XDM students showcase the highs and lows of technology

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"There is such a wide breadth of technique, technology, and concept," explains Professor Beth Coleman of the MA in Experimental Digital Media (XDM) program based in the Department of English Language and Literature. “The students are using media technology in ways that are both surprising and delightful.”

Beth Coleman

Objects to think with

XDM students don’t just study theories of human-technology interface, they experiment with hi- and low-tech tools, creating "objects to think with" as XDM founding faculty Professor Marcel O’Gorman says.

This research might be characterized as a form of critical R & D, where questions and ideas about the impact of media are brought to life in playful yet serious prototypes. These experimental products encourage us to reflect on consequences and imagine possibilities.

"This is a world-class research degree in digital media anchored in the rhetorical and literary enterprise," says Professor Fraser Easton, chair of English.  "It brings together students with engineering, design, and communication skills and interests to study the cultural significance of digital media and its products."

Feedback, Fedback, Feedforward: exhibition and symposium

This month, the XDM program hosted an exhibition of project work at the department's off-campus lab on Gaukel Street in downtown Kitchener. "It’s an art show," explains Professor Coleman. "The work addresses important questions about who we are in a time of ubiquitous media. It is a beautiful intersection of the critical and the conceptual."

Student explains work in front of microphone

Matthew Schwager, XDM student: Noise Pollution

Noise Pollution is an information visualization project that converts ecological data into audio smog clouds. “It is an experiential way of embodying and interpreting data,” explains Matthew. “The piece responds to the question: how can we make data more accessible?”

Student holds cell phone in tent

Video plays in tent

Sophia Pelka, XDM student: My/Your Ecological Fragment

My/Your Ecological Fragment challenges the subject/object binary of the viewer and the viewed. “It is about reclamation and agency. I am both the subject and the object, watching the subject become the object,” says Sophia. “This is a piece that anyone can access and anyone can do.”

Student makes coffee

Coffee hack

Nick Balaissis, Post-Doctoral Fellow and XDM instructor: The Precarious Art of Making Coffee

The Precarious Art of Making Coffee is a reenactment of a photograph of a Cuban coffee maker “hack,” where an iron is substituted for a working stove. “In the 1990s and early 2000s, Cubans had to make do and salvage every day items,” explains Nick. “The piece explores maker culture and changes how we think about hacking. This brings the simple and elegant hack to the forefront.”

Old television playing video

Hand pounding wood with rock

Paisley Cozzarin, XDM student: Archive of the Bow Drill/Regression of the Hand

Archive of the Bow Drill/Regression of the Hand is an archive of forgetting. This piece is a critical reflection on the loss of human techniques and skills through the increasing exteriorization of knowledge in digital technology and machinery. “If we ruin the plant, could we survive it?” asks Paisley. “And are we really human if we rely on technology for everything?”

Typewriter with wires

Stephen Trothen, XDM student: The Library of Beta-Memex Mindfulness

The Library of Beta-Memex Mindfulness is a device that uses brain waves to control the output and motor of a typewriter. “It is an exploration of post-humanism, looking at the body as a stream of information,” explains Stephen. “The project is all about feedback – how does technology shape our mind, which in turn shapes our technology.”