy, built from the community solidarity needed to survive oppression. This specifically Queer empathy leads to being more able to design user-centred software.For Sarah, hir binary breaking understanding of gender is part of a wider philosophical rejection of binary categories, which ze enacts through the technologies ze designs:

‘Part of my understanding of gender is related to my understanding on binary difference in general. There is a problem with how society constructs categories. It constructs categories which have sharp edges. I am not genderqueer [just] because I think that gender is the only category that doesn’t have a sharp edge. I don’t think that any of them do. That includes being queer and trans and it includes technical categories, like the stuff I am working on in programming language design…the models that people create of any category are oversimplified and so it would be really strange for me to not link that philosophical point of view that I agree with, with queer identity and with technical stuff in computing…I think that people who have this understanding tend to build better systems.’
– Sarah (Cryptographer and language designer) 
We can see that both Lisa and Sarah see their Queerness as meaning that they produce better technologies.

queeryourtech
Queer Your Tech

 

All the participants also linked their Queerness into a wider political understanding. This wider political understanding was typically far-left and intersectional. These wider political ideologies were typically also enacted through technologies:
‘The work that I am doing on programming language design is explicitly anarchist. The security model is completely focused on getting away from heirarchical authority…a security system should be serving the end users. Fuck the administrators, they shouldn’t even exist’
 – Sarah (Cryptographer and language designer) 
”Obviously programmes are political. The design choices we make are political, even if we don’t think they are. Like making things inaccessible is a political choice, even if you just haven’t bothered doing anything about it. Not internationalising things is a political choice. The open-source community, that’s political.”
– Henry (Application developer)
”Everything you write reflects the way your mind works…you can think diversity is a good plan, or uniformity is a good plan, and that does effect design decisions.”
– Robyn (Programmer in multiple fields) 
As these examples show, far-left politics are enacted through technologies in multiple ways. These may include: dismantling hierarchies, being accessible to people with disabilities and those who speak different languages, and by allowing diversity in design.

 

We can conclude that there are Queer technologies, in so far as technologies designed by Queer people may be substantially different to those designed by non-Queer people. Queer technologies may be more user-focused and contain fewer binary categories. They may also reject heirarchical  authority, be more accessible and allow for more diversity. The idea that technologies themselves may be queer is backed up by Gaboury (2013), who ‘hopes to suggest that queerness itself is inherent within computational logic’. Two participants said that they enacted queering through working on video games.