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.
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.
Have you met Matt? UWaterloo Arts Stories writes: “The English major got involved with REAP (Research Entrepreneurs Accelerating Prosperity), which is a UWaterloo-affiliated program that brings academic and private-sector partners together to explore new technologies. Through that partnership he was able to start his own business called POET (Point of Experience Technology) while still in university.” You can read more about Matt here.
Mitacs has shared a post about a successful collaboration between members of UWaterloo English, through our Games Institute, and ODScore:
“Employee engagement is a buzzword in organizational development circles today, with a variety of approaches touted by the experts. But what if one solution lies in video games? Ontario organizational development consulting firm ODScore asked just that. Except that instead of using actual video games to engage their clients’ employees, they use the principles that make video games engrossing to engage employees at work. So when they wanted to develop a new service to tackle bigger organizational changes, ODScore turned to the University of Waterloo’s Games Institute for renewed expertise. At a meeting with Professor Neil Randall, the company learned that what they thought was a technical challenge, was really one of human relations. “Neil convinced us that instead of looking for software to engage these employees that this challenge calls for a solution from the humanities. So we paired up with Betsy Brey — an English-language researcher — for the project,” explains Christy Pettit, CEO of ODScore.”
Read more at: Ontario start-up engages employees with video games
How do you peacefully engage a first-person shooter video game? That’s the question University of Waterloo graduate student Christian Metaxas addressed in his final project for the English Master of Arts in Experimental Digital Media (XDM). Titled Assembly: Peacemaker, Metaxas’s project appeared at Kitchener’s Themuseum, and was featured in the Record. Read on for an interview with Christian and more images from the project. Thank you to Christian for participating in Words in Place.–JLH
JLH: What drew you to University of Waterloo’s English MA program in XDM?
CM: I came across XDM while researching various graduate programs. I spent a lot of time on the internet growing up, so naturally the program appealed to me that way. University of Waterloo PhD students Evelyn Deshane and Travis Morton were my upperclassmen at Trent, so I asked them if I could visit them in Waterloo and if they could show me around the campus. It all felt like a near perfect fit for me academically. I didn’t apply to any other graduate programs.
JLH: How did you find your cohort of graduate students?
CM: I was worried that there would be a weird, hyper-competitive edge but that hasn’t really been the case at all. Pretty much everyone I have met from my year is smart, friendly and engaging. Getting to study with such cool people definitely added to the experience.
JLH: Can you tell us a bit about how your final MA project came to be?
CM: One night I accidentally got off the bus three stops too early and had to wait another half hour or so for the next one. I was just sort of dancing by the side of the road, listening to music, when it all clicked in my brain. The installation evolved with each academic term, finally getting realized as Assembly: Peacemaker. Every XDM class I took was awesome, each gave me something new that I used to help shape the project.
JLH: What kind of response have you had?
CM: People didn’t have too much to say about Peacemaker, but I think that’s a good thing. For me the project is an autobiographical expression, but it’s also about taking that aggressive violence and transforming it–showing people a quiet sort of beauty. People that find themselves feeling curious, or seeing things differently, is what I aim for.
JLH: Any thoughts on what you will do next?
CM: Not too sure, something pretty I hope.
To read more about some of our XDM students and their projects, click on the Digital Media tab, or visit the XDM website.
You might have seen the article in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record this week, “People channel ‘inner choo-choo’ for video art installation,” documenting how 19 different people— from a 75-year-old jazz crooner to an eight-year-old boy — impersonated a train as part of a video art installation called “Every day I am a train.” And yes, this was all put together by our students. Read on for Dr. Marcel O’Gorman‘s discussion of how the project came into being, and what it does.–JLH
JLH: How did this all happen?
MO’G: The project is a collaborative effort that I developed with students in the Critical Media Lab. These students are English majors in the Experimental Digital Media (XDM) M.A. program and PhD students working in the area of technology and culture. I should add that concept for the project was inspired by a recent PhD graduate, Stephen Fernandez. He came to one of our weekly meetings and showed a video called “John Duffy’s Brother,” based on a short story by Flann O’Brien. The story is about a man who seems to have a nervous breakdown and spends his morning commute acting like a train. This made us think about trying to commute in KW these days.
JLH: What does a video installation about people and trains have to do with the Critical Media Lab?
MO’G: The CML supports the creation of media projects that investigate impacts of technology on the human condition. Trains are an important part of our technological heritage, and more importantly, of our technological imagination. Before the phonograph, radio, and television were showcased as fantasy technologies at the Canadian National Exhibition, electric trains were in the spotlight. That was in 1883, and those trains meant progress. Our incoming LRT is part of that technological trajectory, tapping into a cultural mania for innovation. This is obvious in the name of our LRT system: the Ion. This train is more than just a transportation service, it’s a symbol of technoscientific progress. The message is that there’s a fine line between modern particle physics and light rail commuting. Any city that wants to be viewed as technologically progressive is jumping onboard. Hamilton and Brampton have both proudly announced plans for LRT systems.
JLH: What makes this project so relevant?
MO’G: “Every Day I Am a Train” takes a more lighthearted look at light rail. It shows that our dreams of progress are rooted in childhood fantasy, play, risk-taking, and even irrational behaviour. At the same time, the project acknowledges that we pay a price for progress. Construction surrounding the installation makes the work difficult to view. The project allows people a chance to let off some steam, so to speak, in face of the traffic chaos caused by our LRT madness.
The Spring 2016 issue of the University of Waterloo Magazine features an article by Nancy Harper on the Games Institute, an interdisciplinary initiative of the English Department, headed by our own Dr. Neil Randall. Both Neil and Dr. Beth Coleman–also of the UW English department–are interviewed. An excerpt:
English professor Neil Randall, who heads up the Games Institute — the University’s cross-disciplinary hub of gamification research and technology — says gamification is a tremendous way to learn and engage oneself in things that can improve our daily lives.
The institute was formed recognizing that games are, by their very nature, multi-disciplinary. They must be programmed, of course, which brings engineering and computer science aspects into play. But what’s actually happening on the screen covers disciplines ranging from English, history and psychology to computer science, engineering and health sciences.
“The whole principle of gamification is that games at their core are basically examples of strong user experiences,” Randall explains. “From a digital standpoint we have nothing better than games for keeping people engaged with computer technology.”
For more, follow the link. (And if you are looking at the image of Dr. Randall above and wondering: if UWM ever offers to turn you into a cartoon, you do get to approve the image!)