Anita Say Chan is an Associate Research Professor of Communications in the Department of Media and Cinema Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her research and teaching interests include globalization and digital cultures, innovation networks and the “periphery”, science and technology studies in Latin America, and hybrid pedagogies in building digital literacies. She received her PhD in 2008 from the MIT Doctoral Program in History; Anthropology; and Science, Technology, and Society. Her first book the competing imaginaries of global connection and information technologies in network-age Peru, Networking Peripheries: Technological Futures and the Myth of Digital Universalism was released by MIT Press in 2014. Her research has been awarded support from the Center for the Study of Law & Culture at Columbia University’s School of Law and the National Science Foundation, and she has held postdoctoral fellowships at The CUNY Graduate Center’s Committee on Globalization & Social Change, and at Stanford University’s Introduction to Humanities Program. She is faculty affiliate at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and the Illinois Informatics Institute, and is the 2017-19 Senior Faculty Fellow with the the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory.
For as varied and diverse as innovation developments have been in the Midwest – with the region hosting the first computing-centered industrial district prior to the rise of Silicon Valley – existing literature in the social and historical studies of technology has placed relatively little emphasis on the region. This proposal highlights Digital Humanities projects as means to organize novel multi-sited, interdisciplinary collaborations, that in this case brings together scholars from across varied locales and archives of the “global midwest"" -- the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Purdue University, and the University of Minnesota. These sites are brought together as a cross-disciplinary, multi-campus coordinated exploration into the Midwest's layered innovation histories that have often been overshadowed by innovation narratives focused on dominant regions and centers of computing (whether academic sites like MIT or Stanford, or regions like Silicon Valley and Massachusetts' Route 128). The UIUC research team’s case studies early innovations in education technology and online distance education such as PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) and PrairieNet and LEEP (Library Experimental Education Program); interdisciplinary cybernetics research with the Biological Computer Laboratory (BCL); and pioneering building, campus accessibility, and wheelchair athletics designs within DRES (Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services) research. This work expands standard research agendas by simultaneously exploring means to extend research findings and develop pedagogical resources – whether physical or digital – to expand greater visibility of such local, multi-disciplinary histories around collaborative regional innovation.