Noble awarded XSEDE grant to examine consumer data, cloud computing

press release courtesy I-CHASS

[Seeing Systems Faculty member] Safiya Noble, assistant professor in the Department of African American Studies at Illinois in collaboration with the Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts and Social Science (I-CHASS) and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) Cybersecurity Group has been awarded a startup allocation grant on the National Science Foundation’s Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), a national collaboration of supercomputing infrastructures. Noble’s research team will use XSEDE to pursue large-scale visualizations. Noble is an affiliated faculty member at GSLIS.

In her research, she is examining the movement of consumer data across international borders which has come about as a result of increasing use of cloud computing tools (e.g., Facebook, Amazon, Gmail, YouTube, etc.). The central research questions will focus on how to best understand the implications of data storage by cloud-computing companies outside of the U.S, and whether our personal information is at risk as it crosses national borders. The pressing theme of this research is concerned with whether the public’s data is protected under the terms of service agreements, international trade agreements protecting commercial data, or whether it is subject to the sovereign laws of the nations physically storing or warehousing U.S.-based data.

Noble’s study will map large datasets of consumer email and cloud-based services, over time, in order to understand how data physically moves through national and international infrastructures. These large-scale visualizations of consumer information will allow for exploration and greater theorization on information policy issues affecting consumer privacy.

Fellowships available for new students

The Learning to See Systems project seeks applicants for six new two-year fellowships. These fellows will work closely with one another and with faculty on an interdisciplinary exploration of technology and vision in the context of traditional and experimental Humanities research.

The awards are available to new students admitted to Masters or PhD level Humanities programs at Illinois starting Fall of 2013.

Possible areas of inquiry include (but are far from limited to):

  • visual culture of science (pre- or post- digital)
  • critical race theory in the context of online identity
  • mapping and archiving technologies of colonial and counter-colonial space
  • information visualization as a mode of speech
  • digital photography and mobile publics
  • imaging and surveillance in statecraft and citizenship
  • visual rhetorics of communication
  • museum practices in online or virtual environments
  • network representation in infrastructure studies
  • adoption narratives for new technologies
  • image politics of and in the Global South
  • translation and transmission of visual culture

Candidates should apply to one of the Graduate Programs represented among the Project Faculty, and then contact the appropriate Faculty member to indicate interest in the Learning to See Systems track. In addition to an outstanding record for admission, each candidate should bring

  • curiosity about the role of technology in her field
  • interest in how communications technology or ‘technologies of sight’ shape how we consume, analyze and produce culture
  • a stated interest in vision and visibility
  • willingness to work collaboratively / curiosity about others
  • openness to exploration of alternative scholarly tools from digital media and beyond
  • an interest in practice-based approaches to scholarship as well as traditional writing and reading methods.

Each fellowship includes a $20,000 per year stipend, as well as a waiver of tuition and campus fees. Some summer assistantships are also available.


To apply for these positions, apply for admission to one of the following programs and then contact the appropriate Faculty member from this project to let them know of your interest in the Learning to See Systems track:

  • African American Studies Program : Graduate Concentration
  • Art History Program, School of Art and Design : M.A. , Ph.D
  • Department of Communication : M.A. , Ph.D.
  • Studio Art MFA Program, School of Art and Design
  • Media and Cinema Studies Program / Institute of Communications Research (College of Media) : Ph.D.

Deadlines are fast approaching. Please contact individual Graduate Program offices for more details on their application process.