5 Questions with Alexander Monea, Author of The Digital Closet

Apr 19, 2022

author photo of alexander monea

Dr. Alexander Monea is an Assistant Professor serving jointly in George Mason’s English Department and Cultural Studies Department. He researches the history and cultural impacts of computers and digital media. He is also an Ethics, Equity, and Trust Area Editor for Data & Policy. He received his PhD in Communication, Rhetoric, & Digital Media from North Carolina State University. His newest book is The Digital Closet: How the Internet Became Straight published by MIT Press.

He will be discussing The Digital Closet in our City Lights LIVE! virtual event series on Wednesday, April 20th, 2022!

Where are you writing to us from?

I’m writing to you from Washington, D.C.

What has been most important for you, personally/artistically/habitually, during the pandemic?

I think the most important thing for me has been those fleeting moments of social connection, rendered all the more visible and important by their difficulty under COVID. The best academic books are written collectively even if only one person puts their name on the cover, drawing on the combined expertise of a network of people. That was certainly the case when I was writing.

Which writers, artists, and others influence your work in general, and this book, specifically?

This book synthesizes a wide range of ongoing discussions, and thus is indebted to many people in many different discourses. When it came to feminism, I drew heavily on Sarah Banet-Weiser’s work on postfeminism, Sarah Sharma’s work on feminist media studies, and Kate Manne’s work on misogyny. In terms of queer theory, I was really influenced by Jane Ward’s latest book The Tragedy of Heterosexuality and more canonical work like Gayle Rubin’s and Audre Lorde’s. In terms of content moderation and online censorship, I couldn’t have written this without the work of scholars like Tarleton Gillespie, Sarah T. Roberts, Safiya Noble, and many, many others.

What books are you reading right now and would you recommend any to others? 

The books I currently have sitting on my desk that I’m working through and would recommend to others are Marisa Duarte’s Network Sovereignty: Building the Internet Across Indian Country, Hatim El-Hibri’s Visions of Beirut: The Urban Life of Media Infrastructure, Jacob Gaboury’s Image Objects: An Archaeology of Computer Graphics, and Emily West’s Buy Now: How Amazon Branded Convenience and Normalized Monopoly.

If you opened a bookstore, where would it be located, what would it be called, and what would your bestseller be?

I’d probably open one in my native Cleveland, maybe call it ‘Guardian Books’ to celebrate the recent and long overdue name change of our baseball team, and my current bestseller would be Brian Jefferson’s Digitize and Punish: Racial Criminalization in the Digital Age.


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