Yes, there has been something of a radio silence for a while on Our Viral Lives. But do not despair. Behind the scenes, I’ve been thinking deeply about the book project that will be finished (as a draft) next August, and some of the new components of the archive that will be launched once my M.A. semester finished up in a few weeks. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the principles that underpin this archive. I don’t want to call what I’m publishing here a manifesto (because a manifesto almost by its nature implies fixed principles) but there are ideals that guide my work as an archivist, curator, and individual living in the moment of this HIV/AIDS crisis.
Introduction To Social Innovation Methodology
When I started in the SIS program, the concept of “social innovation” in relation to Our Viral Lives felt like an unnecessary abstraction. I remember at one point even considering switching out of the SIS concentration because I felt my work didn’t “fit in” to the mold of a social innovation project. But the more I started to concretely plan out Fall 20015—both in regards to launching new programming and also solidifying travel plans in South Africa— I realized how clearly I was doing something that was in fact innovative and was focused on making a social, political and historical impact on discourse around HIV/AIDS for LGBTQ-identified people.
To make sense of the potential social impact and innovation of Our Viral Lives, it’s necessary to consider three different elements of the project: content, design, and method. They are all interrelated but they serve to highlight unique components of social innovation discourse.
I’ve known since the beginning of the year that I would be going to Mexico City and South Africa but I haven’t know what I’m doing. Finally, I’m excited to announce a more concrete plan of what I’ll be doing and offer a little insight into the process. All of this has been a while in the making, but I’m happy to finally be going somewhere and setting myself up for a lot of exciting things to come.
I feel like living in a world and talking so openly about queer sexuality and HIV/AIDS leads to a constant sense of alienation and disconnect. But what could happen if there was an easy, visual way to showcase that people living with HIV, who have experienced the loss of someone with AIDS, are on PrEP, or otherwise are confused about which sexual health services cater to LGBTQ-identified people? It seems like some of the silence, stigma and sense of disconnect could be lessened.
As I started to think about what Our Viral Lives could do, I again gravitated toward the idea of using digital tools. Having something that can be easily accessed around the world would allow more people to connect more easily, and thus the “Sex Without Boundaries” map was born. The idea is that if you’re poz, if you lost someone to AIDS, want to mention you’re on PrEP, or have a sexual health resource to share, you can.
This map will serve to build up more and more people over time to highlight the idea that we’re not alone, that there are people who share in our experiences, and that we can be empowered in our own communities to discuss sexuality and HIV if we haven’t already. Currently, anyone can reach out directly to Our Viral Lives at kyle [at] ourvirallives [dot] org to get added to the map. You can also send out a tweet here. All you need is your first name last initial, age, gender and/or sexual orientation, and HIV status, if you’re on PrEP, and since when.
(And if you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to reach out directly.)
The following plan is a tentative look at what my 2nd semester will look like for my Master’s program. This will help to shape the future of Our Viral Lives as a project.
Packet 1 Deadline – September 7
- Articulate social innovation as it relates to narrative and archives around HIV/AIDS
- Complete final version of social innovation and sustainability essay
- Saturdays, Aug. 22 and 29 spent at the Schomburg Archives, listening and viewing docs related to their StoryCorps Black LGBT Archive
- Revisit the Zanele Muholi exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum
- Design, When Everybody Designs
- International Handbook on Social Innovation
- Innovations in HIV Prevention Research and Practice
- It Was Like a Fever: Storytelling in Protest and Politics
Packet 3 Deadline – October 19
- Host 1 event in NYC — ideally related to using photography as a documentary, narrative and archival tool in LGBTQ communities
- Research more cross-cultural perspectives on HIV/AIDS to prepare for my upcoming travels to Mexico City and South Africa
- Solidify contacts in all travel locations and find out more about archival materials and community organizations
- Continue connecting with HIV/AIDS within NYC in a variety of contexts, to further refine social innovation and articulate possible future archival strategies
- See Survival AIDS Medication Reminder exhibit at PPOW & Party Out of Bounds at La Mama Gallery
- Visit the Crack is Wack Playground in East Harlem
- Hosted event at Bureau of General Services – Queer Division
- The Night Is Young: Sexuality In Mexico In A Time of AIDS
- The AIDS Pandemic In Latin America
- Autoethnography: Understanding Qualitative Research
- Spaces Between Us: Queer Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Decolonization
Packet 5 Deadline – November 30
- Collect at least 7-10 written interviews (and find appropriate translation services when necessary)
- Create an extended hybrid essay that combines autoethnography, archival research and more formal scholarship that focuses on at least 1 location that I traveled to
- Create a tentative thesis statement to prepare in advance of G3 semester
- Direct conversations with LGBTQ individuals in this country, work within service organizations, and visits to archival facilities
- Mema’s House: Mexico City
- African Intimacies: Race, Homosexuality, and Globalization
- South Africa and the Dream of Love to Come
- Queer Visibilities: Space, Identity and Interaction in Cape Town
- Zanele Muholi: Faces and Places, 2006-2014
- Debunking Delusions: The Inside Story of the Treatment Action Campaign