LMC’s André Brock Receives Grant for Lab to Study ‘Race, Difference, and Computation’

Posted April 28, 2021

André Brock, associate professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC), has received a $551,906 sub-grant from the University of Michigan to further interdisciplinary research into issues of “race, difference, and computation.”

The sub-grant, part of a $4.8-million award to the University of Michigan from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will fund the creation of the Project on Rhetoric of Equity, Access, Computation, and Humanities (PREACH) Lab. It will be part of the Digital Inquiry, Speculation, Collaboration, & Optimism (DISCO) network at the University of Michigan, which the Mellon Award supports.

According to Brock, the lab will “develop and expand upon philosophical, cultural theoretic, and critical informatics inquiry and methods for digital and algorithmic researchers around issues of race, difference, and computation.” PREACH will conduct research and offer workshops. Brock expects to hire a post-doctoral researcher, a graduate assistant, and two undergraduate assistants.

“The PREACH Lab was conceived as a space for inquiry into thorny questions concerning computers, society, and culture,” Brock said. “Given the rapid pace of technological change, there are few opportunities for reflection on how these developments could impact the world beyond a narrow instrumental focus on what the technology is and how it works.”

LMC Chair Richard Utz said the project builds on Georgia Tech’s strengths in interactive computing, design thinking, critical race theory, and science and technology studies to foster social scientific, humanistic approaches to STEM design, practice, and culture.

“André’s work on the interaction of race and digital culture has been truly groundbreaking,” Utz said. “And the goals of PREACH align perfectly with LMC’s overall Futures Plan and focus on justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

PREACH is primarily inspired by Brock’s time in the Project on the Rhetoric of Inquiry program at the University of Iowa, which focused on “investigating inquiry.” There, academics and researchers across disciplines would more closely examine the nature of the questions guiding learning, as opposed to focusing solely on the outcomes of that process. Brock hopes to bring a similar collaborative feel to PREACH.

“I can’t wait to invite my LMC, Public Policy, History and Sociology, Economics, and Urban Planning colleagues to join in investigating technological efforts to transform society,” Brock said. “But I’m also super excited to invite colleagues from Engineering, Interactive Computing, Physics, Computer Science, and Business to join us as well. The more perspectives we have around the table, the better the discussions will be.”

Brock has established himself as a leading voice in the study of digital discourse, particularly as it intersects with issues of race and class. He has provided commentary on the digital spaces that form “Black Twitter,” and his book Distributed Blackness: African American Cybercultures further explores manifestations of race in digital spaces.

The School of Literature, Media, and Communication is a unit of Georgia Tech’s Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.

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Michael Pearson