Prairie Futures:

Midwestern Innovation and Inter-disciplinary Design Developments

||  For as 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 little emphasis on the region. This Research Cluster – now hosted at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign – offers a cross-disciplinary exploration into the Midwest’s layered innovation histories that have often been overshadowed by narratives focused on dominant regions and centers of computing (whether academic sites like MIT or Stanford, or regions like Silicon Valley). This research collaboration adopts a distinct approach to innovation studies by looking elsewhere other than dominant engineering centers, to shed light on inter-disciplinary digital developments in the Midwest – from accessibility design, to educational and public computing, and electro-acoustic design – that necessarily bridged expertise from social sciences, natural sciences, engineering, and humanities; and that have frequently been overlooked, even as they played roles in shaping disciplinary imaginaries, global markets, and ecologies.

  • Contacts:
    Anita Say Chan, Associate Professor, Media & Cinema Studies Department and Institute of Communications Research,
    Emily Knox, Assistant Professor, School of Information Sciences; Member, Makerspace Urbana,