“Providing Healing, Promoting Hope” is the theme for Women’s History Month in 2022. Two New Mexico State University professors have focused their efforts around the theme of online digital connection.
“There's so much mental stress happening and tumult in people's lives,” said M. Catherine Jonet, NMSU professor of gender and sexuality studies. “Through this project, we’re trying to come up with a way to be rigorous and scholarly, but also very, very empathetic, compassionate and human.”
Jonet and Laura Anh Williams, also a gender and sexuality studies professor, have created a multimedia collection exploring everyday practices of digital connection. The 2022 Digital Welcome Kit is free to download and will be available on the gender and sexuality studies program webpage as well as the Feminist Border Arts site throughout March.
“We took our work with Feminist Border Arts and instead of curating a film festival online, we decided to use the other aspects of our work to pursue the theme,” Jonet said. “We are scholars and we are also artists. We like to put our theorizing into things that we make ourselves. This work is connected very much to aesthetics from artists and movements, arts and activism.”
During the past two years of isolation due to the worldwide pandemic, people are spending more and more time on their screens not only for work but also for social interaction and entertainment.
Jonet and Williams decided to add something different to that environment, since people are already engaged.
“The sort of work that we do in gender and sexuality studies, it’s about fighting against injustice and it requires a lot of energy, a tremendous amount of energy and work and physicality and scholarship,” said Williams. “Everyone needs recuperation time, like a retreat to take care and have quiet time, down time. That is what we hope to help people access with this digital kit.”
Some of the everyday practices in the downloadable collection include a decompression video called “Concentration” with original “lofi” music, a copy of “SJZ: Social Justice Zine,” graphic wallpaper for phones and laptops, a task planner page and other everyday digital interactions.
Williams sees the kit as a way to reach people on a different level of lived experience.
“The different designs that we have created are all related to the theme and reflect our commitment to social justice, to LGBTQ+ identities,” Williams said. “It's just an interesting way of showing what we do in gender and sexuality studies beyond course work. We get at it through aesthetics and creativity in a way that involves film, music and graphics design.”
The two professors hope people are interested in integrating these gentle reminders as a part of their daily lives.
“I think that there's value from it that we may not understand fully in the immediate moment, but the impact may be more in the long term,” Jonet said.
The video “Concentration” will be presented as part of a panel on internet culture at the national Popular Culture Association conference in April, where it will receive its official premiere.