Spotlight on Dr. Jason Lajoie's PhD research, "Technologies of Identity: A Queer Media Archaeology"

Dr. Jason Lajoie, GI member and Researcher at the Critical Media Lab, successfully defended his PhD dissertation November 20th, 2019. His research investigated the ways that media and technologies construct queer identities, and how queer uses of media and technologies contribute to ways of experiencing and expressing queer.

Dr. Lajoie explained that he first came to this research because he noticed that media, specifically the app Grindr, is designed in ways that control queer identity expression. For example, Grindr asks users to self-identity how they fit in pre-determined categories so that other users can search who else is using the app and filter by category. Realizations like this one allowed Lajoie to hone is PhD focus and set course to discover:

1. How do histories of technologies contribute to ways of being and experiencing queer?
2. How do queer uses of technology contribute to ways of using and expressing queer?

Dr. Lajoie leveraged two methodologies throughout his dissertation research. He used a Media Archaeology approach in order to excavate origin stories for histories of technological use in order to understand the contextual complexities. He also used social constructionism, which refers to the ways that society and culture shape our experiences of the world, in order to understand social, cultural and technological influences on constructions of sexualities.

With 6 chapters, the dissertation considered a variety of theoretical paradigms and integrated several interdisciplinary methods. Dr. Lajoie performed close readings using a variety of critical lenses including philosophy of media and queer theory, pulled in game studies, collected fresh data, wrote python scripts for data analysis, and even designed and built a new technology with the generous support of the Critical Media Lab. Overall, the dissertation, "Technologies of Identity: A Queer Media Archaeology," argues that queer identities have a vibrant entanglement with technologies and media, and calls attention to the need for critical engagement with media systems:

We treat media like friends of our making, and if we don't trouble this assumption we run the risk of perpetuating the ways they can control queer identities.

- Jason Lajoie

We'll circulate Dr. Lajoie's dissertation, "Technologies of Identity: A Queer Media Archaeology", when he chooses to publish, but, for now, here's a sneak peak:

The data collection and analysis of Chapter 5 looked at gamer identities on a Gaymer sub-reddit, an online forum for queer gamers. Dr. Lajoie employed discourse analysis methods and looked at data from over 60,000 contributors, using a small-big data approach to perform a textual analysis of posts. He found that the majority of content from that site frames identity of gamers as a white-cis-male, and considered how the interface for sharing and sorting content on the Reddit site can coordinate the range of identity expressions that appear.

Dr. Lajoie achieved many, many things throughout his PhD studies at the University of Waterloo, including a research partnership project with Deloitte conducted in collaboration with the Critical Media Lab. Read more about his research here and watch his 3 Minute Thesis (from 2018) below.

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