The Mediation of LGBT Expression Online – The Beginning of my Dissertation Journey

It’s been a very exciting academic year and I just defended my dissertation proposal – I am very happy about starting the next chapter of my PhD journey and work on my dissertation! In my dissertation, I examine the various mechanisms of control that foster and constrain LGBT speech and identity expression online. Under the invaluable guidance of my dissertation Chair, Prof. Laura DeNardis and my Committee members Prof. Kathryn Montgomery, Prof. Deen Freelon and Prof. Jessie Daniels (CUNY, Hunter College), I have developed my ideas and will be spending the next ten months researching LGBT expression online and developing policy recommendations that can hopefully help foster LGBT expression in the digital public sphere. One of the challenges I faced in writing my proposal was conceptualizing LGBT expression. After some in-depth research on LGBT identity expression in historic context, I conceptualized LGBT expression as the ability to speak freely and access LGBT related content, the ability to express one’s identity and under protection of one’s privacy as well as the ability to organize as a community and challenge those with anti-LGBT sentiments.


photo credit: Cory Doctorow/flickr, The Problem with Censorship is XXXXXXXXX, CC BY-SA

Based on this understanding of LGBT expression, I will examine the various mechanisms of control that foster and constrain LGBT identity online. These forces include national laws and cultural understandings around LGBT rights, business decisions of private industries, social norms and the underlying infrastructure that allows for expression (e.g., Balkin, 2014; Katzenbach, 2013; Lessig, 2008). Rather than viewing the underlying infrastructure as neutral mechanisms providing equal opportunities for expression, I will draw heavily from science, technology and society (STS) studies to highlight the political nature of Internet infrastructure (e.g., Sismondo, 2008). I am very excited about starting my dissertation journey and will share research findings and other news on my blog. As always, I am excited about feedback, comments and questions.


Balkin, J. M. (2014). Old-school/New-school speech regulation. Harvard Law Review, 127(8).

Katzenbach, C. (2013). Media governance and technology: From “Code is law“ to governance constellations. In M. Price, S. Verhulst & L. Morgan (Eds.), Routledge handbook of media law (pp. 399-418). Abingdon, NY: Routledge.

Lessig, L. (2008). Code version 2.0. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Sismondo, S. (2008). Science and Technology Studies and an engaged program. In E. J. Hackett, O. Amsterdamska, M. Lynch & J. Wajcman (Eds.), Handbook of Science and Technology Studies (3 ed., pp. 13-32). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.