AFRO 498 Race, Gender and Information Communication Technology


New course offering this Fall in the Department of African-American Studies for those interested in digital media, communications, technology and information studies!

AFRO 498 • Tuesday • 2:00 PM – 4:50 PM

Instructor: Noble, Safiya U. (

Credit: 4 hours

Course: Race, Gender and Information Communication Technology 

Description: The portrayal of African-Americans with respect to technology has typically been predicated on a "deficit model," placing African-Americans on the "wrong side" of technological innovation, despite their engagements in and contributions to the design, manufacture, production, consumption and disposal of information communication technologies. These narratives stem from the a series of intersecting practices that are technological, commercial, ideological, and discursive, including narratives of the "digital divide". In this course, we will go beyond issues of computer and Internet access to look at race and representation in digital technologies, with additional focus on intersections of gender and class. We will use a critical media studies approach to examine how information technologies affect, and are affected by race, class and gender.

CRN: 60705 (Graduate) 


60704 (Undergraduate Juniors and Seniors with permission of instructor – contact Safiya U. Noble


New course: LING 506 (Topics in Computational Linguistics) – Discourse Processing, Argumentation, and Social Media

New Fall 2012 Seminar:  LING 506 (Topics in Computational Linguistics) – Discourse Processing, Argumentation, and Social Media

Instructor: Prof. Roxana Girju (

Time & location: 9:30am – 10:45am, Tuesday and Thursday, in Foreign Language Bldg., room#1018 or Beckman Institute (to be decided)

Course Description:

This is a seminar on advanced topics in computational linguistics / natural language processing (NLP). An important yet challenging topic in NLP, and Artificial Intelligence, is the automatic detection and processing of discourse structure with application to argumentation and social media. There is a growing need of applications that rely on discourse analysis of different genres. Currently, there are many efforts to detect discourse structure at different levels of granularity and for different purposes. Discourse elements detected include the statement of facts, claims and hypotheses, explanations/justifications, or, in the medical domain, the identification of prescription and treatment guidelines, patient characteristics, and annotation of research data. The challenges derive from the combined requirements of a mapping process (text to a rich representation of relevant entities), representational framework (discourse relations), and reasoning capability (combining inference).

The purpose of this seminar is to expose students to the recent advances in the research on discourse processing and argumentation in social media and other genres through presentations and discussions of papers from the top conferences in NLP and its related areas. One goal of this seminar is to provide an environment for students to become familiar with current discourse representations and models and freely express opinions and criticize the state-of-the-art research work in a group setting.

Lecture presentations and guided discussions based on reading of prepared material (given by the instructor and the students). Case studies and examples will be used to illustrate the practical application of the main concepts, methods, and tools. In order to get the credit for the course, students are expected to participate in the discussions and choose among a midterm project, a research paper, or a survey paper.

The course is open to Linguistics, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and Library and Information Science students, or to any students with interest and preparation in linguistics or computational linguistics/natural language processing, or artificial intelligence.

Questions should be addressed to the instructor at


Brittany Deterding: Immersed in and excited by all things digital

Brittany Deterding, BS’11 Advertising, Informatics Minor, turned her lifelong hobby into a media career, working for one of the country’s top advertising firms. Brittany Deterding was 8 years old, growing up in Normal, Illinois when she got an AOL account. On the grant-supplied big, blue iMacs in her school library, she played Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? and Oregon Trail, and the seeds of her web development career were planted. She graduated from U of I in 2011 with a degree in advertising and a minor in informatics and has put her web development chops to work as Digital Coordinator at Digital Salesperson, in Chicago. She is involved in digital planning, social media strategy, project management, website development, user interface design, information architecture, art direction, and client service. Digital Salesperson is a startup under Saatchi & Saatchi working exclusively on Toyota. Web development started as a hobby. When she was 12, she taught herself how to make websites on her own PC, using online tutorials after school. She designed websites for blog layouts, IM icons, and “random stuff,” and then transitioned to more focused projects, including the fan site That project led to her partnering with TV’s Lauren Conrad (Laguna Beach, The Hills). “I was looking for a focused project when Laguna Beach was getting popular,” she said, “and noticed there wasn’t a website specifically for Lauren yet.” She made one, and then Conrad’s people reached out to Brittany, who was then able to make money off ads that appeared on her site, and off MTV and other corporate sponsors. Deterding found out about the informatics minor the way many do, by word of mouth. She was working as a web designer for ATLAS, the IT service unit for the College of LAS when Deanna Raineri, associate director of the Illinois Institute of Informatics and LAS associate dean, told her about it. In addition to working for ATLAS during her entire college career, she also took INFO 399 Individual Study several times via ATLAS doing web projects. “I wanted to get a better understanding of how people interact with technology and computers to better their lives,” she said, and working with ATLAS played a part of my success in the informatics minor and my career.” Deterding also feels like she as a unique eye into how people adapt and integrate technology into their lives when something new comes out. This gives her an advantage when it comes to designing user interfaces, laying things out, and creating functionality in a website. “Technology is stellar, it effects the way everyone lives their daily life. Done right, it helps people be more efficient. Everyone wants to create the next big “it” thing. People often think that we have everything we could possibly need until the next iteration of innovation hits the market.” ADV 450 Creative Concepts in Advertising (now titled “Content Creation”), taught by Prof. Peter Sheldon, was one of her favorite courses at U of I. “As someone who had previously worked in the industry, he brought amazing stories and experience to every topic. He saw the process of how things worked and didn’t work, which was huge.” She also had two internships. One was as a web development intern at Euro RSCG, an ad agency in Chicago. There she worked on e-marketing for Sprint. She produced e-marketing pieces and landing pages as the first-ever intern in their digital department. Her second internship was at T3 (The Think Tank), a digital marketing agency in Austin, Texas. This was experience was a bit different. Here, as a web development intern, she was in an established department, producing e-marketing pieces and landing pages for Chase Bank and working on iPhone website development. She was placed there from having won the American Advertising Federation’s prestigious Vance Stickell Internship. Deterding’s current job is multifaceted, ranging from account work and project management to user interface design and building a website for the public-facing site of the company. “My arms and legs are in six baskets, but I’m loving every minute of it!” she explained. As she gains more experience, her goal is to eventually start her own digital marketing agency. Deterding’s advice to students is to network with students, faculty, and alumni. “It’s important to make connections early,” she said, “especially with your faculty advisor.” Her advisor helped her land her internships and job and was the one who nominated her Vance Stickell Internship. She was also extremely active and held executive positions in both the Illinois chapter of the American Advertising Federation (AAF) and the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC). Note: Interested in the advertising major? Visit