Written by Lisa Nakamura

It is my great pleasure to introduce you to the DISCO Network, a new scholarly collective made up of six researchers working on the cutting edge of digital technology critique, art practice, race and ethnic studies, disability studies, and gender. We came together in 2020 as a group in response to the Mellon Foundation’s call for proposals for their new Just Futures program and received a $4.8 million grant for the 2021-2024 period.

DISCO stands for Digital Inquiry, Speculation, Collaboration, and Optimism. We are an intergenerational group of scholars and practitioners who write books and create art about technology and how it both creates and withholds the conditions of possibility for different bodies, histories, and resistances. We share a commitment to writing, teaching, and creating new scholarly networks to nurture different points of view that move beyond classifying technology as good or bad. The world needs what the humanities has to offer: –nuance, deep thinking, and complexity– and it needs it from experts on race and digital culture, disability, sexuality, and technology history. It also needs this work soon, in a time frame that acknowledges the dire urgency of our times, times that demand productive engagement with our lifeworlds and what the digital has to do with it.

To this end, our network has recruited a cohort of outstanding Fellows and postdoctoral scholars to work with us and network graduate students to write, teach, and create with us. Please follow us on the socials to find invitations and links to our talks, workshops, publications like the “Tech Wins and Fails” open access white papers on fast-breaking topics like the Metaverse and spirituality, the racial politics of TikTok, the racial politics of crypto, and the anti-digital turn post-COVID. We will co-write two accessible and compact collaboratively authored monographs so that you can hear each of our voices, together. We are driven to produce this work because of our own experiences as researchers and teachers who often found themselves working alone on the margins of traditional departments, and we want to reach out and form connections to other researchers, to teach courses that attend to race, disability, and power for undergraduate engineering and C.S. students who receive none of this training, and to support a new generation of scholars from underrepresented groups with similar goals.

DISCO is composed of five Labs with individual research foci and one Hub at the University of Michigan.

André Brock’s PREACH Lab

Stephanie Dinkins’s Future Histories Lab

Rayvon Fouché’s HAT Lab

Catherine Knight Steele’s BcaT Lab

Remi Yergeau’s Digital AF Lab

If you’d like to get more involved with the DISCO network please subscribe to get our future newsletters and event announcements. DISCO has grand ambitions to continue our PI’s projects and bring them together in new, speculative, and collaborative ways. Critical research on discounted identities can be depressing and enervating because it neglects the optimism, imagination, and pleasure in creating and thinking together that come from scholarly networks. In these times, especially, we need engaging, rigorous, and challenging thinking, talking, writing, and making about technology as we find our way through these uncertain waters.