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Past Institutes


The Digital Studies Institute at the University of Michigan's third annual Digital IDEAS - Digital Physical Entanglements

Keynotes: Apryl Williams, Lisa Parks, Mimi Onuoha, Orit Halpern, Mel Hogan, Chris Gilliard

This iteration of Digital IDEAS focused on the intertwining relations between digital and physical with a focus on impacts to environments, bodies, and space. If, at one time, the digital or virtual was understood to be an immaterial realm distinct from our pedestrian, physical one, much scholarship over the past decade has attuned us to the complex networks of relationships that simultaneously constitute both. The ambient hum of ubiquitous digitality pervades every sphere of life, giving rise to and shaping new forms of physical space and embodiment, while the deficiencies of physical infrastructure and the specter of climate collapse bridle digital access and development. 

During the Summer Institute, we continued critical examinations of these entanglements and focused our conversations on the asymmetrical power relationships and spatial manifestations embedded within. We took a broad understanding of environment, encompassing the places we live and work, IRL and online communities, and climate systems precariously on the edge of collapse. We thought of spaces and bodies as situations of exchange, mutually constituted and transformed by digital and physical structures. Too often, the technological transformations affecting our world and ourselves at a dizzying pace are hidden from clear view, occurring in the black box of the algorithm or the board room. Digital Physical Entanglements brought together eminent scholars, artists, and practitioners working to illuminate the interconnected forces that structure digital technology and its critical impact on our material lives. We were able to engage these ideas through intentional conversation, reflection, workshopping, and community.


The Digital Studies Institute at the University of Michigan's second annual Digital IDEAS - Critical Access: Technology and Disability Justice

Keynotes: Moya Bailey, Eliza Chandler, Elizabeth Ellcessor, Shannon Finnegan, Aimi Hamraie, Thai Lu, Carly Mandel, Karen Nakamura, Carla Rice, Stephanie Rosen, Jonathan Sterne, M. Remi Yergeau, Hannah Zeavin

During our time in the institute, we thought together about crip solidarities and what it means to do access, materially, critically, and intersectionally.

Drawing from the guidance of our keynotes, one another, and disability justice frameworks, we worked to consider:

When is access a thing that can be controlled and controlling, and when is access collective, de-institutional, interrogatory, and, following Mia Mingus, loving?

How do we think about access when we are tired — weary, worried, spoonless — over always fighting for it?

Is access an always-elusive digital unicorn?

What can access do in a culture of precarity, isolation, scarcity, and death?

We learned and grew together as we engaged with crip wisdom and digital disability activism, as well as what it means to access access.


The Digital Studies Institute at the University of Michigan's first annual Digital IDEAS: A Summer Institute for Anti-Racist Critical Digital Studies.

Keynotes: André Brock, Stephanie Dinkins, Rayvon Fouché, Catherine Knight Steele, Lisa Nakamura, Remi Yergeau

In keynote lectures, panels, methodologies workshops, and group discussions, we asked:

What would an equitable digital future look like? 

Digital IDEAS 2021 explored the ways that the digital perpetuates existing inequalities and envisions a new anti-racist, anti-ableist, intersectionally inclusive digital future through a nuanced speculative, experimental, and critical lens. This one-week online summer institute provided critical digital studies training and support collaborative, intersectional projects that center anti-racist, feminist, LGBTQ-affirming, and anti-ableist practices. Our goal was to create a close cohort of participants committed to participating in a week of community-building, skill-sharing, and rigorous theoretical discussion. Alongside keynotes and panels, Digital IDEAS methods workshops situated tools and technologies, linking critical theory about race, gender, and disability with critical practice related to digital environments.


In 2021, we announced the launch of DISCO: The Digital Inquiry, Speculation, Collaboration, & Optimism Network


Co-founded by Digital IDEAS 2021 Keynote speakers André Brock, Stephanie Dinkins, Rayvon Fouché, Catherine Knight Steele, Lisa Nakamura, and Remi Yergeau, DISCO is Mellon Foundation-funded research initiative and collaborative network.

Areas of interest: Historical Afrofuturisms; Black Digital Feminism; Ethnic Studies and Social Media; Art Practice and Artificial Intelligence; Race and Technoculture; Accessibility and the Rhetoric of Disability; Speculative Futures; and Digital Pedagogy. 

The 2021 institute was co-sponsored by the Mellon Foundation.