Information Activism: A Queer History of Lesbian Media Technologies

Duke Univ. Pr Aug. 2020. 304p. ISBN 9781478008286. pap. $27.95. SOC SCI
McKinney (communications, Simon Fraser Univ.; Inside Killjoy’s Kastle) explores the labor of lesbian feminists who developed methods for collecting, organizing, and distributing information created by, for, and about their communities between the 1970s and the 2010s. “For sexual and gender minorities,” McKinney observes, “access to good information helps to determine a life that is livable.” Across four chapters, the work examines the information infrastructures of newsletters, telephone hotlines, indexing projects, and the digitization practices of community-based archives. Projects and organizations discussed include the Matrices newsletter, the Lesbian Switchboard of New York City, Toronto’s Lesbian Phone Line, the Circle of Lesbian Indexers, Black Lesbians: An Annotated Bibliography, and the Lesbian Herstory Archives. Drawing on rich archival and ethnographic research, McKinney documents how volunteers made (and make) information relevant to lesbians available through infrastructure fundamentally shaped by their activism. She critically reflects on the unstable community boundaries and conflicts around difference found throughout the lesbian feminist movement, and demonstrates how, amidst these instabilities, activists developed information practices with thoughtfulness and intentionality.
VERDICT A scholarly examination, this account will also appeal to nonspecialist readers with a keen interest in queer and feminist history and activism, as well as the history of technology and communication.
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