Skip to Main Content

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Chai Wai Series: Digital Humanities

Guide to accompany the January 30th, 2018 Chai Wai Series event.

Exploring Innovation in the Global Midwest: Digital Humanities Research and Pedagogy Across Regional Archives.


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.