Culture and Society

The Culture and Society Theme is dedicated to fostering creative collaborations, critical thinking, socially responsible innovation, and positive cultural impact by enabling transdisciplinary connections that bring art, science, humanities, and technology into a powerful synergy for research and education.

The Culture and Society thematic area of the NCSA Research and Education Directorate is led by Donna Cox and includes faculty from:

There are also strategic connections to:

Current Programs

Advanced Visualization Laboratory

Established over 14 years ago, the Advanced Visualization Laboratory’s (AVL) mission is to communicate science and inspire audiences to learn about science through the creation and integration of data visualizations into public outreach projects. Working in close collaboration with domain scientists, AVL creates high-resolution, cinematic, visualizations of scientific data. These visualizations provide insight into computational science—a key method of contemporary science. AVL shares its work with the world through shows featured in digital full-dome planetariums, IMAX theaters, and documentary television.

AVL also develops and uses a unique cyberinfrastructure, which includes visualization pipelines, customized software, high-resolution displays, visualization tools, and production methods. Each member of the AVL team plays a unique role and contributes a variety of skills to the process, development, and production. Our expertise includes advanced graphics and visualization techniques, artistic design, cinematic choreography, multimedia and video production, and data management and render wrangling. AVL, which is dedicated to providing powerful computers and expert support to help thousands of scientists and engineers across the country improve our world. The AVL members play key roles in the eDream Institute.

eDream Institute: Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media Institute

The eDream Institute is dedicated to three primary goals:

Creative Production: Enable emerging, interdisciplinary arts (broadly conceived) that are significant, meaningful, and original and in which technology plays an essential role in the creative process, content, experiential or performative outcomes.

Collaborative Research: Identify hybrid research problems where artistic design and production play an essential role. eDream will help coordinate interdisciplinary teams and foster funding opportunities to that end.

Education and Curricula: Help campus expand undergraduate, graduate, and professional educational experiences by working with campus to enhance the "student Illinois experience." To facilitate these goals, Jerry Fiddler has donated the Fiddler Innovation Endowment. eDream is helping to steward the Fiddler Endowment as part of the NCSA Culture and Society theme and will help provide unique opportunities, facilities, funding, and design for undergraduate students participating in the new campus Design Center. eDream will help establish NCSA as a node in the campus network for the new Design Center.

Institute for Computing in the Humanities and Social Sciences

The Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (I-CHASS) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign charts new ground in high performance computing and the humanities, arts, and social sciences by creating both learning environments and spaces for digital discovery. I-CHASS presents path-breaking research, computational resources, collaborative tools, and educational programming to showcase the future of the humanities, arts, and social sciences.

With an emphasis on identifying, creating, and adapting computational tools that accelerates research and education, I-CHASS engages visionary scholars from across the globe to demonstrate approaches that interface next-generation interdisciplinary research with high-performance computing. I-CHASS provides these researchers with world-class computational resources, both human and technical, to enhance their knowledge discovery and exploration.

Laboratory for Critical Technologies

Foregrounding technology as an object of study in and of itself, Critical Technology Studies at NCSA (CTS) seeks to examine how computation and data methods, code and software, platforms and networks reflect and refract societal norms and assumptions about human subjectivity, identity, progress, inclusion, labor, play, and the acquisition and circulation of knowledge. Its core focus is to consider how humans are engineered and disrupted by software and how software is disrupted and engineered by humans.

How are the narratives of video games reproducing and reinforcing colonial norms? In what ways does the design of a social network lead its users to act and interact in specific ways? What might we learn about human culture through the design and study of creative computational agents? Members of CTS deploy humanities and arts based strategies to examine questions like these using theory- and practice-based research engaged with fields including software/platform/code studies, critical race, indigenous, and queer studies, and tactical media, hacktivism, and new media art.

Theme Lead: Donna J Cox

Donna J. Cox, MFA, PhD, is the University of Illinois’ first Michael Aiken Chair, Director of the Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL) at NCSA, Director of the Illinois Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media Institute (eDream), and Professor in the School of Art and Design at the College of Fine and Applied Arts. She is a member of the NCSA leadership team, and is a recognized pioneer in scientific visualization for public outreach and education and originator of the collaborative model of Renaissance Teams and the concept of visaphors (digital metaphors of computational science).

Through public outreach projects, Dr. Cox and her collaborators have inspired millions with cinematic virtual tours through astrophysics, earth sciences, engineering, and other data domains. AVL's work is shared through venues such as international digital-dome museum shows, high-definition documentary television programs, and IMAX movies.

The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry selected Dr. Cox as one of 40 modern Leonardo DaVincis. As Director of eDream Institute, she is working with Illinois campus leadership to build a new interdisciplinary academic research and education program that includes visualization and interactive performance.

Theme Faculty and Affiliates
NCSA Staff