KMD Portfolio

Coursework

KMD1001H Fundamental Concepts – Summer 2014 – 1.00

INSTRUCTORS: Dr. Steve Szigeti and Dr. Mark Chignell
FINAL GRADE: A+

Course description:

Knowledge media are systems incorporating computer and communications technology that enhance human thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, and learning. This course reviews the emerging field of knowledge media design, and the use of digital media for communication, collaboration, and learning with a focus on research methodologies. The course will provide a foundation for other KMD courses and includes topics in human‐centred design, knowledge media technologies, social implications of knowledge media; examples and applications of knowledge media; and design thinking.

Projects:

1. Literature Review

This introductory bibliography surveys key areas of investigation in attempting to understand how better sonification strategies and design practices could improve the quality of health care environments such as hospitals. Sonification is a process whereby streams of data are represented through sound. Sonification is a critical ingredient in the design of auditory displays such as those found in hospital intensive care units. Auditory displays provide an essential means of monitoring a patient’s condition in real-time, and alert health care workers to any sudden, life-threatening changes. However, since auditory displays communicate this information by producing continuous streams of sound (often in the form of loud alarm-type sounds), they invariably contribute to the ever-increasing noise levels of hospitals. As evidence continues to accumulate around the detrimental effects of noise on patient outcomes, a deeper exploration of various sonification design methodologies may offer at least a partial set of solutions to this problem. This literature review provides an overview of the following research topics:

  1. Noise-related issues experienced by patients and health care providers in hospitals,
  2. Bio-signal feedback technologies and methods, with special emphasis on the use of brain wave data (i.e. electroencephalograms or EEG)
  3. Examples of sonification methods applied to weather reporting and music composition.
  4. Critical examinations of the aesthetics involved in designing sonification methodologies.
  5. Methods and benefits of involving both users and practitioners in the sonification design process.

2. Group Presentation:

An Introduction to Participatory Design

This in-class presentation introduces students to the following aspects of Participatory Design (PD):

  1. Definitions, Origins and Aims
  2. Tools and Techniques—telling, making (prototyping, probes, generative toolkits), and enacting.
  3. Methodological distinctions (MUST, STEPS, CESD)
  4. Ethical and Practical Challenges of PD

3. Research Proposal:

Improving hospital soundscapes through participatory sound design.

A growing body of research suggests that the often complex and chaotic sonic environments or ‘soundscapes’ of critical care hospital wards can have major adverse effects on patient outcomes and the occupational health and safety of hospital workers (nurses, etc.). While conventional solutions tend to focus on the measurement and attenuation of excessive sound levels through improvements in hospital acoustics, this is only a partial solution. An individual’s emotional and cognitive response to a sound, whether positive or negative, also depends on the physical, emotional, temporal and social contexts in which that sound is heard. A primary sonic element in critical care wards are the auditory displays of patient monitoring equipment. Auditory displays provide real-time monitoring of a patient’s condition through the production of electronic sounds and can alert health care workers to sudden, life-threatening changes. Therefore, alternative approaches to the design of auditory displays and the sonification of patient data may provide an important part of more comprehensive solution. What follows is a proposal for a pilot study in which the tools and techniques of participatory research and design are employed to capture and assess the emotional and cognitive experiences of patients and nurses in a critical care soundscape. Of particular interest will be to identify and examine the various coping methods adopted by participants and to use these as indicators of possible design solutions. From this research we hope to arrive at strategies for the redesign of hospital auditory displays.


KMD1002H Pro-Seminar in Knowledge Media Design II – Contexts and Practices – Fall 2014 – 0.50 CR

INSTRUCTOR: Mark Chignell
FINAL PASS/FAIL GRADE: Pass

Course description:

This course will focus on Applications of Big Data and Open Data. We will examine current opportunities and challenges and will critically review the potential for big data applications in different fields such as marketing, e-government, and healthcare. We will run this course as a “large seminar”. Beginning in week two we will have three students present on a topic assigned to them. Presentations will be roughly 30 minutes in length and will be followed with discussion. In the first week the instructor will introduce the topics of big data, machine learning, and open data as a background for the course. Course EvaluationThis is a credit/no credit course. The expectation is that everyone who participates fully in the course will pass. The course deliverables are the in-class individual presentation worth 25% of the grade, and a poster (created by a four person group and worth 75% of the grade) that summarizes challenges and opportunities relating to development of big data applications in a general area. High quality posters will be shown at the KMDI end of year party and poster presentation to be held in early December.

Completed Project Description(s):

1. Class Presentation:

Big Data and Generative Art: Issues of accuracy and aesthetics in visualizing and sonifying information.

ABSTRACT: It is now possible to extract massive amounts of data from the world around us, through a wide array of networked sensors, cameras, video game controllers, mobile devices and social media platforms. For the public-at-large, increased access to all this ‘big data’ presents big challenges in acquiring the tools and skills for effectively deciphering, interpreting and consuming its perceivable ‘meaningfulness.’ While the variety of tools and techniques for distilling data into visualizations and (increasingly) sonifications continues to evolve, a set of procedural tensions have begun to form between the aesthetics of audio-visual design and the accuracy of interpretation on the other. One way to explore these tensions is by examining contemporary applications of big data by artists working in the field of ‘generative art’ and ‘information art.’ Such artistic practices are often predicated on a search for narrative insights capable of reaffirming an expressive human-ness within the data. My presentation explores the tensions between aesthetics and accuracy the work of several generative artists working with big data.

2. Essay:

The Art of Accuracy – Issues and aesthetics in the visualization and sonification of Big Data

ABSTRACT: A fundamental challenge of life in the age of ‘big data’ concerns the ability of ordinary citizens to process the data in meaningful ways. An increasing tendency is to rely on techniques of data visualization and physicalization (sonification, sculpture, etc.). But while accessibility to tools and techniques for doing this are expanding, the continuum between accuracy of interpretation and representation of data visualizations on the one hand and the aesthetics of audiovisual art and design on the other hand seems to grow ever more murky and confused, with a proliferating array of interconnected design practices all predicated on the quest to make ‘big data’ more directly meaningful and integral to daily life. In the hopes of establishing more effective criteria for production and evaluation, this chapter provides a brief introduction to this continuum of design practice—with seductive surfaces and art world aesthetics at one end and accurate, meaningful content on the other. What are the important strengths and challenges of visualization design and interpretation faced by ordinary citizens?


KMD2001 – Human-Centred Design INF2169 – User-Centred Information Systems Development—Fall 2014 0.50 A-

INSTRUCTOR: Andrew Clement
FINAL GRADE: A-

Course description:

This version of the course focuses on Participatory Design and aims to provide students with both theoretical foundations and practical experience in developing information systems/knowledge media that are driven by the needs and active participation of prospective users. It will prepare students for collaborating with users in a variety of settings to develop their own systems/media. In contrast to conventional rationalistic approaches to information systems development (ISD), in this course information systems and knowledge media will be regarded as fundamentally social processes that can be supported by information/communication technologies. System/media design will be therefore be treated not primarily as an engineering problem requiring the application of formalized methodologies and abstract modelling techniques by technical experts. Rather, it views systems/media design as an on-going, multi-faceted process involving the balancing of contending social and technical opportunities and constraints requiring experience within the actual use context. While the implications of this approach will be discussed in the case of large scale, public or organization-wide systems/media, the main focus will be upon the development of small scale information systems and knowledge media applications with relatively well-defined and accessible user communities (e.g. at the work group level or with an identifiable membership cohort) using networked personal devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones) and popular software packages. This is currently the scene of rapid growth, largely without the benefit of appropriately participatory development techniques. The course will be conducted in a seminar lecture, workshop and discussion format. We deal with the practical, experiential aspects of participatory design through a systems/media prototype development project in a realistic usage setting. This will involve proposing a design and implementation strategy for the digitally mediated support of an identified user group for their operations and/or communications. It will include the iterative construction and evaluation of a prototype application requiring the customization (but not extensive programming) using a common software package.

KMD2001 – Human-Centred Design: An approach to design grounded in understanding the real-world practices of users and user communities. Includes traditional design practices, visual literacy and the design science of human-computer interaction, graphics, and information visualization. Specific design practices include: ecological design, participatory design, user-centred design, contextual design, etc. A variety of qualitative and quantitative evaluation methodologies will be covered in the context of a usability engineering and user-centred approach.

Completed Coursework:

1. Participatory Design Group Project:

Designing an Internet Security Assistance Service for Seniors: An Exercise in Participatory Design

ABSTRACT: Older adults (65+) are often considered to be technologically less savvy than the average population, particularly with respect to using online applications [4]. This can have negative consequences for their financial, health, and well being, by hindering their access to resources such as online banking, relevant health information, and connections with family members and friends. The 2011 Census [7] indicate that 66% of such adults are daily Internet users; as such, it is important to also protect older adults’ online safety and privacy—especially since seniors are a significant target of Internet scams or email phishing attacks. Solutions have been proposed to address this significant problem; however, these are not widely reaching—just in one year alone, older Canadian adults have lost an estimated $10 million to Internet scams [2]. Moreover, there is very little understanding of why seniors are disproportionately falling victim to online threats, despite the availability of various technologies that block such threats (e.g. browser add-ons). For this, we have begun studying the technological and non-technological barriers to the adoption of digital security technologies by older Internet users, and exploring design changes that increase their adoption. This paper presents a preliminary investigation of a participatory design approach to developing adoptable and usable online security interfaces for older adults.

Sponsored by Cosmin Munteanu, Technologies for Aging Gracefully Lab (TAGlab) at the University of Toronto. The TAGlab was founded by Ronald Baecker in 2008 to bridge the gap between aging and technology. Final project report and documentation Senior Cyber Security Final Report. This research was subsequently presented as a poster:

Munteanu, Cosmin, Calvin Tennakoon, Jillian Garner, Alex Goel, Mabel Ho, Clare Shen, and Richard Windeyer. “Improving older adults’ online security: An exercise in participatory design.” In Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS). 2015.

2. PhD Research Project Proposal:

Assessing and Improving the Quality of ICU Soundscapes Through an Ethnographically-Centred Participatory Design Process

ABSTRACT: A growing body of research indicates that a hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) is a complex sonic environment capable of having a detrimental impact on patient outcomes. While existing research has documented how nurses experience the ICU soundscape, much less is known about the nature of a patient’s auditory experience of the ICU soundscape and the extent to which it can contribute to the onset of ICU delirium or trauma. Therefore, if improvements to the quality of patient outcomes may be achieved by redesigning the ICU soundscape—including the sounds produced by auditory displays⁠1, life support systems and patient monitoring alarm systems—how are designers and researchers to ensure that such efforts will actually benefit the patients most profoundly affected by it? The following research proposal advocates for an ethnographically-centred participatory design (PD) process in which former ICU patients and nurses collaborate directly with researchers and designers to identify, prioritize and reduce the most disruptive elements of the ICU soundscape. By situating the tools and techniques of participatory design within an ethnographic framework, the details of ICU experience by patients and nurses may captured and assessed in situ. A central feature of this study is the application of sound-based tools and techniques commonly found in contemporary ethnography and soundscape studies. (ICU soundscape redesign through participatory user-centred design methodology).


DRA3907H/DRACODEHS Topics in Drama, Theatre and Performance: Digital Dramaturgy in Performance – Winter 2014

(Cross-listed with KMDI)

INSTRUCTOR: Antje Budde
FINAL GRADE: A+

Course Description:

The Critical Engineer considers any technology depended upon to be both a challenge and a threat. The greater the dependence on a technology the greater the need to study and expose its inner workings, regardless of ownership or legal provision.

The Critical Engineering Manifesto, 2011

This course is inspired by and rooted in practice-based research projects and events of the Digital Dramaturgy Lab (DDL), which was founded in April 2012 in Toronto. The DDL is a networking platform for multi-disciplinary artists, creative programmers, technicians and designers with conceptual/dramaturgical interest in dynamic/queering relationships between digital technology and live performance, the complexities of real and virtual bodies, multi-disciplinary linguality/terminology, as well as aesthetical and technological literacy in collaborative rehearsal processes in theatre, performance art and interactive installations. Digital dramaturgy, for the purpose of this course, is defined here as the conceptual and structuring critical making of intermedial performance (digital or otherwise) that informs an integrated approach to aspects of creative learning/critical thinking in the field of artistic performative production. Of particular interest is the challenging juxtaposition between the analog nature of human perception and digitally informed or organized performance practices. In the course we will apply strategies of critical making: “The use of the term critical making to describe our work signals a desire to theoretically and pragmatically connect two modes of engagement with the world that are often held separate—critical thinking, typically understood as conceptually and linguistically based, and physical “making,” goal-based material work.” Ratto, M. (2011) “Critical Making: conceptual and material studies in technology and social life,” The Information Society 27(4). Critical Making Lab, University of Toronto. In order to better understand our current challenges with technology in live performance we will study performance dramaturgies and political aesthetics of early modern avant-garde movements and play with a comparative approach. Course work will be mainly done in groups and is highly participatory because the bridging/translation of collaborative processes and specialized labor division in digitally informed performance creation is of major importance and will be at the core of the learning experience.

1. Final Essay/Research Proposal:

Towards a Contemporary Staging of Tristan Tzara’s The Gas Heart

Sculpture by George Grosz, John Heartfield, Der wildgewordene Spiesser Heartfield. Elektro-mecanische Tatlin-Plastik (Le Petit Bourgeois Heartfield devenu fou. Sculpture Tatline électro-mécanique), 1920/1988, reconstitution par Michael Sellmann, Berlin, 1988. Original exposé à la Dada-Messe, Berlin, 1920.
Assemblage. Mannequin : 130 cm en hauteur. Socle : 90 x 45 x 45 cm. Berlinische Galerie, Landesmuseum für Moderne kunst, Fotografie und Architektur, Berlin.

ABSTRACT: This essay proposes a contemporary staging of Tristan Tzara’s Dadaist play The Gas Heart as the basis for an interdisciplinary collaboration between the performing arts, medical science and knowledge media design strategies in which ‘critical making’ methodologies (Ratto et al.) are adapted and transposed to the practice of digital dramaturgy and intermedial performance design. Written in the chaotic aftermath of the First World War, Tzara’s play was a direct response to the widespread psychological trauma and physical disfigurement inflicted on solders and civilians. A bizarre and unsettling evocation of war’s brutal impact on the human condition, The Gas Heart embodies Dada’s fascination with depicting the mangled bodies and minds of soldiers returning home from the battlefield while underscoring an important collaboration between the arts, medicine and prosthetic design in which commissioned visual artists designed prosthetic masks and limbs for grotesquely wounded veterans to wear in their struggle to re-assimilate. This essay concludes by speculating on how new forms of experiential or multi-sensory prosthetics might make it possible to share vividly simulated cognitive experiences with others and to help cultivate a greater sense of empathy and to address the intense social crisis of representation that continues to plague veterans.


PhD Thesis

Black Box Exposures: Enriching Public Engagement With Human-Data Relations Through Intermedial Performance Strategies

SUPERVISOR: Dr. Antje Budde (Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies)

SUPERVISORY COMMITTEE MEMBERS: Peter Coppin (Faculty of Design, OCAD University), Don Sinclair (School of the Arts, Media, Performance & DesignYork University)

ABSTRACT: Through a combination of this artistic and scholarly research rooted in praxis, this dissertation demonstrates how the medium of theatre provides an accessible, alternative laboratory space wherein the changing relations between humans, data and informatics may be examined. This study begins by examining several topics: the diverse array of analogies and metaphors that currently characterize data out in the world; popular notions surrounding data as a material for ‘telling stories’ about events, objects or people; and growing communities of practice that prioritize intimate and hand-made forms of engagement with data as material for creative expression. In the process, the metaphor of a black box is established as a means of conjoining three disciplines—theatre studies, critical data studies, and information design. Three shared themes—velocities, assemblages, and representativeness—emerge to form an analytical framework through which to examine several recent theatrical productions. These three themes are elaborated further through two praxis-based experiments. The first experiment consists of three intermedial performance design prototypes developed by the author. The second experiment takes the form of an experimental undergraduate course designed and run by the author. Drawing upon methods and materials developed by the Quantified Self Movement and inspired by the Data Humanism Manifesto, both experiments emphasized the development of creative strategies in which the activities of data production, processing and representation could be explored through forms of enactment. The resulting contribution is an interdisciplinary framework and methodology in support of further exploration in both pedagogical and intermedial theatre contexts.


Performance Design Prototypes

Rehearsals, Translations and Statistical Mimesis: Three Intermedial Performance Prototypes

PROTOTYPE 1:

Rehearsing silence: A speculative prototype for a binaurally immersive medical portraiture is part audio essay, part medical portraiture, part data sonification, part prosthetic design sketch. It proposes a binaurally encoded, audio-based approach to portraiture that frames and compresses the gradual and inevitable diminishment of auditory perception as a consequence of aging and neurologically collapsing bodies. This design sketch stems, in part, from ongoing research focused on developing instruments and tools to support multi-sensory (non-visual) data analytics, and a continuing interest in how the effects of aging and sensory impairment manifest themselves as perceptual artifacts within an artistic practice (Claude Monet painted through cataracts, Beethoven composed through tinnitus and subsequent deafness). An initial experiment in exploring aspects of biometric portraiture and data sonification (one of the case studies in my thesis research—the Chimera Network’s production Bloodlines) through an artistic practice combining data sonification, sound design and binaural/surround-sound audio encoding within an ‘audio essay’ format. Inspired by Bloodlines, I sought to expand the application of sonified data as the basis for data-driven simulation of a hearing impairment. As such it explores the concept of an immersive biometric portrait, but presented in the form of a data-derived prosthetic or simulation. Through this ‘auditory prosthesis,’ percipients can experience the world around them through the dissolving perceptual capacity of another person’s sensory impairment

First presented at the Festival of Original Theatre (FOOT) 2018, Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Toronto

PROTOTYPE 2:

A sonic translation of Charles Minard’s pioneering infographic depiction of Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia began while working as a Research Assistant with Dr. Peter Coppin at the Inclusive Design program at OCAD University. The initial premise of this project was to research and develop approaches to translating existing visual data representations—such as an infographic map—into an ‘equivalent’ or corresponding auditory data representation, such as a spatialized (surround-sound) data sonification. As a focal point for this research, we decided to embark on a ‘grand design challenge’ in which we attempted to apply data sonification techniques to both the maps’ data contents and the graphical properties of a well-known nineteenth century example of infographic design—French civil engineer Charles Minard’s Figurative Map of the Successive Losses in Men of the French Army in the Russian Campaign 1812–1813 (1869) As far as we could surmise from the literature, no one had (as yet) attempted to produce a sonic translation of a work which many within the field of information design—including Edward Tufte, who uses Minard’s map as the basis for illustrating some fundamental principles of analytical design (Beautiful Evidence 122-139)—regard as a remarkable and instructive example of effective data visualization technique.

PROTOTYPE 3:

Liminal Data/Dissolving Perceptions is a performance design prototype exploring relationships between humans and data from within the world of Gao Xingjian’s 1991 play Between Life and Death (Au Bord de la Vie, 生死界). This prototype was realized and presented during a month-long artistic-research residency in spring 2018 held by the Digital Dramaturgy Lab at the University of Toronto. I used this month-long creative workshop to explore the use potential of data as artistic material and data processing and visualization as an alternative dramaturgical strategy. How might people without formal training in data analytics, information design or performance—engage in their own creative explorations of data (primarily as a cultural artifact) through performative means? In what ways, for example, might the methods and techniques commonly employed by members of the ‘Quantified Self Movement’ be adapted to the task of making data performances? Alternatively, how might such tools be integrated with some of the more conventional dramaturgical practices surrounding documentary theatre projects? My research also sought to explore methods for creating data performance experiences through Gao-Xing’s Between Life and Death with global population statistics as the thematic focal point. What I sought to develop through this process was a set of dramaturgical strategies—and to a lesser extent, some software-based tools—through which certain forms of data could be explored as essential elements of an existing play text. How might a performance experience (based on the contents of this play) be crafted using model-based data sonification—a form of sonic information design which is inherently interactive and potentially performative? In the context of this play text, for example, what is WOMAN, the main character in the play, hearing and experiencing from an auditory perspective from one moment to the next? How might the extracted data be represented as an auditory experience through the techniques of data sonification? How might the application of data sonification techniques provide an alternate approach to sound design?

Research presentation at Between Life and Death. Science Fair: an investigative and relentless research extravaganza performing data, software, patterns, bodies, numbers, spaces, waves, artificial and/or creative intelligence inspired by Gao Xingjian’s Zen play Between Life and Death (Au Bord de la Vie 生死界) May 25-26, 2018, Luella Massey Studio Theatre, 4 Glen Morris Street, Toronto

A sub-component of this project is Between Live and Dead Data: Unpacking the data assemblage of a world population counter. Initially, I had envisioned an autonomously functioning dashboard in which the slider’s position could be manipulated by an external, real-time data stream—specifically, the changing birth and death totals calculated in real-time each day by a global population counter displayed and available for licensed use in websites, exhibits, displays, etc. by Worldometers. As each birth or death is reported on this website, the slider is pushed or pulled between the two poles of the dashboard. These poles are demarcated by the Chinese characters for ‘birth’ and ‘death.’ Hence, this real-time, real-world statistic vacillates precariously within the play’s text, the data visualizations of Woman’s auditory and attentional focus and the vocal-like utterances of the sonified Chinese characters. With this degree of autonomous control, this dramaturgical design probe emerges as an exploratory form of McKenzie’s notion of a technological performance (2002) in which the globally driven socio-technical data assemblage—the frenetic counting of births and deaths worldwide—is repurposed as the engine (or to use the metaphor of data as puppet)—a globalized and collectively driven puppeteer that determines the dramaturgical sequencing of the play’s reanimation through technological performance. The resulting work juxtaposes the quantifications of a single body with quantifications of (what might be described as) a ‘global body’—slow data pertaining to the single body, acquired through analysis of the play’s text, data point by data point—the imperative for this single body to slow down and focus juxtaposed with the comparatively frantic and incessant speed with which the world population clock would signal births and deaths.


Experimental Undergraduate Course

DRM488H1 F – Seminar: Performing Data/Data Performing — Strategies for a Theatre of Informatics – Fall 2018 – 0.50

INSTRUCTOR: Richard C. Windeyer

An experimental undergraduate course which I developed—and then taught during the Fall 2018 semester at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies—as part of the practice-led component of my thesis research.

Course Description:

What can be revealed through the use of population statistics or biometric data as raw material for a theatrical performance? What happens to numbers and statistics when they are represented onstage by human faces, voices and bodies? How might genres such as documentary or verbatim theatre become instruments for critical explorations and multisensory experiences of data? Beginning with early onstage appearances of numbers and statistics in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this course will engage with contemporary performances that have been devised through the use of data. In the process, we will explore prevailing metaphors and epistemologies surrounding ‘big data,’ along with important related issues such as dataveillance, machine learning, predictive modelling, algorithmic determinism, bio-politics and various forms of performative resistance such as the Quantified Self Movement. This course is intended for students interested in critically and creatively negotiating their engagement with a world of increasing quantification, reliance on statistical evidence, and algorithmic determinism. The final project assignment for this course explored creative applications of self-tracking techniques (as developed by the Quantified Self Movement and inspired by the Data Humanism Manifesto as well as various data artists) and information design strategies in making artistic performances that explore aspects of human-data relations.

Design artifacts from student projects. Presented with permission of the student.
Design artifacts from student projects. Presented with permission of the student.
Design artifacts from student projects. Presented with permission of the student.

Presentations

KMDI Collaborative Program PhD Student Seminar Presentation:

Of Accuracy and Aesthetics: Staging Realities Through the Performance of Big Data

ABSTRACT: Increased access to Big Data is rapidly transforming the means by which individuals come to understand each other’s experiences and interactions with the world around them. The widespread adoption and integration of networked mobile devices, activity trackers, ‘smart objects’ and social media platforms now generate massive quantities of data every single day. Meanwhile, the general public increasingly relies on the work of infographic designers and visualization artists to extract meaning from the data and distill it into more easily consumable formats without bias or agenda. My research investigates how public engagement with Big Data may (or may not) be enriched through the materials and practices of artistic performance. Of particular interest is examining the notional tensions at play between the accuracy of interpretation and representation of data on the one hand and the aesthetics of audiovisual art, design and performance on the other. A central focus of this research concerns how the strategies employed in mapping datasets to the materials of performance have the ability to both clarify and distort representations of real-world events and conditions.


KMDI Student Profile — Prototyping Data Performance: Interdisciplinary studies in knowledge media and the performing arts

A brief profile interview I did for the University of Toronto’s Knowledge Media Design Institute, one which I think (hopefully) begins to explain my research focus as a doctoral student with the KMD Collaborative Specialization (KMD CS) (KMD CS) program. Originally published on November 20, 2015, it briefly explores how public engagement with the world of (big) data may be enriched through the materials and practices of theatrical performance.

What department are you part of and what is your research focus?

I come from the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies (CDTPS) with a background in music technology and sound design for theatre and performance. My research focuses on how our ability to capture and process certain forms of data (i.e. ‘big data’, biodata, etc.), are transforming how artists create immersive and/or participatory theatre and performative experiences.

Why did you decide to join the KMD collaborative program?

I’ve always tried to position myself at the intersections between disciplines. Working this way is not easy, but it’s always rewarding and ripe with opportunities for innovation and cross-fertilization. I first heard about the KMD/CDTPS collaborative program through Dr. Bruce Barton (a former CDTPS faculty member now at the University of Calgary), just after it had been established. Being one of the first KMD/CDTPS students was a little strange at first — in my KMD classes, I usually ended up being referred to as ‘the drama guy,’ which I think was actually a blessing in disguise. It motivated me to clarify (for myself) and to articulate (to others) what I thought the most important connections between knowledge media design and theatre/performance are — or should be — and how these disciplines might benefit most from collaborative cross-pollination.

How has KMD impacted your research?

The prerequisite KMD courses helped me develop a solid grounding in the contexts and practices surrounding ‘big data’ and ‘open data’ while providing me with an opportunity to begin researching the methods and practices of contemporary artists specializing in data visualization and/or sonification. KMDI’s Human Centred Design course was particularly valuable in expanding my understanding of the methods and practices employed to cultivate meaningful user participation in the design of products, services or systems and—by extension—theatre/performance experiences.

How is your research related to the KMD collaborative program?

People ask me what contemporary knowledge media design has in common with the traditions of theatre and performance. It’s a great question and while I am not a specialist in the theatre of Ancient Greece, scholars such as Derrick de Kerckhove[1] (McLuhan Program, University of Toronto) and others have attempted to demonstrate how a primary function of the ancient Greek theatre was to provide the predominantly illiterate spectator with models for processing, integrating and communicating their perceptions and experiences of the world as knowledge. Theatre has always served as a form of knowledge media. More specifically though, I tend to view theatre as a kind of ‘reality simulator’ — a place where complex or chaotic situations or scenarios can be conceived, enacted and rehearsed and new personas, behaviours and perceptual models can be prototyped and tested, all in a comparatively safe and controlled environment.

How did you find the transition to KMD and how compatible is it with the goals of collaboration and innovation within Performing Arts studies?

I found it was relatively easy. Sound design and interactive technologies have always been essential components of my work in theatre and performance. Yet, I’ve always been equally interested in exploring how this particular design knowledge could be transferred to other fields, such as the design of sounds produced through a user’s interaction with a physical object, system or environment.

What words of advice would you give a future Theatre and Performance Arts Student who thinks about pursuing further studies with KMD?

If you focus on the places where KMD and theatre/performance overlap and intersect meaningfully, opportunities for cross-pollination and trans-disciplinary insight can be discovered and explored. Part of this involves thinking beyond the more popular definitions of ‘theatre’ (i.e., plays, musicals, dramatic texts, etc.) until you begin to see how most people engage some form of ‘performance’ as part of their daily lives.

[1] for example, see the article Theatre as Information-Processing inWestern Cultures by Derrick de Kerckhove


KMD-related Article Publication

Canadian Theatre Review

Of Puppets and Prototypes—Proposals for an Intermedial Performance Design Practice

ABSTRACT: In this brief essay, puppetry serves as a metaphor for thinking about how several design research techniques—such as participatory prototyping or the development of user requirement specifications—may be adapted to the collective creation of intermedial performance projects. The observations and speculations explored in this essay have emerged primarily through the author’s own experiences as a designer of intermedial performance instruments over the past decade. As such, this essay constitutes a personalized proposal for an improved set of working methods capable of identifying and avoiding several recurring processual tendencies.

CITATION: Windeyer, Richard C. “Of Puppets and Prototypes—Proposals for an Intermedial Performance Design Practice.” Canadian Theatre Review 172 (2017): 42-47.