Mitigating risk and facilitating access to capabilities: The role of affect in the design of an ICT-tool for queer youth in Asia

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Journal Article
Emotion, Space and Society, 2016, 18 pp. 35 - 43
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Queer youth face discourses that position their experiences as ‘wrong’ or ‘negative,’ which creates barriers to information and support. Whilst new information and communication technologies (ICTs) present opportunities to circumvent and challenge these barriers (Hillier et al 2010; Hanckel and Morris, 2014) less is known about how risk is conceptualised and mitigated within the design of ICTs. This paper analyses one ICT-tool targeting queer youth across 10 cities in Asia. The study draws on ethnographic field notes, program documentation, and interviews with developers to explore the construction of this ICT-tool. Using Sen's (1999) Capability Approach and Ash's (2014) object centred account of affect, I examine how the technological artefact is engineered to produce an affective experience of safety that responds to structural inequalities. The findings indicate that designing a space of ‘trust’ permeates the narratives of the development of the artefact and impacts on the coding and infrastructure, as well as the development of content and policies supporting its implementation. Using affective markers the artefact aims to circumvent the geographically defined risks associated with collecting Internet data, whilst also enhancing the capabilities of marginalized youth. These findings have implications for how we conceptualise the role of affect in ICT-based programs.
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