Proposal Development Grants 2018

Two research projects were awarded proposal development funding for work in May and June 2018.

Sensing Algorithms:  A Collaboratory

The algorithm is now a central problem and topic of inquiry among scholars of culture.¹  Yet as human experience is digitally mediated, encounters with texts, media, space, form, and even reality itself are now produced by a step-by-step procedure executed by a computer, to significant effect. For the user, the reader, the citizen, and the audience, sense is computed—hidden electronic scripts are followed and calculations are performed to determine what rises to awareness.

Our task: to probe these omnipresent but otherwise invisible algorithms.
Our tactic: to develop new forms of collaboration that will combine traditional humanistic scholarship with other creative practices.

We represent the humanities, computer programming, architecture, design, music, and art — five different colleges of the university — and we aim to braid and intertwine them all.²

Faculty Team Members: Christian Sandvig, Principle Investigator (PI), Professor, School of Information and LSA Communication Studies; Sophia Brueckner, Assistant Professor, Stamps School of Art & Design; William Calvo-Quiros, Assistant Professor, American Culture; John Granzow, Assistant Professor, School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, Performing Arts Technology; Catie Newell, Associate Professor, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

¹Lorraine Daston, “Whither Critical Inquiry?” Critical Inquiry 30, no. 2 (2004): 362; Malte Ziewitz, 
“Governing Algorithms,” Science, Technology, and Human Values 41, no. 1 (2015).
²Stephen Ramsay and Geoffrey Rockwell, “Developing Things: Notes toward an Epistemology of Building 
in the Digital Humanities.” in Debates in the Digital Humanities, ed. Matthew K. Gold. (Minneapolis: 
University of Minnesota Press, 2012):  75-84.

The Peace Corps and Africa:  Shaping a Field

This project will investigate the impact of the launch and early years of the Peace Corps on the formation of the field of African art history and related disciplines in the US. Did the Peace Corps, through the experiences of its volunteers, noticeably shape the field of African art history, for instance? What role, if any, did the Peace Corps play in broadening the canon of African arts, and by extension, an understanding of Africa’s cultures? How did the presence of the Peace Corps compare to that of other US governmental programs active in Africa? How did its ties to the history of the Cold War influence the study of Africa in the US?

Faculty Team Members: Raymond Silverman, Principle Investigator (PI), Professor, History of Art, Afroamerican and African Studies, and Museum Studies; Christina Olsen, Director, UMMA; Kelly Askew, Professor, Anthropology and Afroamerican and African Studies; Laura De Becker, Curator of African Art, UMMA.

Image Credit:  Textile, Liberia, 1966. Copyright: Tommy Miles.