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Art Critique Essay Humanities Nonfiction Theory

‘Little Islands of Empathy’: networked stories of gender diversity and multiple selves’

By Vivienne Son, 2018

This article draws on a methodologically interesting case study called ‘Stories Beyond Gender’, in which a small group of trans* people collaborates in social media storytelling. Building on the possibilities manifest in other more explicitly personal-as-political genres like digital storytelling, I explore the potential of this facilitated workshop practice to establish meaningful connections across difference, forging affinities that may continue to flourish online. Furthermore, I offer some specific examples of the ways in which my own networked story-sharing online, in a zine and in an exhibition affirmed emergent complexity. I address the theme of this Special Issue by examining the ways in which social media, despite paradoxical fragmentation, can be used creatively to mobilise interest in public aspects of gender expression. However, sharing stories, especially those linked to stigmatised identities, whether online or off, is not without its complications. In the face of highly valued privacy, a lack of familiarity with ever-changing privacy settings or the affordances of specific platforms can pose an obstacle to online self-representation that stands in the way of visible civic engagement. While acknowledging that the trans-phobic consequences of online misadventures continue to be dire, I address the self-protective skills and sophisticated ways in which gender-diverse people curate emergent and past selves across intersecting social networks both on and offline. I argue that, at the intersections of post-digital and post-gender ways of being, we can observe emergent acceptance of multiple selves that are capable of being inconsistent without being incoherent. These representations exist in stark opposition to pop psychology’s premise of a singular authentic ‘inner truth’. Keywords : digital storytelling, everyday activism, gender-diverse, self-representation, social media, trans*

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