In 1978, queer and transgender programmer Jamie Faye Fenton created the first piece of experimental video glitch art, Digital TV Dinner, using the Bally Astrocade, a home computer and game console of her own design that was, for six months, the cheapest home computer available. Digital TV Dinner stands as a record of computational failure: it was created by Fenton through a pointed misuse of the computer system that caused the screen to dissolve into waves of pixelated glitches. What might it mean to center the glitch as a historically trans mode of media production? And how might we write trans media history as a history of unmediation—that is, a history of undoing mediation? A history of things that cannot be documented, or that evade or dismantle mediation, in which the fullness of trans life and history exceeds the images presented in the screen itself?
A Trans Historiography of Glitches and Errors
Whitney (Whit) Pow is an assistant professor of queer and transgender media studies in New York University’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication. Pow’s research focuses on queer and trans histories of video games, software, and computational media. Their current book project locates queer and transgender video game designers and programmers in histories of early software and hardware development, looking at the intersection of queer and trans medical history, surveillance, and policy with computer and video game history.
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Whitney (Whit) Pow; A Trans Historiography of Glitches and Errors. Feminist Media Histories 1 January 2021; 7 (1): 197–230. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2021.7.1.197
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