This is part 4 of the Other series.
If I had my druthers, the recently published Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future (link to PDF) by the Truth and Reconciliation Committee of Canada would be required reading in national curriculums. It’s not a short read, nor an enjoyable one, but it’s enlightening and important.
So this is really the crux of the entire issue. being an Other means that you’re kind of acknowledging that there is a Normal that you could have been (kind of like being in the closet). Information systems such as databases often do not have mechanisms in place to manage people who self identify. But categories have consequences – they can be used to control and harm. And categories form new boundaries, new Us and new Thems. New Others.
Next up I’ll be talking about ways of asserting identity while avoiding assimilation. But there’s no easy answers here. We’re part of an information web that’s only getting more tangled. The question of Who We Are is more quantified and scrutinized than it ever has been.
As you’re surfing the web or using your credit card or taking public transit or using your keypass, profiles are being created about Who You Are and What You Do. These are purely artificial constructs that are developed and maintained by groups that have only their self interests in mind. While companies like Google may talk about their ‘algorithms’ as though they are free of human bias and are dispassionate, those algorithms were created by people towards a goal.
Straying outside of those profiles has consequences – flags on databases, holds on bank accounts, violations of both body and privacy. How can we resist letting them define who we are and what we can do? Do we have to fit into these categories? Do we have to settle for being Othered?