Research Leads

Anita Chan

Anita Say Chan is an Associate Professor in the School of Information Sciences and Department of Media and Cinema Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her research, teaching, and community service interests include globalization and digital cultures, innovation networks and the “periphery”, science and technology studies in global contexts, and hybrid pedagogies in building digital literacies. She received her PhD in 2008 from the MIT Doctoral Program in History; Anthropology; and Science, Technology, and Society. Her first book the competing imaginaries of global connection and information technologies in network-age Peru, Networking Peripheries: Technological Futures and the Myth of Digital Universalism was released by MIT Press in 2014. Her research has been awarded support from the Center for the Study of Law & Culture at Columbia University’s School of Law and the National Science Foundation, and she has held postdoctoral fellowships at The CUNY Graduate Center’s Committee on Globalization & Social Change, and at Stanford University’s Introduction to Humanities Program. She is a Fiddler Innovation Faculty Fellow with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

Karrie Karahalios an American computer scientist and professor in the Department of Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is noted for her work on the impact of computer science on people and society, analyses of social media, and algorithm auditing. She is co-founder of the Center for People and Infrastructures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She received her bachelor’s degree at MIT in EECS in 1994, ME in EECS in 1995, S.M. in Media Arts and Sciences in 1997, and a PhD in Media Arts and Sciences in 2004. Karahalios joined the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2004, her research focuses on social media and the impact of computing on society, including algorithmic bias and methods to detect and analyze such bias, a field termed “algorithm auditing”. Karahalios was one of the recipients of the National Science Foundation CAREER Awards in 2007, of the A. Richard Newton Breakthrough Research Award in 2008, and of the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowships in 2010. She was named a University Scholar at the University of Illinois in 2019. She has received Best Paper awards for publications in the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) in 2008, 2009, 2015, and 2017.

Karen Rodriguez’G is Director of the University of Illinois Office of Undergraduate Research. As Director, she leads several campus-wide innovations and initiatives designed to foster, support, and enhance undergraduate research within the larger educational and research mission of the university, including building best practice models in support of undergraduate research; recognition of faculty mentors in tenure and promotion; large-scale assessment of the impact/benefits of research; and pedagogical initiatives fostering access to the research process for underserved student populations. She is currently a Fiddler Faculty Fellow at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, as part of a grant-funded year-long interdisciplinary research community and pedagogical initiative foregrounding the importance of the arts and humanities in global innovations. Earning her PhD in History (Modern Britain and Empire) from the U of I, her research interests include imperial/global networks of knowledge and exchange, space, place and identity, and the science of teaching and experiential learning, particularly in the humanities, social sciences, and fine arts.

Program Manager

Mitchell Oliver is an artist with a background in community programming and organizing. Raised in the southeast, Mitchell relocated to UIUC for an MFA in new media. His practice uses moving image, sound, installation and performance to assert the value of durational and embodied experience. His work has been shown in refrigerators, film festivals, forests, books, dumpsters, deserts and museums across North America, including the Kemper Art Museum, the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, Ninth Letter, Big Car, the Krannert Art Museum, the8fest, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, ACRE TV, the High Point Museum, Lawrence & Clark, Ex Teresa Arte Actual, G-CADD, the Bridge PAI, 1067 Pacific People, Hairpin Arts Center, the Hemispheric Institue, and Cucalorus Film Festival. In the past, Mitchell has worked with WTJU in Charlottesville, VA; Elsewhere in Greensboro, NC; James Ranch in Durango, CO; Ox-Bow in Saugatuck, MI; and the Education Justice Project in Urbana, IL.

Graduate Assistants

Val Arboniés Flores (they/them) is a first-year Ph.D. student in Information Sciences at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Their forms of analysis are interdisciplinary in nature and their research interests include: science and technology studies in Latin America, accessibility and technology issues for marginalized communities, debates in open access, the rise of information countercultures, and the history of document reproduction technologies.

Val was a Leadership Alliance Mellon Initiative Fellow at both New York University (2018) and Columbia University (2020). They were also one of the recipients of the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) for the Study of Portuguese in 2020. They have a Bachelor of Arts in History of the Americas from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus.

Kainen Bell is a first-year Doctoral Student in Information Sciences and previously worked for a community-based nonprofit organization in Brazil. In 2018 Kainen completed a Fulbright Research Fellowship, where he studied strategies that communities and nonprofits in Brazil developed to maintain financial sustainability during the economic recession. Prior to his fellowship, Kainen graduated with an MSW from Columbia University and received dual degrees in Business and Social Work from the University of Washington.

His research interests include; Computing for Social Good, Data Ethics & Social Justice, Community-based research practices, and reducing the digital divide for historically marginalized populations in Brazil and the US. Kainen is a 2021 University of Illinois Graduate College Fellowship recipient, as well as a Foreign Language Areas Studies (FLAS) and Summer Pre-doctoral Institute Fellow. In his spare time, he enjoys dancing Salsa and Bachata, playing sports, and indoor roller skating.

Alvarez Dixon is an informatics PhD student at the University of Illinois iSchool. His research interests orbit social and cultural configurations of technology practice. Issues of interest include deconstructing coloniality in digital spaces, African diasporic technocultural practices, as well as digitality and innovation at the periphery of networked societies. Dixon’s approach is multidisciplinary, pulling from social informatics, critical ethnic studies, and twenty years of professional practice in urban youth development. His current and recent projects include designing spaces and pedagogical frames for engaging participants in community informatics, makerspaces, and digital humanities. 

Dixon’s work with the Community Data Clinic involved a designing and implementing pedagogical tools in collaboration with the Nobel Project to introduce participants to digital archives and build research and technology practice skills through the development of digital oral history exhibits which involved ethnographic inquiry and digital literacy skills development.

Jingyi Gu is a Ph.D. student in the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Situated at the intersection of media studies, science and technology studies, and feminist and queer studies, her main research interests include gender and sexuality, identity and community, governance and resistance in social media platforms and digital culture. As a critical digital studies scholar, Jingyi is also interested in politics of algorithms and data on a global scale. She is currently working on her doctoral dissertation exploring the formation of gender and sexual dynamics in Chinese live streaming through the lenses of mediated intimacy and digital labor. 

Jorge Rojas' Photo

Jorge Rojas-Alvarez is a Graduate Student in the Ph. D. program at the Institute of Communications Research in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His background is Computer Science and History of Technology. Have taken part in the design of public history exercises in national libraries in Colombia within topics of media memory of rural literacy programs based on a radio broadcast. In these exercises of public history, the libraries emerge as spaces of dialogue between historical documental archives and memories of users. My main pursuit is to find ways and places for co-construction of collective memory where the inquiry of the past empower communities to imagine diverse futures.

Sam Walkow is an Informatics PhD student studying data visualization and analytics. Her areas of interest include software sustainability and open source software development and communities. She investigates these interests by understanding how software is used across communities, and what motivates users to re-use and re-purpose software tools.  She received her bachelors in Psychology and Sociology from Purdue University in 2014.

Interdisciplinary scholar and classical musician Adrian Wong focuses on hacking and data gathering as forms of resource extraction, researching what the directionalities of flow of contested information reveal about geopolitical power dynamics. A Fiddler Innovation Student Research Fellow with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, he will be starting his PhD at the Institute of Communications Research this Fall. Adrian draws on semiotics, discourse analysis and ethnography to explore how transnational agents undermine and reconfigure cultural and legal understandings of intellectual property and the control of information as a resource. Intimately engaged in the practice of classical music, Adrian performed around Los Angeles with Midori Goto’s community outreach quartet while studying at the University of Southern California as a Presidential Scholar, and has collaborated with orchestras across the United States, Spain and France. Adrian learned meditation from his father–who had been a Buddhist monk for ten years — and weaves elements of mindfulness and concentration practice into his life and work. In his free time, he daydreams about hiking high mountain passes, and offers lessons in math and Kundalini Yoga.