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What Is A Media Lab?

situated practices in media studies

Month / May 2016

Concordia’s Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling

Interview by Jacqueline Brunet

I recently had the opportunity to visit The Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling, located on the tenth floor of the Library building. It was interesting to continue to look at spaces in Concordia that not only incorporate technology in their work but recognize it as part of the human relationships that are essential to their research. I was also interested in how much of the work that is done at the Centre expands beyond it, into the many community projects that the Centre is involved in, and how this research space is really constitutive of innumerable, unexpected spaces in Montreal.

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An Interview with Dr. John Douglas Hunt

Interview by Ken Hunt

Dr. John Douglas Hunt is a professor of Civil Engineering and the president of the consulting firm Hunt Analytics (HAI). The firm uses 3D computer modelling to predict how traffic moves through urban areas, in order to provide more accurate growth projections to urban planners.

The interview raised several questions, such as: what are the benefits and drawbacks of the move toward a ‘virtual’ office space? How is software being used to facilitate these virtual spaces, and how is this use of software transforming the physical space in which it takes place? How does the location of a space affect its selection and use, in terms of potential benefits or impediments to knowledge production happening in said space? How are ‘camps’ formed between various specializations (such as engineers, IT professionals, and municipal employees), and how do these camps characterize and ‘test’ one another when they interact?

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Workshop Facilitation and Transient ‘Space’: An Interview

Interview by Ffionn M

When my initial interviewee (someone with a large amount of involvement and a fairly high position in anti-oppression education) had to back out part way through, my immediate reaction was to panic. Then, I remembered that, actually, even if they didn’t have particular titles, there were many people around me who had been engaged in this type of work and who had interacted with the transient ‘space’ of the workshop many times over. Luckily enough, one of these friends was kind enough to sit down with me and talk about it.


Ffionn M: As I’ve mentioned, the general theme of these interview assignments is “the lab” or spaces of knowledge production. When we got the assignment, my interest was immediately pulled in the direction of ‘spaces’ that were a little more fluid, knowledge productions that occupied a physical ‘space’ for only a short period but also transformed it into a very distinct sort of space of its own. That’s why I’ve asked you to come talk to me about — broadly defined, here, as ‘social justice’ — workshop and discussion facilitation.

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A Look Inside: The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries Digital Humanities Lab

Interview by Athena Pierquet

In my search for people who work/study/use or interact with physical spaces in the Humanities as part of the “What is a Media Lab?” project, I had the opportunity to speak to Ann Hanlon of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries Digital Humanities Lab. The DH Lab was an intiative launched in the Fall of 2013 as part of a collaboration between the UW-Milwaukee Libraries, the Center for Instructional and Professional Development (CIPD) and the College of Letters and Science as an interdisciplinary collaborative space within the library. Ann Hanlon, Head of the Library’s Digital Collections and Initiatives, was kind enough to answer all of my questions about the project and gave me a discursive tour of their space.

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Electronics & Artistic Production: Interview with the Lab Coordinator of Eastern Bloc

Interview by Robin Graham



Eastern Bloc is an artist-run centre and media lab in Montreal. Since 2007, it has been exploring and pushing the boundaries of the intersections between art, science, and technology. By facilitating hands-on workshops, the centre sets itself apart from commercial galleries insofar as it not only exhibits digital and new media artworks, but helps to educate and provide resources for their production.

The lab’s mandate states that it “provides a platform for experimentation, education and critical thought in practices informed by hybrid, interactive, networked and process-driven approaches.” This includes a mandate to offer a shared lab space involving tools and resources for electronic and digital/new media art. Operating such a lab includes offering technical support, engaging with the community, and reaching out to people who are interested in the artistic use of technology, but may be without the means of producing it. Ideally, this is all in the service of the democratization of technology in a time when we are increasingly alienated from it, despite its prevalence.

I spoke to the Lab Coordinator, Martin Rodriguez, in order to get a better sense of what happens here:

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Bedroom as Beadwork Lab?: An interview with Cedar-Eve Peters

Interview by Chalsley Taylor

Cedar-Eve Peters is an Anishnaabae visual artist and beader from the Ojibwa nation, currently based in Montreal. Cedar sat down with me to discuss the nature of her workspace and its relationship to her beading practice. We also grappled with a question previously asked on the dhtoph blog: “do we really need a designated space for work that we can just as easily do at home or our favorite coffee house?”

The transcription has been edited for clarity.

So how would you describe your lab space?

Very messy. Like right now it’s very disorganized.

Could you talk about where it’s located?

Oh yeah. My workspace is also my bedroom, so sometimes that’s annoying because I can’t separate workspace from sleep space. I guess it’s kind of organized. Everything’s in containers at least, but it just seems like things are all over the place right now.

What would you say the workspace itself consists of?

Mm…beads? You mean the materials?

Not so much the materials but the things your going to use. Like this chair, and that desk, the way it folds down, the cutting mat and the loom, your boxes of beads; these are all things that you need to get this work done.

Yeah. I guess I don’t think about that. Containers and shelves. Mostly containers I guess. A bunch of lights.

A surface?

Not so much right now. [laughs]

Surface space must be essential being that you need to be able to see all these tiny beads.

Yeah, if the surface isn’t clean then I feel like I can’t think straight, so that’s annoying. But also, it helps in a way cuz I’m just like, stimulated by everything thats around.

Is that a positive to working in your bedroom?

No. [laughs] I don’t think so. Continue Reading

Bums in Seats: Queer Media Database of Canada/Québec

Interview by Nikola Stepić

The Uniter, October 15 2015.

The Uniter, October 15 2015.

The lights dim for the second of two screenings titled Matraques, a special event curated and organized by the Queer Media Database of Canada/Québec in collaboration with the queer film festival Image+Nation. The two-part screening is composed of twenty-one vignettes, each a short film or extract about the history of literal and metaphorical policing of queers in Canada. As the screenings end and the Q&A session starts, two things become evident. One: many people in the room know each other and others are being readily introduced, which makes knowledge of Canada’s queer history emerge out of the realm of shared collective memory, intensifying the already deeply communal nature of the event. Secondly, the bodies in the seats range from undergrads to seasoned film enthusiasts. Witnesses connect and respond to the programming on a visceral level, which for the younger people in the crowd enhances the immediacy of this history as represented in films that otherwise might have come across as demagogical or didactic. Judging by how no one feels like leaving Concordia University’s Cinema de Sève long after the films have finished, the screening is a resounding success.

A couple of days before the screening, I met up with Dr. Thomas Waugh and Jordan Arseneault.

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An Interview with Nick Montfort

Interview by Trevor Rouse

Nick Montfort heads up the Trope Tank, a media lab at MIT, where he is also an associate professor specializing in digital media. He has authored several books, including Twisty Little Passages, a study of interactive fiction, and the upcoming Exploratory Programming for the Arts and Humanities. I had the opportunity to correspond with him about his work.


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Interview with Dr. Maria Gurevich, SHiFT Lab, Ryerson University

Interview by Sarah Brown, Concordia University

The SHiFT Lab (Sexuality Hub: Integrating Feminist Theory) is affiliated with the Department of Psychology in Ryerson University, and focuses on integrating feminist poststructuralist and discursive practices into the study of sexual practices, technologies, and messages. Their current research spans a wide spectrum of topics: examples include research into the sexuopharmaceutical industry, discourses of gender transgression, and analysis of mainstream pornography in a postfeminist context.

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