Intersectional Tech: Exploring the Black Cultural Production of Gamers in Transmediated Culture (2020)
With this presentation, Dr. Kishonna Gray [2016-17 MLK Visiting Assistant Professor] illustrates a framework for studying the intersectional development of technological artifacts and systems and their impact on Black cultural production and social processes. Using gaming as the glue that binds this project, she puts forth intersectional tech as a framework to make sense of the visual, textual, and oral engagements of marginalized users, exploring the complexities in which they create, produce, and sustain their practices. Gaming, as a medium often outside conversations on Blackness and digital praxis, is one that is becoming more visible, viable, and legible in making sense of Black technoculture. Intersectional tech implores us to make visible the force of discursive practices that position practices within (dis)orderly social hierarchies and arrangements. The explicit formulations of the normative order are sometimes in disagreement with the concrete human condition as well as inconsistent with the consumption and production practices that constitute Black digital labor. It is, in fact, these practices that inform the theoretical underpinnings of Black performances, cultural production, exploited labor, and resistance strategies inside oppressive technological structures that Black users reside.
Engaging intersectionality across transmediated platforms reveals a significant moment of critiquing narratives, creating content, and controlling narratives. The aftermath of Mike Brown’s death in 2014, for instance, revealed the power of this innovative engagement that the once-invisible could now actively engage, participate, and produce content in hypervisible ways. In the context of #BlackLivesMatter, the combination of the textual and the visual ignited not only a movement, but a proclamation of reclaiming narratives and identities across media and platforms – from BlackLivesMatter to Black-ish to “The Breakfast Club.” It is important to examine the everydayness of mediated, intersectional, counterpublics to examine Black oral, visual, and textual culture in digital spaces and how this manifests within gaming culture. The transmediated nature of contemporary gaming communities affords the possibility of reframing traditional narratives, controlling and producing content, sustaining Black cultural production.
Dr. Kishonna L. Gray (@kishonnagray) is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois – Chicago. Dr. Gray is an interdisciplinary, intersectional, digital media scholar and digital herstorian whose areas of research include identity, performance and online environments, embodied deviance, cultural production, video games, and Black Cyberfeminism. Dr. Gray’s recent monograph, Intersectional Tech: The Transmediated Praxis of Black Users in Digital Gaming (LSU Press, 2020) explores the visual, textual, and/or oral engagement of the Black body in transmediated spaces, focusing on the critical deconstruction of the exploited, hypervisible, labor of any associated Black performances (online and ‘IRL’). She is also the author of Race, Gender, & Deviance in Xbox Live (Routledge, 2014), co-editor of Feminism in Play (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2018), and Woke Gaming (University of Washington Press, 2018). Dr. Gray has published in a variety of outlets across disciplines and has also been featured in public outlets such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, The New York Times, Business Insider, CNET, BET, and others.
MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing, 17 September 2020