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Stored in Memory: Recovering Queer and Transgender Life in Software History

April 24, 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm


The LGBTQ+ Studies Program presents a talk by visiting scholar Whitney Pow.

In 1978, Chicago public television broadcast the first-ever piece of digital video glitch art, Digital TV Dinner, made by queer and transgender programmer Jamie Faye Fenton. Digital TV Dinner was created by stitching together the software errors Fenton generated in the Bally Astrocade home console and computer system, which produced an arresting display of artifacts and glitch images when she ejected the cartridge while the console was processing. Two years later, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders released its third iteration, where the term “Gender Identity Disorder,” used to classify and “diagnose” trans people, was introduced into medical lexicon, instating with it institutional systems of surveillance for trans and non-binary people in the United States. This talk traces the history of experimental video art, artificial intelligence, and networked online video games through the contributions of queer trans women and the software and digital media they designed, and how they imagined new possibilities and potentialities for digital media during a period of great change with regard to the increasing visibility, diagnosis, and control of transgender people in medical history.

Whitney Pow is an incoming Assistant Professor of Queer and Transgender Media Studies at New York University, and is currently a doctoral candidate in Screen Cultures and a member of the Presidential Society of Fellows at Northwestern University. Their research examines the elided history of queer and transgender software programmers and locates queer and transgender life in histories of digital media and computing. Whitney’s research has been generously supported by the Sexualities Project at Northwestern’s Dissertation Fellowship, The Strong Museum of Play’s Research Fellowship, and the University of Chicago’s Game Changer Chicago Design Lab Research Fellowship.



April 24
2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
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