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DISCO Network Panel | Techno-skepticism: Between Possibility and Refusal

Lisa Nakamura, Rayvon Fouché, Stephanie Dinkins, André Brock, Remi Yergeau, Catherine Knight Steele, Kevin Winstead, and Rianna Walcott in Conversation with Jeff Nagy
Thursday, December 14, 2023
4:00-5:30 PM
Off Campus Location
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Panel Description:
The DISCO Network is a collaborative, intergenerational research group of scholars dedicated to analyzing digital technology, race, disability, sexuality, and gender. The network comprises of six laboratories across five universities (University of Michigan, Northwestern University, The University of Maryland-College Park, Stony Brook University, Georgia Institute of Technology), each of which stands alone and a network node to write, talk, and think about the past, present, and future of technology, Blackness, Asianness, disability, and liberation. The DISCO Network is supported by the Mellon Foundation.

Our relationship with technology is often transactional, extractive, and exploitative, and this is especially true for people of color and disabled people. In Techno-skepticism: Between Possibility and Refusal, the DISCO Network traces the lineages of contemporary A.I.-generated Black bodies that sing, speak, and speak back to (and of) us, algorithmically generated medical diagnoses that decide who or what is disabled and how we ought to be treated, and the uses of digital nostalgia to belatedly and selective re-member a platform history without people of color. While it might seem contrary, naive, or at worst straight up self-destructive for Black, disabled, Asian, and other people who’ve been on the wrong side of technology for so long to refuse to participate in what’s been called the Golden Age of A.I., in this book we argue for a critical position between possibility and refusal. Though refusal is an especially precious space of possibility, particularly for those who have historically not been given the option to say no, to evade, or to log off, people of color and disabled people have long navigated this space between saying yes and saying no to the newest technologies in ways that can empower and energize our awareness of the possibilities skepticism can create.

Technoskepticism is a topical, and timely multi-authored monograph written by an intergenerational group of 14 DISCO Network researchers and artists (David Adelman, André Brock, Aaron Dial, Stephanie Dinkins, Rayvon Fouché, Huan He, Jeff Nagy, Lisa Nakamura, Catherine Knight Steele, Rianna Walcott, Kevin Winstead, Josie Williams, Remi Yergeau, and Lida Zeitlin-Wu) This book offers a critical road map of the contemporary digital landscape from the point of view of disabled and POC technology scholars, arguing for the concept of ‘technoskepticism’ as a response to our current inflection point in regards to race relations, disability history and care activism in relation to technology use.

Nine co-authors of Technoskepticism, Lisa Nakamura, Rayvon Fouché, Remi Yergeau, André Brock, Catherine Knight Steele, Stephanie Dinkins, Kevin Winstead, Rianna Walcott, and Jeff Nagy, will be in conversation about this exciting new manuscript.

Register to attend on Zoom:

Lisa Nakamura (she/her) is the Gwendolyn Calvert Baker Collegiate Professor in the Department of American Culture, and the founding Director of the Digital Studies Institute, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Since 1994, Nakamura has written books and articles on digital bodies, race, and gender in online environments, on toxicity in video game culture, and the many reasons that Internet research needs ethnic and gender studies. These books include, Race After the Internet (co-edited with Peter Chow-White, Routledge, 2011); Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet (Minnesota, 2007); Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet (Routledge, 2002); and Race in Cyberspace (co-edited with Beth Kolko and Gil Rodman, Routledge, 2000). In November 2019, Nakamura gave a TED NYC talk about her research called “The Internet is a Trash Fire. Here’s How to Fix It.”

Rayvon Fouché (he/him) is a Professor of Communication Studies at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrative Marketing Communications at Northwestern University. His scholarship on invention and innovation explores the multiple intersections and relationships between cultural representation, racial identification, and technoscientific design. He has authored or edited Black Inventors in the Age of Segregation (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), Appropriating Technology: Vernacular Science and Social Power (Minnesota, 2004), Technology Studies (Sage Publications, 2008), the 4th Edition of the Handbook of Science & Technology Studies (MIT Press, 2016), and Game Changer: The Technoscientific Revolution in Sports (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017).

Stephanie Dinkins (she/they) is a transmedia artist who creates platforms for dialog about race, gender, aging, and our future histories. Dinkins’ art practice employs emerging technologies, documentary practices, and social collaboration toward equity and community sovereignty. She is particularly driven to work with communities of color to co-create more equitable, values grounded social and technological ecosystems. Dinkins exhibits and publicly advocates for equitable AI internationally. Her work has been generously supported by fellowships, grants, and residencies from United States Artist, The Knight Foundation, Berggruen Institute, Onassis Foundation, Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI, Creative Capital, Sundance New Frontiers Story Lab, Eyebeam, Data & Society, Pioneer Works, NEW INC, and The Laundromat Project. Dinkins is a professor at Stony Brook University where she holds the Kusama Endowed Professorship in Art.

André Brock (he/him) is an Associate Professor of Media Studies at Georgia Tech. He writes on Western technoculture, Black technoculture, and digital media. His scholarship examines Black and white representations in social media, video games, weblogs, and other digital media. He has also published influential research on digital research methods. His first book, titled Distributed Blackness: African American Cybercultures, was published with NYU Press in 2020 and theorizes Black everyday lives mediated by networked technologies.

Remi Yergeau (they/them) is Associate Professor of Digital Studies and English, and Associate Director of the Digital Studies Institute, at the University of Michigan. Their book, Authoring Autism: On Rhetoric and Neurological Queerness, was awarded the 2017 MLA First Book Prize, the 2019 CCCC Lavender Rhetorics Book Award for Excellence in Queer Scholarship, and the 2019 Rhetoric Society of America Book Award. They are currently at work on a second book project about disability, digital rhetoric, surveillance, and (a)sociality, tentatively titled Crip Data. Active in the neurodiversity movement, they have previously served on the boards of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) and the Autism National Committee (AutCom).

Catherine Knight Steele (she/her) is an Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Maryland - College Park where she serves as the Director of the Black Communication and Technology Lab. Her research focus is race, gender and media with specific focus on Black culture and discourse and digital communication. She examines representations of marginalized communities in the media and how groups resist oppression and utilize online technology to create spaces of community. Her book Digital Black Feminism (NYU, 2021), examines the relationship between Black women and technology as a centuries-long gendered and raced project in the U.S. Using the virtual beauty shop as a metaphor, Digital Black Feminism walks readers through the technical skill, communicative expertise, and entrepreneurial acumen of Black women’s labor—born of survival strategies and economic necessity—both on and offline.

Kevin Winstead (he/him) is an Assistant Professor of Critical Media, Critical Race, and AI Studies within the African American Studies and Sociology Department at the University of Florida. His research draws on intersectionality, social activism, and digital media, with specific attention to transglobal disinformation. He has previously served as a DISCO Network Fellow at the PREACH Lab at Georgia Institute of Technology and CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow with the Center for Black Digital Research at Pennsylvania State University.

Jeff Nagy (he/him) is a historian of computing whose research focuses on exchanges between computing and the behavioral sciences from World War II to the present. He holds a PhD in Communication from Stanford University, where his dissertation, “Watching Feeling: Emotional Data from Cybernetics to Social Media,” told the story of how emotion was made computable. Other interests include disability in the history of science and technology, the social integration of emerging technologies, and the history and future of computer-mediated labor. His research has appeared in Technology & Culture, New Media & Society, and elsewhere.

Rianna Walcott (she/her) is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Black Communication and Technology Lab in the Department of Communication at the University of Maryland. Her PhD research focuses on Black British identity presentation in social media spaces. By taking a mixed-methods approach to investigating Black British social media usage, Rianna incorporates interviews and discourse analysis across various sites in order to examine digital communities, the circumstances under which they are created, and the constraints they face. This research investigates if and how discourse varies in different contexts with different demographics, and how social network services — and their attendant harms — impact how Black users express themselves.

We want to make our events accessible to all participants. CART services will be provided. If you anticipate needing accommodations to participate, please email Maddie Agne, DISCO Network Administrative Assistant, at Please note that some accommodations must be arranged in advance and we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible.
Building: Off Campus Location
Location: Virtual
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Interdisciplinary
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Digital Studies Institute

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