An LGBTQ+ “Expression in the Digital Age” event took place at the University of  Rhode Island’s Gender and Sexuality Center on March 19.

Senior honors student Nate Vaccaro presented the talk specifically on the expression of the LGBTQ+ community in the digital age. The event was an hour long with the first half including a presentation and speech, which was followed by a discussion with the audience members.

“We’re in a very transitory and fruitful moment in terms of the way technology is going,” Vaccaro said. “I wanted to have this group exploration of what does it look like to be LGBTQ+ on the internet, with the means to express yourself digitally.”

These works were used to support the discussion: “Our Story Begins Here” by Malea Powell; “Disciplinary Landscaping” by Jacqueline Jones Royster and “Videos of Affinity” by Patricia G. Lange.  

Vaccaro summarized that these three pieces show how LGBTQ+ people can use the internet to express and create content that is ground breaking and not feeding into the dominant narratives of colonialism and capitalism.

The audience members shared their opinions on the internet and social media and their favorite artists on the internet who have had a positive influence on their lives.

“Throughout the years, I’ve noticed that my attention span has reduced and I’m not being patient,” said junior Hope Sousa, a gender and women’s studies major. “[The internet] can also be a powerful tool and be a communication tool but can also be damaging to someone’s self-image.”

Vaccaro wanted their audience to leave with the value of creation online and the importance of authenticity in expression.   

“I just wanted you to know that story has value and stories change dominant narratives,” said Vaccaro. “It is one of the remedies for the internet being completely entrenched now in ads and capitalism and we do have the ability to reinvent and reconsider the way in which we express ourselves.”

The presentation started with a screening of a clip from a YouTube series called “Idle Cosmopolitan” by artist and storyteller, Joshua Byron. The video was shot from his iPhone and elaborates on being non-binary and exploring concepts that fascinated them.

The presentation also included a short video from Laura Marciano, the author of “Mall Brat” and a lecturer at URI. She highlighted her own opinion of the evolution of the internet and social media over time.

“People find it difficult to differentiate between IRL and URL,”  Marciano said. “Multinational corporations controlling so much of our data. We are employees that don’t get paid. We are sort of owned, and that did not happen pre-social media. The internet was owned by the user.”

Vaccaro further emphasized on how market and consumerism has collapsed in the most intimate parts of our lives. They elaborated on LGBTQ expression is in this digital age and how to mediate.

“Our Story Begins Here” by Malea Powell, explores meaning-making as it is situated in specific communities. “Disciplinary Landscaping,” talks about how the idea of rhetoric has been dominated by western influence and elaborates on the importance of non-normative arenas of rhetoric.

“The last one, ‘Videos of Affinity’ which are blog updates or ASMR videos where somebody is talking in front of the camera about their lives,” Vaccaro said. “It is something that taps to establish connection to people outside of marketability, placing an emphasis on human connection rather than for ad revenue or for other forms of marketability.”