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In today’s internet-based world, it’s easy to forget that there was a time before it was mainstream. How is it built? Who decides its content? And how has that content affected our culture? In this episode of In the Moment, author and researcher Alexander Monea takes a close look at this thing we all take for granted and argues that the internet isn’t as open source as one might think.
In his new book, The Digital Closet, Monea explores how heteronormative bias is deeply embedded in the internet, hidden in algorithms, keywords, and content moderation. Monea argues that the internet became straight by suppressing everything that is not, forcing LGBTQIA+ content into increasingly narrow channels — rendering it invisible through opaque algorithms, automated and human content moderation, warped keywords, and other strategies of digital overreach. Monea explains how the United States’ thirty-year “war on porn” has brought about the over-regulation of sexual content, which created censorship of a lot of nonpornographic content, including material on sex education and LGBTQ+ activism.
It turns out that we may take a lot for granted when it comes to the internet. Monea offers a chance to confront its flaws and examine the cultural, technological, and political conditions that put LGBTQIA+ content into the closet.
In the 137th episode of Town Hall’s In the Moment podcast, Monea discusses The Digital Closet with Edward Wolcher.
Alexander Monea is Assistant Professor in the English Department and Cultural Studies Program at George Mason University.
Edward Wolcher is a writer, media artist, and cultural organizer based in Seattle. His technology consultancy, cultureindustry.org, helps artists and activists find their digital voice.