Queer Sites On The World Wide Web

http://POWER ON -- and (whirr, whirr, sputter, pop!) once again the straining engines of our post-industrial economy have joined forces with the primal patriarchal drives towards expansion and escapism, and willed into existence yet another invisible new frontier. Composed primarily of the conceptual space between far-flung places, this latest story of Genesis refers to an apparently infinite Zone commonly known as the World Wide Web, wherein mathematical equations and sub-atomic particles are free to travel and associate as never before -- and are more easily harnessed to serve the Manifest Destiny of human progress.

You've probably already heard the travel stories and seen some of the digital home movies brought back by the first wave of human visitors to this World Wide Web. Perhaps you've listened to these bug-eyed people all but foam at the mouth as they describe their profound interpersonal interactions in egalitarian cybercommunities, their unlimited individual access to invaluable information, as well as the pure thrill they get out of traveling around the world at light speed. Or maybe you've been assaulted by ecstatic Web prophets who are also covertly tied to the economics of new technology -- functioning as high-tech peddlers for the diversified computer industries, advertising agencies, mainstream media outlets, entertainment companies, and trade publications who have an interest in overseeing the conversion of the consumer to the new Information Standard.

Or perhaps you're eyeing the Web as a potentially useful new tool for the dissemination of power and access, and that's why you're more than a little bit uncomfortable about the cyber-enthusiasm of this new NEWTonian government. After all, aren't they already implementing major societal reorganizations based on their visions of a free-wheeling, laissez-faire Superhighway that trickles down its "virtual run-off" to the rest of us in the gutter? Wasn't it Newt who said he'd get every ghetto boy a PC for Christmas?

In any case, whether you're a cyber-cheerleader, a cautious skeptic, or a simple seeker of new forms of stimulation -- be advised that the sudden emergence of the World Wide Web as the cutting-edge of the Internet is nothing short of human expansionist history in the making. That is why we, as your tour guides and hosts, would like to encourage all queer pioneers to journey with us to the known edge of cyberspace -- in order to meet the first wave of virtual homesteaders establishing queer presence on the Web -- so that we may start you on your own way towards uploading your own queer visions into this latest and greatest global network.

To begin -- as is always the case with international interstitial travel -- you'll first have to become comfortable with some of the local languages, tools, and customs. To begin, all a poor queer needs is a state-of-the-art graphic computer interface, a modem that transmits at (at least) 14.4 baud, web browsing software such as Netscape or Mosaic, and lots of free time on her hands. Next you'll want a few Berlitz-style lessons that give you the basics on ppp protocol, html language, hypertext links, and the concept of virtual home addresses that look something (absurd http:///www.) like (net/~) this. Now, contact your usual Internet server, activate your web browsing software, and an introductory interface appears awaiting your further instructions regarding your desired destination.

(Note: unseasoned travelers to the World Wide Web should be sure to take along a reliable queer guidebook -- because the terrain out there is rocky and sparse, but ripe with hidden treasures and expanding possibilities.)

Queer Pioneers

The World Wide Web is particularly attractive to queer pioneers these days because of its improved graphic and video capabilities, because it offers free virtual land for the establishment of personal homesteads, and because its method of transmitting and linking information (called hypertext links) allows you "warp" around the world within mere matters of seconds. In this new landscape, you can explore (and establish residence within) busy information hubs populated by artists, academics/theorists, fellow hip nerds, opportunists, egomaniacs, and thrill-seekers. You will come across thousands of state-of-the-art cyberqueers by logging on to such Sites as the Bay Area-based Queer Infoserver (at http://www.infoqueer.org/queer/qis/), the Amsterdam-based "Hein's Ultimate Gay Links" (at http://www.xs4all.nl), the Queer Resources Directory (at http:// www.qrd.org), or the self-proclaimed "Queer National Homeland in WebWorld" (at http://www. cs.cmu.edu/Web/People/mjw/Queer/Mainpage.html.)

Please remember that this article is as much intended as an informational launching pad for curious Web-wannabes as it is as a critical review of the state of on-line technology. The World Wide Web is an infant technology -- in its anarchistic beginnings -- and a comprehensive Yellow Pages or "Let's Go" guide has yet to be compiled. Because the structure of the Web is an interwoven network of individuals and organizations -- all you'll need is an introduction, some ambition, progressive foresight, a tolerance for experimentation, and saintly patience to navigate the Web and become empowered by its possibilities.

Newcomers to Web Space should be prepared to encounter vast uncharted regions that feel devoid of life, and may occasionally experience a powerful sense of alienation due to what seems to be a paltry excuse for real human contact. These unsettling moments in your Web journey are sure to be further complicated by Internet traffic; limited memory and software; buggy programs; unbearable downloads (we've experienced between 20 and 90 minutes downtime for video segments); and layers upon layers of transparent hype, grandiose notions, meta-fluff, and log jams of information . As the metaphor goes, the majority of the World Wide Web is still "under construction."

Of course, this is to be expected, as this wacky Web phenomena is still less than one year old(!) -- and has gone from approximately 10,000 Web Sites (worldwide) at the beginning of 1995, to approximately 50,000 by the arrival of summer. Equally important to understand is that each of these Web Site can and probably is already linked to many thousands of Web Home Pages worldwide. Which means that even the current nascent Web -- which is operating in this primitive Copper Age before the fiber-optic telecommunications revolution forecast for the next few years -- is already capable of expansion ad infinitum ad nauseam.

Queer Search

And so, despite the initial difficulties of traversing this unsurveyed landscape, there is a virtual global gold rush to stake claim on the World Wide Web. Purchase a Web crawling software package such as hooked.net right now, and it claims more than 4 million web pages within its grasp. Now search its information banks for the word QUEER and you uncover 1,447 entries indexed under that critical heading. Of course, this is only a superficial tag-name based search by one limited San Francisco-based indexing system -- so to uncover more you're going to have to dig deeper. Start by clicking on any text or image that is outlined in blue (underlined for the outmoded b&w monitor crowd), and you will instantaneously make the jump to Web Warp Drive.

Assuming the whimsical goddesses of technology are responding favorably to your subtle techno-aura at this moment, you'll soon find yourself hunting and pecking through directories, indexes, interfaces with other servers, information landfills -- in search of the ultimate prize -- a well-designed page that combines stimulating graphic images, video clips, and text into a comprehensive multimedia whole -- and also has something compelling to say.

Left alone to the official Web search devices, the truly innovative and engaging Web Pages are like rare gems hidden in the wilderness -- but fortunately we, your hosts, have done some of this preliminary work for you. For an introduction to the aesthetics and contexts of contemporary queer cyber-art, we suggest you warp on over to the Technology/Toxicity Internet Arts Exhibit located on the Home Page of Mr. Rex Bruce of San Francisco (address is http://www.dnai.com/~rexbruce). Comprised of intricate and vivid Photoshop images and Bruce's theory-based text spew of personal statements about our schizoid "culture of waste," "totalizing super-negativity," and "the manufactured apocalypse," the Technology/Toxicity Internet Arts Exhibit predominantly explores the nihilistic and fascistic effects of technology on the post-modern void at the heart of present-day society. However, in contrapuntal juxtaposition to his discussion of the dark side of ethnological "progress," Bruce also reveals his fascination with the potential of the Internet to bolster human communication and expression -- as well as the personal power he hopes to gain by putting his message into the public sphere where anyone with a modem might find it. "I want to shove my fat dick down the weeping face of the All-American dream," reads a section of the text. "In closing...[and] I am violent enough to excel at the fascistic."

Bruce is currently at work on Home Pages for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation's 3rd Annual Gay Men's Safe Sex Video Contest (which features a pretty image of cock-sucking that has been video-grabbed from Tom Bacchus' Scenic Route ), as well as a commemorative web page for Nayland Blake and Larry Render's recent "In A Different Light" queer history exhibit at the Berkeley University Art Museum. Thanks to the simple beauty of Web programming language, you can find the links to these Pages at Bruce's Home Page address listed above.

For a more pro-active approach to the nurturing of queer community, art, and visibility in Cyberlandia, take an insta-journey to the bustling New York Echo On Line server (at http://www.echonyc.com/). Buried under many layers of a mundane information glut, you can find one of fabulous filmmaker/multimedia artist/lesbian icon Barbara Hammer's newest work-in-progress -- the Lesbian Cyberspace Biography Web Site (at http://www.echonyc.com/~lesbians). Created and administered by Hammer, with design help from Jane O'Wyatt and Brendan Stevens, as well as html programming by Beth Stryker, the Lesbian Cyberspace Biography was launched at this April's Feminist Activism and Art conference in San Francisco -- in order to "provide the chance for all lesbians throughout the world who can find access to the Internet to write their own stories, contribute snapshots, pictures, poems, artwork, music, video Quicktime movies -- and to become part of a global network," writes Hammer.

Upon entering the Lesbian Cyberspace Biography Web Site, you -- the tireless virtual traveler -- first encounter a graphic rendition of the word "lesbian" in which each letter is surrounded by the aforementioned telltale blue lines that signal active hypertext links. Clicking on the individual letters, and you are shuttled off to one of the nerve ganglia that lie at the core of the construction of lesbian identity -- which Hammer has neatly subdivided into the categories of Dreams, Style, Sex, Biography, Politics, Art, Relationships, and Adventure. In each conceptual environment, you find bits and pieces of Hammer's artistic meditations on the subjects. More importantly, you also discover links to other women's artwork and their personal interpretations of the broad subject headings outlined by Hammer. For example, local gender-fuck cyberpornographer Texas Tomboy can be found in the "Sex" environment, speaking about the forces and influences that motivate her prolific creation of artsy smut.

The Lesbian Cyberspace Biography is designed to allow on-line lesbians to contribute to the development of the Web Site via a text-based interface that looks like an virtual "sign-up sheet" and is placed throughout the various corners of the Site. If you are a lesbian, and are excited by the possibility of contributing to a mutable living archive of queer history-in-the-making -- fill out one of these forms -- or scan in an image -- and modem it to Hammer, and she will make her best effort towards linking your work to the Lesbian Cyberspace Biography. However, as your faithful hosts and tour guides, we must state that we are unable to outline or guarantee the details of this on-line relationship that we are encouraging you to seek with Barbara Hammer, as she is currently in the midst of a feature film, as well as seeking needed funding for the completion and regular upkeep of the Lesbian Cyberspace Biography.

Queer Art

While pioneering computer artists such as Bruce and Hammer are developing ambitious and intricate multimedia cyber-domains, the World Wide Web is also the ideal place for community artists who are better known for more traditional media to take advantage of the relatively simple html language to upload their text- and/or visual-based works to the Superhighway. For example. Aviary Slag is a new collection of homo-poetic short stories by writer Jacques Servain, scheduled for publication next Spring. Rather than wait for the official release date, Servain has taken advantage of his skills gained in the workplace as a database programmer to post his writings on the Web.(at http://www.quakenet/~jacq).

Although Aviary Slag is entirely text-based, it takes innovative advantage of the Web's hypertext links to construct an extensive index of the themes, historical references, and literary images that tie the stories together into a complete body of work. For example, if you want to find out Servain's personal theories on the odd phenomenon of heterosexuality, simply click on an underlined phrase that speaks about the origins of the syndrome, and you'll find volumes of analytic thought on this perplexing contemporary issue.

Commercial queer undertakings are also quickly coming around to the value of promoting their endeavors on-line. For example, the undisputed queen of linking gay publishing to corporate money --OUT<> magazine -- has recently launched an ambitious national gay and lesbian web site called OUT.com with major corporate sponsorship from Apple Computers (at http://www.out.com/out/out.html). Up an running in time for Pride month, OUT.com currently features contributions from the magazine (articles as well as GIFs of OUT's signature fashion layouts featuring hunky half-dressed hipsters in high-priced designer drag), as well as calendars of Pride activities from all over the country. The Pride information is submitted by leading queer newspapers in the various cities, i.e. The Washington Blade<> has supplied Out.com with Pride parade listings, a map of the parade route, and hypertext links to the local Pride organization's Web page.

You can also find the queer nation's reigning commercial cross-over diva Ru Paul on the Screaming Digital Productions Page (at http://www.webcom.com/~sdp3). Fans can get a load of video clips from Ru Paul's (in)famous low-budget classic Star Booty<>, as well as a personal audio message from Ru to you -- provided you've got such powerful software as Sparkle and SoundBlaster on your humble computer desktop.

In concluding this tour, we, as your faithful hosts and tour guides, would like to highlight Ms. Phoebe Legere as an inspiration to all queer artists who might seek to shape a future for the World Wide Web that empowers the individuals, organizations, and agendas of the global queer community. Legere came to computer technology as an independent musician who, like many, was frustrated with her financial inability to employ instrumentalists and composers to realize her complex musical visions. Once she had mastered computer composition, Legere found it a natural extension to explore the on-line world.

"As a woman, I find it natural to spend hours staring at a screen and thinking, as if I was looking at an archetypal hearth that women have been staring at for centuries," explains Legere. "Men have perpetuated a myth that using computers is difficult, just like they've always said that it's difficult to get women to do their bidding. On the contrary, women have a natural relationship to computers, because computers encourage communal art forms, as well as conversation....with computers, we [women...and by extension queers] can rule the world. I may have an apartment in New York or San Francisco or wherever, but I'm living in cyberspace now...that's my address."

SIDEBAR: Other World Wide Web Sites you might enjoy:


ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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