Latest Faculty of Information News

2018 Faculty News Digest

Submitted on Monday, December 17, 2018

New faculty members

Olivier St-Cyr, who has been teaching at the Faculty on a limited term appointment since 2016, was hired for the new Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream position effective July 1.  Before returning to the world of academia, St-Cyr, who is a specialist in User Interface Design and human-computer interaction, spent eight years working in industry on UXD-related projects in areas including medical software and devices, data replication software, and news wire communication systems.

Over the last two years of teaching full-time at the Faculty, he worked closely with the first full graduating cohort of UXD students, who received their diplomas in June. St-Cyr. As the UXD concentration grows in prominence, attracting more students, the Faculty has opened a new UX Design Studio and Usability Lab.

Also hired in 2018 for a newly created position in Big Data and Social Justice in 2018 was Assistant Professor Jia Xue, who is a joint appointment with the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.

Jia received her PhD from the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, and holds with a master’s degree in Statistics from Wharton. She received her law degree from Tsinghua University, China and interned in China’s Supreme Court where she gained practical experience. She has also worked with women imprisoned in Philadelphia.

Jia’s research focuses on intimate and sexual violence, dating violence in young adulthood, child abuse, and gender-based violence in international and cross-cultural contexts. She applies innovative methodologies to study violence, and more specifically, she employs computational and big data approaches to examine various facets of intimate and sexual assault.

Tenure granted

Christoph Becker was granted tenure and appointed Associate Professor. As Director of the Digital Curation Institute, he brings together graduate students, appointed fellows, faculty colleagues and partners to conduct research at the intersection of digital curation and systems design.

The DCI’s state-of-the-art computing infrastructure and collaboration space is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation and the Canada Foundation of Innovation.

Chair appointments

Brian Cantwell Smith was appointed Reid Hoffman Chair in Artificial Intelligence and the Human (see above).

Associate Professor Matt Ratto was named holder of the Bell University Laboratories Chair in Human-Computer Interaction. Ratto focuses on bridging what he calls “the so-called great divide” between those who design and build human-computer systems and those who study them. His work involves connecting the builders, who are mostly engineers and scientists, with the critics, who come largely from the humanities and social sciences.

An expert on 3D printing and digital fabrication, Ratto’s niche is in “critical making,” a term he coined more than a decade ago to describe the making of material objects as a means of engaging with both the practical and theoretical. At the Faculty of Information’s Critical Making Lab, where Ratto is the director, research participants build devices such as wearable computers, Radio-Frequency Identification systems and ubiquitous computing networks.

In making these devices, researchers are trying to understand “how technology and society are being built,” says Ratto. “They can then take the insights and use them in technological design.” It is making for far more than making’s sake.

While many humanities scholars make valid critiques of popular apps and services including Facebook, Uber and WhatsApp, Ratto says, “We also need people who can take those critiques and use them to improve Facebook or build an alternative Facebook.” Read more

Director appointments

Associate Professor Sara Grimes, who is also a Fellow in Book and Media Studies at the University of St. Michael’s College, was named director of the Knowledge Media Design Institute, an interdisciplinary unit of the Faculty of Information. She plans to implement her proposal to merge the Institute with the Semaphore Labs, a research cluster at the Faculty of Information, where she has been an Associate Director. Semaphore is dedicated to inclusive design in the area of mobile and pervasive computing.

“Historically, the KMDI and the Semaphore Lab have shared many of the same fundamental concerns, ethics, and approaches. But they also have complementary strengths and weaknesses.” she explains. “In joining KMDI and Semaphore together, my aim is to create an institute that provides the necessary resources to involve faculty, students, and other members to carry out research, engage in public discussion, and attract outside partners—from other disciplines, but also from public and private sectors.” Read more

Assistant Professor Patrick Keilty was named archives director of the University of Toronto’s Sexual Representation Collection. His SSHRC-funded research focuses on the business and technology of the porn industry.

Faculty retirement

No sooner had official Associate Professor David Phillips headed off into retirement, than his play Cluster Fucked, about the downside of social media, was on stage at the Toronto Fringe Festival. Among his many achievements at the Faculty of Information, Phillips played a key role in developing the new Bachelor of Information  program.

Scholar Practitioner

In September, Victoria Owen joined the Faculty in the role of Information Policy Scholar-Practitioner.  In this newly created position, Owen, who was previously Chief Librarian at the University of Toronto Scarborough, is sharing her unique experience and expertise in several key areas of information policy with faculty and students.

As a leading national and international expert on Copyright and Information Policy, Owen is Chair of the Copyright Committee of the Canadian Federation of Library Associations, a board member of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Accessible Book Consortium, governing board member of the International Federation of Library Associations, and a member of the Policy Committee of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries.

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