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Concluding Remarks

I have the urge to start with “in conclusion,” but I know that this is just a beginning. Especially, considering the increasing number of “registered” Legato members (857 at the present according to Yahoo! Groups interface) and the presently small but booming number of Internet users in Turkey, from about 100 thousand in 1996 to around 3.5 million users in 70 million people in 2000 (Ozcan, 2002, p. 5), new developments with Legato are in the offing. Meanwhile, here are some important issues that need to be explored to further contextualize Legato and appreciate its various aspects but were beyond the scope of this article: 1) the history of the politics of minority rights in Turkey; 2) institutional politics as it relates to the establishment of LGBT student networks in the tightly supervised structure of Turkish higher education; 3) the socio-economics of the Internet boom and computer access in Turkey; and 4) the literacy skills individual Legato members practice and/or need in order to manipulate the technology most to their advantage. Finally, there is one last question that I would like to explore in detail before finishing: What are the implications of juxtaposing Legato in Turkey to the current situation of LGBT rights in the US? Why and how do the differences between North American LGBTs and Turkish LGBTs in their access to and use of technology matter?

From an historical perspective, there are similarities between Turkish LGBTs and their North American counterparts in broad, general terms of challenges they have been facing and the struggles they have been going through to form and disseminate a viable rhetoric of identity politics based on a new epistemology of personal and group experience in the face of homophobia and social and material exclusion. At the same time, though, this process of identity formation is taking place in very different contexts in historically and qualitatively different ways. As an obvious example, the Internet simply was not there at the beginning of the LGBT rights movement in the US. Its relative availability in the culturally different context of Turkey at this moment of the burgeoning consciousness of LGBT rights point out the importance of media and sustainable channels of communication, and their spatial and epistemological significance underlying seemingly simple acts of accessing information and connecting with others. With this emphasis on media and space in mind, then, how did LGBT populations in the US use media historically in dealing with the dominant discourses of their time? And how do such uses compare with the contemporary ones? In addition, in the current context of institutionalized homophobia, what larger issues of access and (economic) power are there? As much as technology has a liberating potential, it is also limiting in many ways (Selfe & Selfe, 1994), and we need an approach that is constantly conscious of and attentive to this contradiction. In his “Queer Spaces, Modem Boys, and Pagan Statues,” Randal Woodland (2000) espouses such a rhetorical approach not only describing specific creations of queer identity in particular online venues as reflection of what this identity is at the end of 1990s, but also connecting them to corporate structures and larger ideologies that underpin their existence. Such analyses are valuable in that in their consideration of larger forces at work, they offer a rhetoric that can resist the alluring apparent uniformity of the interface and constantly remind to map and contextualize in order to avoid appropriating and glossing over differences among users and the circumstances in which they live and interact with computer technologies.

This article with its emphasis on cartography as a visual, rhetorical device, then, attempted to subvert such seeming uniformity of the interface as mentioned above, from inside the screen itself. Like the geographical space that has been a stage to the ongoing (rhetorical) struggle in Turkey—from cartographies denying LGBT existence to cartographies of acknowledgement—the computer screen is undeniably an extension of physical space through which struggles for rights and legitimacy of identities still continue. As such, cyberspace must be viewed in a manner that maintains its connection to physical spaces, bodies, and ideologies and also used proactively to support diversity that would emerge through such a connection. In our privileged state as researchers with access to technologies, it is our duty to stress and propagate the existence of such diversity and the crucial role of its ramifications in understanding diverse LGBTs and the impact of digital technologies in their lives.