Espace recherche at Congress 

A range of ways to present research and creative projects

By Russ Cooper

Computation arts undergrad Mathieu Tremblay is creating the website for Espace recherche’s Ticker Text project. Magnifying glass

Computation arts undergrad Mathieu Tremblay is creating the website for Espace recherche’s Ticker Text project.

The thousands of delegates and visitors coming to Concordia for the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences this spring can look forward to a new way to experience research and creative output.

Guided by this year’s theme of Connected Understanding/le savoir branché, Espace recherche will be a series of non-stop exhibitions that connect research and researchers in unique ways with the potential to catalyze further collaboration.

Co-producers David Ward and Prem Sooriyakumar have been working closely with the Office of Research and Congress organizers on the three projects that will make up Espace recherche and be displayed throughout Congress, May 28 to June 4.

Walking in the MB Building Atrium, the first thing visitors will notice is the stock ticker isn’t scrolling anything from Wall St. The Ticker Text project will refashion the ticker into a scrolling, interactive poetry project.

Using a website (currently being created by computation arts undergrad Mathieu Tremblay), they’re working with English Department Professor and Chair Jason Camlot, the project’s curator, to gather thoughts and poems of a maximum of 140-characters from English department faculty and Camlot’s creative writing students.

They hope to amass hundreds of these short submissions to initially populate the ticker during the first days of the conference and draw Congress-goers into participating. Anyone wanting to become part of the project can log onto the website and input their own original 140-character poem. The hope is to provoke reactions from other poetic passers-by who might be inspired to write something and thus create an on-going flow.

The theme, Ward explains, builds on Thomas Edison’s concept of the original ticker tape for transmitting stock prices. “The entries will be moderated, but each bit of text on the JMSB ticker will incorporate numbers or numerals in some way to keep the historical thread.”

Looking up from the ticker to the second floor, visitors will notice the suspended meeting room transformed into The Think Box: a contained, drop-in, four-channel sound system and two projector equipped environment where people can experience the multimedia work created by a wide range of Concordia faculty and students in a continuous engaging stream.

In mid-March, Ward and Sooriyakumar put out a call for submissions through faculty communications advisors. Thus far, they’ve received “many, many hours” of submissions from every corner of the university.

Already scheduled are collaborations with the FOFA Gallery, Matralab Director and Canada Research Chair in Inter-X Arts Sandeep Bhagwati, as well as many student works. “Everything from short animated works to feature films to SSHRC-funded projects,” says Ward.

Continuing up to the reception area on top of the suspended box, a space they’ve renamed ‘The Cloud Deck’ for these purposes, the area will host a continuous display of a unique prototype web application. Currently without a formal name, it’s a project aiming to create new ways to connect Concordia researchers to each other as well as to the public outside the university.

Ward and Sooriyakumar have been interviewing numerous researchers, asking them to choose roughly a dozen word descriptors, or word tags, that best illustrate their research topics and fields of study. The tags will then be amalgamated into word clouds that essentially sum up the researcher and his or her interests.

The producers hope that by generating a word cloud for many Concordia researchers, they’ll be able to see connections across disciplines that weren’t immediately apparent before.

“Take the field of 3D imaging as one example,” says Ward, who’s stepping outside his role as Associate Director of the Centre for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence for this project. “We have people in geography, in engineering, in fine arts doing something with this, maybe even others I don’t know about yet.

“We’re trying to show just how connected the research and people around the university really are,” says Ward. “This is literally ‘Connected Understanding’ of ideas.”

As a proof of concept rather than a finished product, the project will be demonstrated with four large LCD screens each with a mouse as the only tool for interaction (“It’s designed so you don’t need a keyboard,” says Ward).

For roughly a year, the idea for Espace has been under development. Late last spring, Congress 2010 Convenor Ronald Rudin began asking for ideas for unique events to showcase Concordia, as well as create an energized environment at Congress. Around this time, Sooriyakumar, a film production student from 1999 to 2001, was introduced to Ward by History Professor Erica Lehrer (his Mile End neighbour) and shortly thereafter, the two began developing the idea to make research more accessible. The discussions carried on over the summer, and by early fall 2009, the concepts for the three projects began to take shape.

“It has a long way to go before it launches. This will be version 1.0 of something much bigger,” says Sooriyakumar, “but this has the potential to facilitate much more interdisciplinary collaboration in the future.”

There’s still time to be a part of the Espace recherche Think Box project at Congress.

The Office of Graduate Studies and Office of Research are seeking submissions for a Graduate Research Slam to be displayed in the Think Box. Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are encouraged to submit proposals to present research pertaining to human rights. Organizers are seeking an alternative to the Pecha Kucha format of 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide; the Graduate Research Slam will be 20 slides with nine seconds per image, for a total presentation time of three minutes.

The May 30 event will be emceed by newly-appointed Dean of Graduate Studies Graham Carr. Deadline for submissions is April 30 May 11. Find out more about Congress at Concordia.


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