Technologizing the Queer Archive ...



Scholars of the queer archive have been quick to note how a variety of media are needed to (re)construct queer experiences. Scholars as early as Vito Russo, in both the book and then the film version of The Celluloid Closet, trace the movement and development of lesbian and gay representations in a hundred years of mass market film. Muñoz, in Disidentifications, focuses more specifically on Latino experiences, pulling on a variety of media, from photographs, to film, to performance pieces. Media in such work often becomes meta media, as film in particular can preserve other forms of media. As Cvetkovich notes, “[o]ne of the ways that documentary film and video expands the archive is by documenting the archive itself” (251).

Indeed, the increasing availability of multimedia resources through the internet makes the construction of queer archives both more possible and more challenging. On one hand, materials are more readily available than ever before; on the other hand, the amount of ephemera that must be negotiated may seem at times insurmountable. The ready availability of materials on YouTube alone, with thousands upon thousands if not millions of videos commenting upon the variety of contemporary (and past) queer experiences, for instance, challenges us to think carefully about how we might continue to construct queer archives. In their article “A YouTube of One's Own: Coming Out as Rhetorical Action,” Jonathan Alexander and Elizabeth Losh trace some of the dominant rhetorical strategies employed by users narrating their coming-out stories on video. Moreover, they note how users themselves create mini-archives or collections of such videos (often numbering in the hundreds) as a way to document the coming-out experience. Given the sheer number of such mini-archives and their individual contents, Alexander and Losh acknowledge at the end of their survey and analysis that any such work must be provisional and qualified; the sheer number of videos being uploaded mitigates against any comprehensive understanding or documentation of rhetorical strategies.

With such a caveat in mind, we nonetheless argue here that resources such as YouTube serve an invaluable function in (1) making available to us a plethora of voices and views on a variety of queer topics and (2) facilitating the collection and narration of how individuals and groups might interpret, reinterpret, and revision queerness. We should not be daunted by the volume of ephemera, but rather seek more creative ways to interact with it.