Sarah McTavish successfully defends PhD thesis

Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Sarah McTavish in front of two computer screens

Sarah McTavish successfully defended the thesis, "The Queer Eternal September: LGBTQ Identity on the Early Internet and Web," on September 15, 2020. The study follows the expression of queer identity and community during the 1980s and 1990s, arguing that the explosion of new internet users on a global level changed and diversified the ways that individuals express their own identity, even as these users mediated a codified vocabulary for expressing what it means to be queer. Through a combination of computational analysis and traditional historical close reading, we see the ways that online culture reflected and informed offline reality, as users mediated issues of identity, gatekeeping, and community-building.

Dr. McTavish currently teaches an Arts First Information and Analysis (ARTS140) section on Fake News and Digital Tools at the University of Waterloo where she completed the PhD. A SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship funding application has been submitted to begin a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Ottawa's Humanities Data Lab in spring 2021. Sarah's proposed project will use a 10 TB archive of social media material that was deleted with just a few days' notice in 2018 due to a platform policy change. This project aims to explore how historians can work with rapidly-created archives of intentionally-deleted material which is now absent from the living web.

Sarah's supervisor was Dr. Ian Milligan. Her committee included Dr. Jane Nicholas and Dr. Aimée Morrison from Waterloo's English Department.

I can't say enough good things about the Tri-U program. The experience of having three universities to draw on for our comprehensive exam fields was amazing, and set the stage for countless opportunities for collaboration with a diversity of expertise and perspectives.