Innovation in the Global Midwest

A Humanities Without Walls Research Cluster

|| 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 Humanities Without Walls collaboration proposes 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). This research collaboration adopts a distinct approach to innovation studies by looking to shed light on inter-disciplinary digital developments in the Midwest – from educational and public computing, to precision agriculture and rural big data processing, to electro-acoustic design – that necessarily bridged expertise from social sciences, natural sciences, engineering, and humanities; and that have frequently been overlooked, even as they have played roles in reshaping global disciplinary imaginaries, markets, and ecologies. We propose a strategy to develop a means to extend research and pedagogical resources – both existing and proposed, and both physical and digital – to expand greater visibility of such local, multi-disciplinary histories around collaborative regional innovation.



Anita Say Chan, Associate Professor, Media & Cinema Studies Department and the Institute of Communications Research, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign,

Rayvon Fouche, Associate Professor and Director of American Studies, Department of History, Purdue University,

Michael Twidale, Professor, Graduate School of Library & Information Science, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign,

Sharra Vostral, Associate Professor, Department of History, Purdue University,