Category Archives: Digital Media

Alumna Sarah-Beth Bianchi: Co-op and Careers

Sarah-Beth BianchiSarah-Beth Bianchi made the most of the UWaterloo English co-op program. Read on to find out how she went from co-op at RIM to where she is now–Manager, Digital Transformation & Strategy, City of Kitchener–and how her UWaterloo experience helped her along the way. Thanks to Sarah-Beth for contributing to Words in Place!

JLH: I know it’s been a while, but I’m wondering if you can share why you decided on UWaterloo English?
S-BB: English class was always a favorite of mine in high school. So it seemed like the right thing to pursue in university. My Dad always gave me the advice to pursue a marketable skill, to make sure I had strong job prospects after graduation. When I discovered that University of Waterloo had such a strong co-op program, my choice was obvious. I could continue to study something I enjoyed, and also explore how to make a career out of it. It ended up being a perfect combo for me.

JLH: How do you think your degree prepared you for what you are doing now?
S-BB: Once I arrived on campus, I discovered the Rhetoric and Professional Writing stream for English. And the Digital Arts Communications specialization was launched shortly after I arrived, too. I’ve drawn on what I’ve learned time and time again – from argumentation (ethos, logos, pathos!) to information design, to the accounting and computer science foundations – it’s served me well during co-op terms and now in my career. Most of all, the variety and the mix of theory and practical studies have prepared me to be creative, empathetic, and adaptable.

JLH: In what ways did co-op shape your career trajectory?
S-BB: Co-op was critical to helping me launch and shape my career. While it felt overwhelming at times, interviewing a dozen or more times each term made it so much easier to tackle interviews when the stakes were even higher throughout my career. And being able to try out a few types of roles helped me figure out what I enjoyed doing, what I could develop into a career, and what I was really not interested in and wouldn’t succeed at. And not least of all, my first career position came as a direct result of a co-op position. I worked at RIM (what BlackBerry used to be called) and was able to work part-time and eventually take on a full-time position before I graduated. It was the career launchpad that allowed me to put down roots in Kitchener-Waterloo.

JLH: What was the pathway to where you are now? Is this where you imagined yourself?
S-BB: My career has been really varied. When I look back at everything I’ve done, I marvel at all the great opportunities I’ve had and all the ways I’ve been able to grow and challenge myself. I started in the Software Document team at RIM and took on running their single-sourcing content management system – everything from developing and delivering training for writers on the team and writing internal help docs, to troubleshooting the software and performing software upgrades. After several years with a rapidly growing team (we started as a group of about 20 and were over 100 when I moved roles!) I moved to the IT department as a system administrator for the internal social networking site. (Sort of Facebook meets Google Drive for the corporation.) RIM was nearly 20,000 employees, so running the software was no small feat. I quickly realized that software administration wasn’t my thing, so a year later I moved to the Global Learning department as a Program Manager for IT and other technical training. RIM was in the downturn by then, so when I went on maternity leave, I found a new role as a Technical Community Manager for the API Platform at Desire2Learn. I discovered that role thanks to a referral by a friend and former colleague from my Software Documentation days. (Networking and keeping in touch with people you enjoy working with is so important!) I moved positions a few times at D2L, finally becoming Product Manager of the Data & Analytics products. I then discovered a really unique opportunity and made the leap into the public sector doing business relationship management and technology strategy at the City of Kitchener, first as a Digital Transformation Associate and now as the Manager Digital Transformation & Strategy. The work I do now combines my technology aptitude, my IT background, my product & community management experience, and my communication & information design skills – all while making an impact on the community I’m raising my family in!

JLH: Finally, the fun question! Can you share what you are reading now?
S-BB: I just started The Ninja Daughter by Tori Eldridge. Before that, I finished reading Haben—an autobiography of a woman who shares her experience and insight as a deafblind person navigating her education, career, family, and social life in a sighted world.

Critical Media Lab Showcase

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MAKING. MEDIA. THEORY: A Critical Media Lab Showcase

The students of ENGL 799: Making Media Theory are pleased to present the results of their course-based work at the Communitech Hub. These hacked-together, interactive projects reflect on complex theories such as brainwave storytelling, conductive upcyclying, technosexuality, automated genocide, dirty media, digital devolution, and the value of uselessness.

In addition, XDM MA student Brian Freiter will be presenting his immersive Major Research Project, which explores tactics for deflecting surveillance capitalism. Professor Marcel O’Gorman will also showcase his new video installation, “Treachery,” which premiered at Propellor Gallery in Toronto this summer. Finally, CML co-op interns Sridevi Kundurthi and Shelby Rose with display an eye-opening animation that introduces high school students to responsible device usage.

Date: Wednesday, July 24, 4 – 7 p.m.
Location: Communitech Hub, Area 151, 151 Charles Street West, Kitchener
Refreshments will be served.

Where did the Critical Media Lab go?

Planning on attending a CML event? Then this will be important information! The Critical Media Lab, of the University of Waterloo English Department, is now located in the Tannery, within Communitech‘s corporate innovation lab, 151 Charles St W., Kitchener. They report: “We’re excited to bring our lens on critical making and ethical tech into this environment.” Expect to hear more about upcoming events hosted in this space.

3D printing methods and poetics?

On Monday, October 29th, drop by the University of Waterloo English’s Critical Media Lab (44 Gaukel St., Kitchener). Digital artist and writer Aaron Tucker will be giving a talk and workshop on 3D printing methods and poetics.

Aaron Tucker is the author of the novel Y: Oppenheimer, Horseman of Los Alamos (Coach House Books) as well as two books of poetry, Irresponsible Mediums: The Chess Games of Marcel Duchamp (Book*hug Press) and punchlines (Mansfield Press), and two scholarly cinema studies monographs, Virtual Weaponry: The Militarized Internet in Hollywood War Films and Interfacing with the Internet in Popular Cinema (both published by Palgrave Macmillan).

A funeral for your flip phone

digital rituals
Is it time to say your final goodbye to that old and broken iPhone SE? BlackBerry Curve?? Flip phone??? The University of Waterloo English’s Critical Media Lab presents “Digital Rituals.” Bring your old cell phones and smartphones to 44 Gaukel and give them the funeral service they deserve. “Digital Rituals” runs every Tuesday, June 5, 12, 19, 26 from 5-7 PM and Saturdays, June 9 and 30 from 1-4 PM.

All phone e-waste will be responsibly recycled by Ontario Electronic Stewardship.

Lock up your demons–or just your phone

resistor case

Finding it hard to put down your phone? Drop by the University of Waterloo English’s Critical Media Lab, 44 Gaukel, on Wednesday, May 30 from 6-8pm for a FREE PUBLIC “Resistor Case” workshop. Make a case for your smartphone, and we’ll make a case for putting your phone in it.

As CBC reports, in an interview with English’s Dr. Marcel O’Gorman:

The Resistor Case is essentially a pouch you make for your phone. It comes as a kit — you get fabric, rivets, nails and Velcro — and you hammer it all together to make a small fabric holder.

The idea is that when you want to focus, you put your phone in the Resistor Case. Your device stays on you, but it’s out of sight. Access is hampered only by the very loud Velcro.

As O’Gorman says, you can check your phone, but everyone will know what you’re up to. “It prompts [the user] to self-regulate,” he said. “You can do it, but there are consequences.”

By creating a buffer between the person and their device, the Resister Case can be “a call to conscience,” without triggering the anxiety a number of people have when they are separated from their phones.

“The ‘take the phones away’ approach isn’t going to work,” he said. “That’s why the case is a semi-permeable membrane. You can still access it, but it’s not easy to access.”

Defy the snow: come to the XDM exhibition!

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It’s snowing and it’s April, and it’s AWFUL, I know. I just helped a 93 year-old with a walker who couldn’t make it across campus in the snow. But he still came out to an event on campus today.

Let him be your inspiration. Defy the snow and come out tonight to the English department’s MA program in Experimental Digital Media (XDM) annual XDM Exhibition. This year’s exhibition is Codes of Conduct and will feature works from students and community members that provides critical commentary on theoretical areas such as code and algorithm, our digital habits and behaviours, and other sociotechnical intersections. This event will be held in conjunction with the Digital Playground exhibition of Computer Science and Fine Arts students’ projects in the Computational Art course.

The event will be catered and licensed.

Date: Friday, April 6 Time: 6-9 pm
Place: Critical Media Lab
44 Gaukel St. Kitchener