U-M awarded $4.8M grant from Mellon Foundation to study digital inequality

March 17, 2021

ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan received a major grant in humanities from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a multi-institutional digital futures collaborative led by a professor whose research involves digital inequality.

This $4.8 million award is the ninth grant from Mellon to U-M in the past two years.

“I’m absolutely thrilled that the Mellon Foundation has chosen to fund the creation of DISCO: the Digital Inquiry, Speculation, Critique, and Optimism Network,” said Lisa Nakamura, the Gwendolyn Calvert Baker Collegiate Professor of American Culture and professor of Asian and Pacific Islander studies, and director of the Digital Studies Institute.

“This scholarly collective focusing on digital inequality, race and ability is really core to University of Michigan’s Digital Studies Institute’s mission and goals. We look forward to publishing collaborative work on tech’s wins and fails, creating new courses on digital inequality that speak to STEM students, and creating art that speaks to A.I. and identity.”

Nakamura is the principal investigator who will collaborate on the project with Remi Yergeau, associate professor of English and associate director of the Digital Studies Institute; André Brock at Georgia Institute of Technology; Rayvon Fouché at Purdue University; Catherine Knight Steele at University of Maryland; and Stephanie Dinkins at SUNY Stony Brook University. U-M will serve as both the network organizational hub (Nakamura) and a lab site with a focus on disability and access (Yergeau).

“The humanities, with their emphasis on the range of human experience, offer important opportunities to understand racial inequality, histories of exclusion, disability justice and digital racial politics,” said U-M Provost Susan Collins.

“The university is deeply appreciative of this support from the Mellon Foundation. It will strengthen and extend our investment in developing new scholarship and practices that bring the power of humanistic inquiry to contemporary concerns and contribute to transformative work in higher education.”

Two awards were announced in January, when the foundation awarded $5 million each to U-M professors Stephanie Fryberg and Earl Lewis to fund projects that focus on addressing racial inequity.

Fryberg, a University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor and professor of psychology, and Lewis, the Thomas C. Holt Distinguished University Professor of History, Afroamerican and African Studies and Public Policy, faculty associate at the Research Center for Group Dynamics, and director of the Center for Social Solutions, will receive the funding during the next three years.

Nakamura, whose research focuses on online racism and sexism in video games, social media and online communities, has taught in various College of Literature, Science, and the Arts departments since 2013. She has been director of the Digital Studies Institute since its inception in 2018.

Yergeau, who came to U-M in 2011, has scholarly interests in writing studies, digital studies, queer rhetorics, disability studies and theories of mind.

Lisa Nakamura
Remi Yergeau
Stephanie Fryberg
Earl Lewis

Jared Wadley, 734-834-7719, [email protected]

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