On April 7, the University of Waterloo English’s Critical Media Lab held its annual exhibit, entitled =SUM(Things), at 44 Gaukel St. in Kitchener. The exhibit featured media and data-based projects and installations from students, including many Master of Experimental Digital Media (XDM) students, as well as staff and community members. Photography by Selina Vesely.
Greyfield/Brightfield by Julie Funk
Master of Experimental Digital Media (XDM) student Julie Funk’s digital display Greyfield/Brightfield was inspired by the phenomenon of “dead malls.” Shopping malls with less than $150 in sales per square foot and a vacancy rate of more than 10 per cent are given a “greyfield” classification. In this project, users are asked to engage with the digital display, with their movements being used to control the color saturation of the screen, as a way to think about how the interface changes the way they interact with the space.
BasketCase by Caitlin Woodcock
Inspired by local Mennonite communities, XDM student Caitlin Woodcock’s BasketCase is an experiment in digital abstinence. When a mobile phone is placed in the handwoven basket, a sensor measures how long it rests there. When the phone is removed, the screen displays a percentage comparing the length of time the device rested to the length of time it took to weave the basket (about 20 hours). This piece highlights craft-making as an alternative to technological productivity and as a way to combat the distractions of our devices.
mindflux, by Megan Honsberger
With the advent of wearable technology like fitness trackers, XDM student Megan Honsberger’s mindflux explores what it means to be online and continuously connected. mindflux attempts to reconcile the desire to unplug and the necessity of staying connected. The project combines a touch sensor on the bracelet with visualizations showing how often and when an individual uses their device.
#muslimban, by Megan Honsberger
XDM student Megan Honsberger’s poem is comprised of words from 18,000 tweets compiled 48 hours after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring individuals from some countries from entering the United States. The tweets were mined using the hashtag #muslimban. The result is a collection of responses by many through a poem spoken by no one.
Sorting 63 Genders by Shawn Dorey
XDM student Shawn Dorey’s game, Sorting 63 Genders, is a text-based adventure created in response to U.S. congressman Joe Walsh’s pre-election tweets. The game explores what it means for “a man to be a man, and a woman to be a woman.” Through the game, players attempt to live a binary life without others perceiving their genders differently. Sorting 63 Genders asks players to reconsider actions that might not initially be thought of as gendered and to explore the subtleties of gender expression.
The Pantheon of Dream by Amber O’Brien
The goal of Master of Literary Studies student Amber O’Brien’s game, The Pantheon of Dream, is to help an unknown dreaming protagonist unlock a memory. Players must create a narrative to help move the protagonist to various locations in sequential order to access this memory. The protagonist must contend with many creatures and beings, each representing an aspect of the mind or memory, who either help or hinder the quest.
The Architectures of Machine Emotion by Becky Anderson
The Architectures of Machine Emotion shows how emotions might be recognized, identified and replicated by artificially intelligent machines. English Language and Literature doctoral student Becky Anderson printed visualizations from an open-source textual emotion recognition program onto polystyrene plastic sheets.