Category Archives: News

Where is undergrad Tyler Black going?

Waterloo English Undergraduate Research

By Paula de Villavicencio

University of Waterloo English undergraduate student Tyler Black secured a spot in the first round competition of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Design of Communication (ACM SIGDOC) Student Research Competition. The competition will take place this summer at the association’s annual conference, held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Microsoft-supported event provides up to 500 dollars (US) to assist with travel costs for students selected to participate. Black’s research investigates several post-secondary courses that incorporate cross-disciplinary material, and the manner in which the course instructors communicate not only the core disciplinary content, but also cross-disciplinary lessons.

Black’s interest in cross-disciplinary technical communication stems from their own educational and work experience. Having worked as a technical communicator, and completed studies first in Physics and then in English, Black has a range of experience to help frame these pedagogical questions. Black also developed their research skills during several research assistantships as part of a Fall 2017 co-op term. Black worked on three different University of Waterloo projects: Dr. Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher’s Networked Expertise project; with the Games Institute’s Virtual Reality group (work Black has been involved with as a research assistant will be presented at the upcoming Lake Ontario Visionary Establishment 2018 Conference), and with Dr. Randy Harris’s Computational Rhetoric group (work Black has been involved with as a research assistant will be presented at the upcoming CMNA 2018 Conference and the IACS 2018 Conference).

As a continuing research assistant with the Networked Expertise project in the Waterloo Science and Technical Communication Group (@WatSciComm on Twitter), Black recognized their own research interests in terms of post-secondary education and training. “Being at the University of Waterloo itself has really allowed me to work in such an interdisciplinary field, and has given me a place to do this amount of research at an undergrad level,” commented Black. “Being part of the WatSciComm team has also aided me in my research, not just because of the amazing resources, but also the great team I’ve worked with.” Black was granted ethics approval for their study of cross-disciplinary classrooms, allowing them to publish the results, the culmination of which will not only be presented at the 2018 ACM SIGDOC student research competition, but will also form the basis for Black’s Undergraduate Honours Essay.

Black will be continuing their education at the University of Waterloo as a Master’s student in the Rhetoric and Communication Design program in Fall 2018. They will also stay on the WatSciComm team as a research assistant with Dr. Mehlenbacher. Black explained, “if you have something that you want to do, something that might benefit not just your own education but the education of other people, then you should go for it.”

Photo credit: Paula de Villavicencio


University Research Chair: Dr. O’Gorman

Screenshot 2017-06-22 10.24.01The position “University Research Chair” is a prestigious one, recognizing “exceptional achievement and pre-eminence in a particular field of knowledge.” We are excited to announce that University of Waterloo English’s Dr. Marcel O’Gorman now holds this position–one of only two who do so in the faculty of arts. In other news, Marcel has also accepted the position of Graduate Chair of English.

SNL, Trump, and more: Dr. Danielle Deveau

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I am eager to share the news that we are welcoming Dr. Danielle Deveau (back) to UWaterloo’s English Department. Her academic work on the politics of humour has never been more timely, and her work on cultural mapping initiatives is crucial. Read on to find out about these– and how she deliberately seeks surprises in brown paper packages!

JLH: We’re thrilled to have you as part of the department, but recognize you’re not new to teaching, here or elsewhere. Can you tell us a bit about your trajectory?
DJD: I completed my PhD in Communication at Simon Fraser University in 2013. During my degree, I taught professional communication as well as media studies courses on popular culture and sports. I then worked as a postdoctoral research at Wilfrid Laurier University. My project evaluated and curated cultural mapping data in the Waterloo Region. Since that time, I have continued to consult with the City of Kitchener on issues related to cultural mapping, cultural planning, and the development of cultural scenes.

I started teaching part-time here at Waterloo in September 2013. At first, I only taught English 109 Online, which I really enjoyed. I loved the opportunity to work with graduate students. I had a one-year, full-time contract teaching English 109 and 119 in 2014/15. This was a great experience and the primary reason I decided to apply for the three-year contract that I am starting this summer. I’m looking forward to teaching English 109 to Math and Computer Science students again, but also all of the media theory courses that I am slated to teach over the next few years.

JLH: Have you found yourself using your PhD research in the classroom?
DJD: My Phd Dissertation was on humour and laughter, so I have definitely found it to be a popular topic in the classroom. I have found that my students consume a lot of comedy programming – be it stand-up videos on youtube, or latenight comedy like the Daily Show and Saturday Night Live. They are really engaged with the critical potential of humour in popular culture and we’ve had some great discussions. Because I primarily teach writing, I also show students some of my own academic writing at various stages in order to illustrate the many, many stages between idea to research to draft to finished product. I could do this with any research topic, but I hope that because I’m writing about humour, they find my research a little less boring than they might otherwise….

JLH: Can you tell us a bit about the research you are doing now?
DJD: Currently, I am doing work on the politics of humour (especially related to the newfound relevance of SNL in the Trump Presidency), as well as organizational communication research on the role of humour in reinforcing workplace cultures. In terms of applied local research, I am still evaluating cultural mapping initiatives in the Waterloo Region, especially related to user-experience and audience development.

JLH: You’ve done a fair bit of community outreach in K/W. How has that shaped your experience?
DJD: The work I’ve done with local governments and non-profits completely shifted my research focus. I realized that many of the theories I had been working with had a lot of value in applied research and that I could use my training to help resolve real economic development challenges. It has been very satisfying seeing my work end up in cultural policy documents, or used to direct new cultural initiatives.

JLH: Finally, if you had time to read for pleasure this summer, what would be at the top of your list?
DJD: My undergraduate degree is actually in Canadian Studies and I still find that I gravitate towards CanLit. I received Thomas King’s The Back of the Turtle for Christmas and am still trying to find time to read it. Maybe this is the month! Usually when I am in the mood to read a new novel, I go to Words Worth Books uptown and buy one of their “surprise” books (they wrap books in brown paper and leave a note to tell you what genre the book is, but nothing else). I like the element of chance and they always curate great selections!

U2 licenses alumnus’s work

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This is probably one of the more unusual Words in Place posts. It appears U2 (yes, that U2, with Bono) has licensed the work of UWaterloo English alumnus George Elliott Clarke, in advance of their upcoming Vancouver concert. Clarke, as you may recall, is currently poet laureate of Canada. As reported by Quill & Quire, they will feature “Ain’t You Scared of the Sacred?: A Spiritual” and “Elegy for Leonard Cohen.”

Alumnus Evan Munday on CBC

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You might remember UWaterloo English alumnus Evan Munday from our previous Words in Place interview (in which his time-travelling monkey made an apperance). Now he is featured on CBC, discussing his newest project, #365Canadians. As CBC notes, Munday is “drawing portraits of Canadians you might not find in textbooks — think less John A. MacDonald and more Alexander Milton Ross.” Several Canadian authors feature to date–Lillian Allen, Nalo Hopkinson, Lee Maracle, Mairuth Sarsfield, Richard Wagamese–with more to come.

You can read more at CBC. Or follow the Twitter hashtag #365Canadians.

Welcoming the newest Banting postdoc, Dr. Derek Gladwin

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We are pleased to announce that Dr. Derek Gladwin has been awarded a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship to be held in the Dept of English and under the supervision of Dr. Imre Szeman. This is the second Banting postdoc housed in UWaterloo English.

Derek Gladwin is currently a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in English at the University of British Columbia. He has previously held visiting research fellowships at the National University of Ireland, Galway (2015), University of Edinburgh (2015), Concordia University (2016), and Trinity College Dublin (2017). His research and teaching explore transformations in environment and society within 20th-/21st-Century British and Irish literature, as well as film and media culture. Gladwin’s books include: Contentious Terrains: Boglands, Ireland, Postcolonial Gothic (2016), Unfolding Irish Landscapes (co-ed, 2016), and Eco-Joyce (co-ed, 2014); his forthcoming book is titled Ecological Exile: Spatial Injustice & Environmental Humanities, which is due out with Routledge in 2017. Contentious Terrains has just been nominated for the Ecocriticism Book Award offered by the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment.

Project overview: This Banting PDF project titled Petro-Gothic: Energy, Ecology, Fear explores energy transitions by marking the ways in which creative responses are narrated through fear and then circulated in forms of contemporary British and Irish literature, film, and media. Energy is not only geophysical and economic, but it is also social and cultural in the ways it conceptually and practically influences our lives. As a cultural response to energy, this project explore how literary and visual texts have produced “petro-gothic’ narratives. These narratives about energy transitions and futures inform society and, in some cases, mobilize change by transforming social values and perceptions through image and story. This research examines fear as it relates to energy subjectivity, offshore oil sublime, ecophobia, and post-oil landscapes in works by Bansky, Laura Watts, George Mackay Brown, Greenpeace UK, and China Miéville, among others.

Pokémon Go and English?

English PhD candidate Betsy Brey is in the news, speaking on the Pokémon Go craze. CBC interviewed her for the article “Pokémon Go more than just looking at your phone, UW researcher says.” An excerpt:

“It’s really fun to be walking down the street and see five, six other people doing the exact same thing as you and I’ve had so many casual conversations with people about the game and about what we’re doing and there’s been a lot of high fives on the bus and things like that. So it’s very, very communal,” said Betsy Brey, a researcher at the Games Institute at the University of Waterloo.

Or you can listen to Betsy on the CBC Morning Show, or see her interviewed on CTV. For more on the Games Institute, founded by English’s Prof. Neil Randall, see their website.