Abstract

This section includes eighty-six short original essays commissioned for the inaugural issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly. Written by emerging academics, community-based writers, and senior scholars, each essay in this special issue, “Postposttranssexual: Key Concepts for a Twenty-First-Century Transgender Studies,” revolves around a particular keyword or concept. Some contributions focus on a concept central to transgender studies; others describe a term of art from another discipline or interdisciplinary area and show how it might relate to transgender studies. While far from providing a complete picture of the field, these keywords begin to elucidate a conceptual vocabulary for transgender studies. Some of the submissions offer a deep and resilient resistance to the entire project of mapping the field terminologically; some reveal yet-unrealized critical potentials for the field; some take existing terms from canonical thinkers and develop the significance for transgender studies; some offer overviews of well-known methodologies and demonstrate their applicability within transgender studies; some suggest how transgender issues play out in various fields; and some map the productive tensions between trans studies and other interdisciplines.

Transmedia, as it is activated in this inaugural issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, focuses on subversive uses and conceptualizations of media by and for transgender and gender-defiant people in the transnational “post-digital” age. Media activists, artists, and cultural workers, including Allucquère Rosanne “Sandy” Stone, Cheang Shu Lea, IRANTI-ORG, Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, Beatriz Preciado, Dees Rees, Yozmit, Micha Cárdenas, Ignacio Rivera, Kit Yan, Wu Tsang, Felix Endara, Shawna Virago, Sean Dorsey, Sin Kabeza Productions and Coco Rico, Leeroy K. Y. Kang, Tobaron Waxman, the Electronic Disturbance Theater, Chris Vargas, Cayden Mak, and Jacolby Satterwhite, have created works that express dimensions of transgender and gender-nonconforming experience while also transforming the relationship between the aesthetics, politics, and technologies of cultural representation. In their transmedia productions, bodies, images, sounds, materialities, politics, and informatics offer points of social contact and expressive meaning making rather than static representations and theories. These practitioners engage transmedia critically by paying attention to shifting networks of interrelated references, such as masculine and feminine, surface and essence, migrant and citizen; race, region, ethnicity, and nationality; urban, suburban, and rural; post- and nonindustrial; human, animal, plant, and thing. Their moving, networked aesthetics visualize and exploit the linked media forms (performance, video, film, painting, print, games, television, photography, music) and technologies (computer, typewriter, pen, brush, camera, projector, stage, body, audio recorder and player, radio, phone) enabled by the globally networked electronic infrastructure (cables, towers, satellites, and devices), built on the US Cold War's Internet. Like the illegitimate cyborg offspring envisioned in Donna Haraway's famous manifesto, these transmedia practitioners are unfaithful to imperial technological origins (Haraway 1990). For example, Cheang Shu Lea's net videos, installations, and performances visualize the Internet and the “digital revolution” as partially embodied and materialized spaces where racially gendered bit-bodies morph according to programmed desires and mutating viruses. In Cheang's media worlds, sex, pleasure, and play are never freed from techno-economies of labor or the histories of American and Japanese imperial militarism, science, industry, and culture that shape the origins of high-tech global networks (Cheang 2001, 2009–12).

Allucquère Rosanne “Sandy” Stone's “The Empire Strikes Back” has been foundational in assembling transgender archives and discourses in opposition to medical, academic, and mainstream feminist “technolog[ies] of inscription” (Stone [1991] 2006). Stone's attention to the mediation of transgender lives by dominant institutions and her convergent practices as theorist, artist, and activist offer interlocking modalities for critical transmedia approaches. In The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age (1996), Stone explains how the act of listening to a public lecture by Stephen Hawking, amplified through microphone, computer, and speakers, can create a communicative intimacy that trespasses the presumed boundaries of the body and internal self. For Stone, communications technology and the gendered body itself are virtual “prostheses” that provide zones of active social interaction, boundary shifting, and communicated meaning (ibid.). In response to the epistemic violence of academic knowledge production, Stone has turned to performance as her primary medium of knowledge transmission, emphasizing the impact of sharing space, time, and physical presence in specific contexts (Stone 2010). During one of her recent performances, Stone arranged for the simultaneous closure of ActLab's digital archives, stored on the University of Austin's web servers. This real-time action in performance produced a layered media insurgency that destabilized academic paradigms of knowledge production and ownership.

Subversive transmedia exploits, undermines, and overwrites corporate uses of the same term by “post”-industrial transnational Hollywood. As a commercial concept, transmedia describes contemporary media products that are created through models of production and for models of consumption that differ from mass industrial modes. Transmedia products are hybrids that cross and connect multiple media narrative threads, genres, and forms. They are produced, circulated, and consumed across interconnected media industries and technologies within the United States and transnationally. The hybridity of transmedia products is the result of the economic consolidation of different national, regional, and international media industries into linked units in the US transnational entertainment chain (Miller et al. 2008). While decentralized networks of media units allow for diversified, time-compressed, audience-responsive, and cost-flexible content production and delivery, US entertainment conglomerate bases maintain administrative control over hierarchies of creative labor, technologies, and capital. The hybrid products created through managed transnational media networks promise diverse yet coordinated entertainment experiences for different audiences — and greater profit for media corporations — through multiple avenues of consumption. With total cost estimated at US$400–$500 million and film production scattered across Los Angeles, Hawaii, and New Zealand, James Cameron's Avatar (2009) illustrates the concentrated wealth and decentralized control needed to produce today's Hollywood blockbuster. New Zealand was an outsourced and economically incentivized filming location for Avatar. The location was also a source of labor and an ecological resource (the basis for the virtual world of Pandora) for the film. As Avatar's multinational base for digital production, Peter Jackson's Weta Digital in New Zealand provided the technological labor and effects that allowed Avatar to remake film itself into a 3-D portal of immersion for weary American audiences and new international audiences. Avatar's makeup of 80 percent computer-generated special effects, 20 percent live action grossed US$2.7 billion worldwide in ticket sales alone and provided a transition into other routes for immersion and consumption, such as DVD, Blu-ray Disc, video, games, toys, and web tourism. As shown by Avatar, US corporate-based transmedia resurrects the controlled techno-aesthetic environments of nineteenth-century commodity culture embodied in the Parisian arcades. The interpenetration of media industries and technologies produces phantasmagorias, or simulated sensory connections between products that overload and alienate the senses so that consumption becomes passive (Buck-Morss 1991). A reclaimed transmedia approach recognizes that commercial intoxication relies on sustaining the out-of-world feeling of having been transported across space and time. Becoming aware of our participation in these time-space warps, or “wormholing dynamics,” can jolt us out of sensory alienation (King 2012). Trans and genderqueer rebels mobilize transmedia to recover the deleted material conditions that have enabled the current technological and economic networking of media. What has been called the “digital revolution” describes the transformation of late nineteenth- to mid-twentieth-century mass media technologies, including newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and film, by new media technologies that rely on computational devices and the Internet as a backbone for communicative networking (Chun and Keenan 2005). The shift from “old” to “new” media has helped to facilitate a broad transition from mass industrial economies based in manufacturing in the global North to a new global economy based on services, leisure, and entertainment. This technological shift has also supported the expansion of US political and military institutions beyond the geographic borders of the nation-state (Castells 2009). Critical transmedia approaches interrupt corporate and state narratives on the purely democratizing effects of new media and the new “weightless” political economy that it has created. Digital forms are materially grounded in the globally networked electronic infrastructure that builds on the architecture of the US-born Internet, which was coinvented by the military, government, scientific researchers, universities, and private companies by the 1970s and then given over to privatized popular use in the 1990s. The “virtual” network infrastructure does not only rely on conductors (cables, towers, satellites), nodes (connecting points, protocols, packet switching), and devices (computers, mobile phones, digital cameras). It also depends on a labor-intensive economy that includes creative work along with cassiterite mining, semiconductor manufacturing, the the production and laying of fiber-optic cables in regions of Africa, Latin America, and Asia (Ekine 2010). Revealing the hidden labor of the transnational bodies found on the integrated circuit is mandatory for a critical understanding of global media networks and commerce.

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