Learning to See Systems – Mission

Seeing Systems: Technology Studies and Knowledge Infrastructures across the Humanities is an experimental program of interdisciplinary study at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Seeing Systems began in Fall of 2013 with a group of students from multiple graduate programs across the Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts. The program received support from the Graduate College between 2013-17 and continues to work under the supervision of an interdisciplinary team of Faculty through a series of new courses and projects that pose a common question:

How can we make visible the values and epistemologies embedded in complex scientific and technological systems?

We will address the role of vision in new technologies, and we will do so through the production not only of texts, but of images, interfaces and software.

The question of vision is central to the study of new technologies not only because of the role of images in these systems, but of sight itself, of seeing. To address and understand the role of vision in technological systems is to expose their underlying value systems, the ways in which they also mediate visibility for others.

This program equips students with interdisciplinary techniques to be effective critics of not only their chosen subjects of study, but of their own increasingly digital scholarly spaces. Outcomes include scholarly publications and presentations in traditional and experimental forms, a new digital tool made available to the public for use in scholarly research and publication, and a concluding symposium on the rise of the “Humanities Lab” as a space of experimentation for scholarly form, method and audience.

Seeing Systems has also designed collaborative interventions, workshops, and individual and group paper presentation to interdisciplinary academic spaces, including the HASTAC Lima 2014 Conference, HASTAC Michigan 2015 Conference, FemTechNet Signal/Noise Spring 2016 Conference at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) 2016 Conference in Barcelona.

The Program was funded and administered through the INTERSECT program (2013-17) in the Graduate College at the University of Illinois.

Space and logistical support comes from the Center for People and Infrastructures in the Coordinated Science Lab, with additional support from the following units:

* header photos courtesy of Celebrate U-C People’s History, Anita Chan, Jenny Reardon.

 (site updated June 2019)