Faculty in the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology are active researchers, engaged in digital culture and human-computer interaction, media theory, political economy of communication, network analysis, feminist technologies, mobile media, digital labour, professional writing, and intellectual property. Here’s what we’ve been up to lately:
Dr. Guy Allen has developed innovative approaches to the teaching of writing in universities. These innovations feature narrative and journalistic creative non-fiction as powerful alternatives to standard expository prose. The 3M Teaching Fellowship, Canada’s most prestigious award for university teaching, recognized the educational value of these innovations. His co-authored book, Clear, Precise and Direct: Strategies for Writing (Oxford University Press, 2015), articulates and explaines Allen’s new pedagogy. Allen’s recent applications of his narrative work include an experimental program sponsored by the Syrian Canadian Foundation and the Canadian Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration. In this program, Allen will lead workshops designed to help recent Syrian immigrants with proficient English skills write about their experience of war in Syria and exile in Canada. Another project is a peer-model collection (exceptional, publishable writing by students), Cricket Suicides, Mad Cows, and Mirror Molecules: Communicating Science, forthcoming in Fall 2018. Allan is also working on The Nancy Chong Stories, a collection of nonfiction narratives by a recently deceased former student, who produced brilliant stories about her mother’s immigration to Canada and the hard life of Toronto’s Chinatown Chinese in the 1960s. For Allen, stories are a form of community activism.
Dr. Jeffrey Boase researches the role that communication technology plays in the constriction and expansion of personal networks. His current project examines this issue using survey, interview, and digital trace data collected from more than 900 consenting adults and teens across Canada. He is using this data to write about the apparent tension between the tendency for individuals in industrialized societies to have social complex personal networks, and the observation that mobile devices appear to limit personal network complexity by facilitating constant and intense interaction with small numbers of stable relationships. This project is funded by an Insight grant from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
Dr. Marie-Pier Boucher’s research focuses on the design of habitats for sustaining life in extreme environments. She is currently working on a book project, which looks at the relationship between health architectural design and perceptual activity in a range of extreme environments (physical and symbolic) to examine how the changes in direction and orientation induced by levitation and microgravity can inform the design of Earth-based habitats. She is also working on an umbrella project, Interplanetary Habitation: The Earth, the Moon, Mars and the City, which investigates the socio-technical future of planetary life in relation to growing concerns over health and biotechnology, mobility and artificial intelligence. Under this umbrella project, she is developing 2 sub projects: (1) Space and the City, which looks at the impact of outer space science and technology on urbanism and architecture and; (2) Space Feminism, which investigates the power of feminism to actualize a redistribution of power in space exploration.
Dr. Olga Bountali is currently working on a project that deals with serving the indigent, uninsured population in Texas that suffers from chronic diseases. In collaboration with faculty From Southern Methodist University and physicians and practitioners from Parkland Memorial Hospital and UT Southwestern in the DFW Metroplex, Dr. Bountali has used stochastic modeling techniques along with empirical tools to reengineer the dialysis unit operation at Parkland, improving both system and patient outcomes.
Dr. Tracey Bowen is co-investigator of the international research study “Gender Disparities in Work-Integrated Learning Placements: Students Perceptions of Bias and Challenges.” Collaborators include Work-integrated learning scholars from University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, Napier University, Edinburgh and University West, Sweden. Her article titled “Examining students’ perspectives on gender bias in their work-integrated learning placements” reports on the findings of the UTM pilot study that initiated the international collaboration and is forthcoming (2020) in Higher Education Research & Development. Bowen also continues to research the use of soft systems methodologies and Rich Pictures for facilitating critical thinking and collaborative problem solving within the undergraduate classroom.
Dr. Brett Caraway published his article “Collective Action Frames and The Developing Role of Discursive Practice in Worker Organisation: The Case Of OUR Walmart” in the Spring 2018 issue of Work Organisation, labour & globalisation. This study examines a year’s worth of content from a secret Facebook group designed as a forum for current and former Walmart employees. Caraway considers how emergent communication practices relate to the organizational forms of resistance among workers struggling for better working conditions and higher wages. Caraway is nearing completion of his book Stand Up, Live Better: The Story of OUR Walmart, an analysis and chronicle of the influential worker organization. In December 2017, Caraway delivered the keynote lecture at the Open Institute 2: Open in a Time of Closure conference at the Universidade da Madeira. Caraway recently joined the editorial board of Upping the Anti, which will be publishing its 20th issue this year. Caraway has several articles under review, featuring new research on ecomedia studies and audience economics. He also has completed a chapter on the ecological impacts of Amazon’s logistics systems for an upcoming edited volume on the post-growth cultural economy.
Dr. Julie Yujie Chen published Super-Sticky WeChat and Chinese Society. The book offers a succinct and critical study of the relationship between Chinese mobile cultures, political economy of the internet companies, and the rise of WeChat as a “super-sticky” app that integrates previously discrete daily practices. She also published several articles on the Chinese ride-hailing platforms and participant drivers’ work conditions and resistance. The latest article, with Jack Qiu, is “Digital utility: Datafication, regulation, labor, and DiDi’s platformization of urban transport in China,” which problematizes the concept of “digital utility,” a claim often made by the platform company to serve the public, and the platform’s deployment of datafication at both political and technological strategy. She is working on an article that explores food-delivery workers’ lived time and the emerging normative temporal order in the platform-mediated on-demand service. She has presented works on Chinese on-demand workers and political economy of the internet industry in China at conferences like AoIR, ICA, and 4S and is currently finishing a book manuscript that explains how and why labor is marginalized, as embodied experience and an analytical concept, in the conceptions of (big) datafication and what we should do about this problematic tendency.
Dr. Nicole Cohen published several articles on work, labour organizing, and journalism, including “Bearing the Burden of Corporate Restructuring: Job Loss and Precarious Employment in Canadian Journalism,” with Andrea Hunter and Penny O’Donnell in Journalism Practice, “Interns Talk Back: Disrupting Media Narratives About Unpaid Work,” with Greig de Peuter in Political Economy of Communication,” and “Write, Post, Unionize: Journalists and Self-Organization,” with de Peuter in Notes From Below. de Peuter and Cohen are finishing a book about the movement to unionize digital journalists, which will be published by Routledge in 2020. Nicole, de Peuter, and Enda Brophy are writing a book for Pluto Press based on their Cultural Workers Organize research into how media and cultural workers are addressing precarious work and building sustainable models for cultural production. Nicole continues to work on her SSHRC-funded research on gender, race, and work in Canadian journalism.
Dr. John Currie is researching ecological understanding through writing; the reciprocal relationship between teaching and learning at the post-secondary level; and the needs of English Language Learners in the writing classroom. He is currently working on a book-length project about interviews his students have conducted with family members, and how doing the assignment can change not only the relationship, but how students come to see themselves as writers. Currie collected and edited Come with me, I’ll show you: Stories of people (2015) and Environment and ecology: Stories (2011), two peer model texts featuring writing produced at UTM.
Dr. Alessandro Delfanti researches labour and technology, the politics of digital media, and digital countercultures. He is working on a book manuscript titled The Warehouse: Humans and Robots at Amazon, which addresses the relation between living labour and technology at the e-commerce giant. He’s also organizing the second edition of the international conference Log Out! Worker Resistance Within and Against the Platform Economy. The first conference generated a special issue in the magazine Notes from Below. Another research focus is the role of robots in re-organizing the labour process, which is the topic of an upcoming workshop, Robotize This! The Futures of Automation and Work. His latest article theorizes the relation between hacking and digital capitalism.
In November 2019, Dr. Tero Karppi is holding a symposium titled The Ends of Social Media. The symposium is an expansion of Karppi’s research agenda, which examines the limits, boundaries and breaking points of social media. The most well-known example of this work is Karppi’s recent book Disconnect: Facebook’s Affective Bonds (University of Minnesota Press, 2018). He is currently invested in two book projects related to the same theme. Karppi is also working on a critical investigation of tech patents and has presented this work widely in different conferences.
As a Canada Research Chair, Dr. Rhonda McEwen is building on her theory of user-device interaction that defines the exchange between technologies and users as a unique form of communication. McEwen is investigating eye-gaze systems, wearable devices, and Virtual Reality headsets to analyze the relationships between visual perception (i.e. ophthalmoception) and touch perception (i.e. tactioception). This research program is organized as three related projects: 1. Eye-gaze and haptics as multimodal communication – studying Retts Syndrome; 2. Technical and cognitive characteristics of visual-haptic wearable devices; and 3.Virtual Reality and perception: the role of proprioception in cognition.
Dr. Cosmin Munteanu’s current research agenda is dedicated to researching how natural, intelligent, and multimodal user interfaces can empower marginalized users despite the inherent lack of accuracy exhibited by such computationally-demanding technologies. Munteanu currently supervises several graduate thesis and research projects within a broad multidisciplinary space: investigating the socio-technical context of marginalized users such as older adults, contributing novel user-centred designs for making assistive multimodal technologies more social and more adoptable, studying the ethical challenges and policies facilitating or hampering the effective adoption of such technologies, and developing new computational and methodological approaches to improving marginalized users' interaction with assistive technologies.
Dr. Jeremy Packer Killer Apps: War, Media, Machine (Duke, 2020), a book co-authored with Joshua Reeves, will be published in February. It provides a critical investigation into the historical interconnections between military strategy and the technical innovation of media systems. It argues that the form of current political struggles taking place via media is technologically rooted in military logics of warfare. Jeremy is completing a collectively authored book, PrisonHouse of the Circuit: A Media Genealogy, which was presented in May at the UTM Media Genealogy Graduate Workshop. As Associate Dean, Graduate, Jeremy established a series of Graduate Research Workshops at UTM on a range of interdisciplinary topics from AI to the Arctic to Sustainability.
Dr. Robert Price is researching the reader-writer-editor relationship; voice, expression, and personhood; movements in writing pedagogy; and the utility of peer model texts in the writing class. He is currently conducting an archival investigation that charts UTM's history through student-produced poetry and prose, and working on a book-length project examining the pedagogical function of editing and editorial groups inside the writing classroom. Price recently collected and edited There: Stories About Places Near and Far, a peer model text featuring writing produced at UTM.
Dr. Lilian Radovac launched Alternative Toronto, a digital community archive that is documenting the city's alternative cultures, scenes and spaces of the 1980s and ’90s. Supported by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant, the archive uses historical, ethnographic and digital methods to intervene in accounts of Canadian urban history that ignore its radical and countercultural edges. Radovac published an essay about the project, “Re/mediating the Archive: Building Alternative Toronto,” in a special issue of Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies (32:1) on activisms of the 1980s. She presented papers at the annual meeting of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, at DIRT: The Annual Activist Media Archives Symposium at Ryerson University's Studio for Media Activism and Critical Thought and at the annual Digital Humanities Network conference at the University of Toronto, and was thrilled to land a spot in the SCMS's "Archives in the Digital Age" seminar. As a public scholar, Radovac wrote an op-ed for Boing Boing about the ShotSpotter acoustic surveillance system and was invited to participate in a panel discussion about smart cities hosted by the City of Vaughan. She also tweeted a lot about Sidewalk Toronto.
Dr. Sarah Sharma is Director of the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology. She is editing a book with Rianka Singh titled MsUnderstanding Media (under contract with Duke University Press). This collection puts McLuhan’s media theory in conversation with feminist approaches to technology. She also edited a special Issue of the Canadian Journal of Communication,Many McLuhans or None at All (forthcoming 2019). Her previous work based on In the Meantime (2014) will be included in a reader/exhibition at Somerset House in London in October. Sarah continues to work on her monograph, The sExit. This project explores the gendered politics of exit as they are manifest in our contemporary technologies. Her article “Broken Machine Feminism” has been accepted to the journal Camera Obscura. She has also written a new book chapter which appears in German “The Way of The Social Injustice Warrior in Bernd Scherer, Olga von Schubert and Stefan Aue’s 100 Years of Now (Matthes & Seitz, Berlin). She recently published a short piece with Singh: “Platform Uncommons” in Feminist Media Studies. Sarah is keynoting the Tuning Speculation Conference in Toronto November 15-17 and giving a lecture at MOCCA on December 13.
Dr. Steve Szigeti conducts research in two streams: academic integrity and data visualization. Working with UTM faculty members from Humanities and Sciences, Steve is currently investigating student motivation and rationale related to university academic integrity offences. He is also working with research colleagues at OCAD U and York U to explore the visualization of complex data sets. Work from this latter project, which focused on visualizing data on a media analytics platform, was recently published at HCI International 2019.
Dr. Gabor Virag researches the economics of information, concentrating on dynamic trading mechanisms in markets with search frictions. He asks how agents trade under less than perfect knowledge about market conditions, and whether the individual decisions aggregate into a socially efficient outcome where all the information available to agents is taken into account by market forces. Recently, he started working on how to best incentivize technological innovation. Virag has recently published several peer-reviewed articles, in leading journals like the Review of Economic Studies, International Economic Review, and Theoretical Economics. He gave invited talks at several leading research universities like Duke University, University of British Columbia and University of Virginia, as well as at leading conferences like the Econometric Society Winter and Summer meetings as well as the AEA Winter meetings.