Press release

An interdisciplinary team of Dietrich School faculty has been awarded $225,000 from the Andrew Mellon Foundation’s Sawyer Seminar program to fund a multi-year collaborative initiative titled: “Information Ecosystems: Creating Data (and Absence) From the Quantitative to the Digital Age.” The project will bring fourteen field-leading international scholars to Pitt over the course of the 2019-20 academic year for a biweekly series of workshops and public talks, as well as creating competitive research fellowships for two Pitt doctoral students and one postdoctoral fellowship.

The project seeks to advance critical understanding of where data comes from and how it is used, setting the present moment within a century-long history of information supply and its power-laden consequences.  How are information sources generated, to what end, and with what results for our collective ability to see—or to ignore?  This in an inquiry into the social and political life of data, both within academic research and in the wider world.

This is a particularly salient time to convene this conversation at the University of Pittsburgh and in the City of Pittsburgh, both of which find themselves at the epicenter of digital change and transformation. The initiative brings key stakeholders in information science, humanities, social sciences, and international studies together from across the university and outside it, to rethink the future as well as the past of information. 

This award also brings attention to Pitt’s new university-wide graduate certificate in Digital Studies and Methods, a unique interdisciplinary initiative inaugurated in Fall 2018.

Today’s co-proliferation of data sources and advanced computational techniques makes interdisciplinary graduate training more essential than ever.  Pitt’s Sawyer Seminar team has created a new interdisciplinary graduate seminar on critical digital methods to be taught for the first time in Spring 2019; the Mellon Foundation funding will support graduate research fellowships and a post-doctoral fellowship as well.

The successful proposing team included Pitt faculty Michael Colaresi (Political Science), Michael Dietrich (History and Philosophy of Science), Melanie Hughes (Sociology), Alison Langmead (History of Art and Architecture and School of Computing and Information), Ruth Mostern (History), Lara Putnam (History), Werner Troesken (Economics; deceased), Annette Vee (English), and Randall Walsh (Economics).