Dr Selina Mudavanhu, part of the Pulse Lab and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia recently received a two-year award of just over $100,000 from Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer (ONCAT) for a project that explores the experiences of Black college-to-university transfer students at McMaster University using in-depth interviews and digital storytelling. This project is specifically interested in understanding the students’ experiences of transferring and settling into their new institutions. The project recommends ways of making the transfer process more seamless for these students as well as ways universities can develop supportive and inclusive environments.

Dr Selina Mudavanhu, part of the Pulse Lab and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia recently received a two-year award of just over $100,000 from Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer (ONCAT) for a project that explores the experiences of Black college-to-university transfer students at McMaster University using in-depth interviews and digital storytelling. This project is specifically interested in understanding the students’ experiences of transferring and settling into their new institutions. The project recommends ways of making the transfer process more seamless for these students as well as ways universities can develop supportive and inclusive environments.

Research shows that women, particularly BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of colour), queer and transgender women, are strikingly underrepresented in internet, technology, communication, media (ICT/M), and educational spaces. Rates of women in ICT/M spaces peaked in the 80s. But these numbers have plummeted globally and in Canada in the 21st century. Also, women are particularly underrepresented in leadership roles — only 10% of senior tech managers in Canada are women. How does it continue today amidst a cultural movement to remedy systematic gender and race-based discrimination? Read more

Pulse Lab researcher and Media Arts professor Dr. David Harris Smith has published a new article reflecting his interdisciplinary research in synthetic phenomenology. The article presents a formal dialogue with his collaborator Dr. Guido Schillaci, on the theoretical issues arising from the development of artificial consciousness in robots:

Why Build a Robot with Artificial Consciousness? How to Begin? A Cross-disciplinary Dialogue on the Design and Implementation of a Synthetic Model of Consciousness, by David Harris Smith, Guido Schillaci, published in Frontiers in Psychology, section Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology.

To view the online publication, please click here


This article is an open access publication accessible to readers anywhere in the world

Dr. Paula Gardner and Jessica Rauchberg presented their co-authored paper at the 2021 International Communication Association (ICA) conference. The paper, titled, “Co-Design as Care: Toward a Crip and Feminist Approach to Human-Machine Communication in the Age of COVID-19,” was accepted for presentation in the Human-Machine Communication Interest Group. In the paper, Rauchberg and Gardner highlight late-breaking feminist and crip approaches to aging and technology research by bringing in a posthuman perspective. The presentation demonstrates this expansion of critical HMC and HCI studies by detailing the creation of the ABLE Family platform in response to COVID-19

This March, the ABLE team had the opportunity to present at the MIRA Meet My Method Networking Event, an event designed to showcase the projects funded by the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging (MIRA). We networked with other members and presented on the progress and changes made developing ABLE family. Also, we shared the next steps in our development process.

Pulse lab stands in solidarity with protestors around the globe and Black Lives Matters condemning the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others. Together we must confront the historic legacies of white supremacy, colonialism and imperialism that feed anti-black racism, and police brutality, fostering hate, injustice, intolerance and insecurity for black folks in Canada, North America and beyond. We recognize that Black folks often experience inadequate access to economic, educational, housing and health resources and are disparately impacted by the current global pandemic.  We stand together, as well, in confronting racial prejudices that create intolerance, insecurity and injustice for all People of Colour (POC).  

We at Pulse Lab pledge to speak out plainly when we witness anti-black and POC racism; to continue our commitments to lateral power sharing in collaborations with black folks and POC; to continue to acquire training in and to employ anti-oppressive and anti-colonial frameworks in our research; to work collaboratively to create technology solutions driven by those with lived experience and enriched by our differences.  We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matters and POC organizations in working for both structural and social change, confronting anti-black and POC racism at McMaster university, in the academic world, in our research, and as neighbours, friends and fellow citizens. 

A demonstration of the MetaMotion R+ Bluetooth wearable sensor by MbientLab controlling an audio visual interactive application created by Pulse Lab.

The ABLE Music platform is a co-creation project in collaboration with older adults with dementia and their caregivers, to provide unique pair or group interactions and intergenerational play by transforming movement into art experiences (digital painting and musical creation) in order to enhance well-ness (physical, mood, cognitive).

The ABLE Music platform advances current research on dementia that tends to, a) not be interactive, b) not exploit digital tools, and c) doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity to engage families and caregivers, reduce their stress, and restore identity, dignity and relationships. These advancements are built on research that demonstrates the benefits of: bright colour palettes’ ability to stimulate older adults with dementia, music and painting experiences that reflect the memories and preferences of older adults, and intergenerational gaming that will allow younger children and adults to teach older adults digital gaming skills.

Art combined with movement has a synergistic effect – it has the power to enhance mood, physical health and cognition. Reducing depression makes us less susceptible to cognitive & memory impairment, due to depression ageing the brain. Arts-based and Montessori- based approaches increase communication, episodic memory, and relationships between People with Dementia (PwD) and their family members and caregivers. Crip approaches to design can help researchers center PwD and caregiver perspectives in treatment plans, in addition to rethinking how power can influence the research process.

The ABLE Music platform will connect to a computer using an MbientLab MetaMotion R+ wearable sensor. The sensor will connect via Bluetooth (BLE) to the host computer to translate the user’s gestures into motion-based sound and art on the screen. The user can clip on the sensor, housed in a silicone case, to their sleeve, a glove or wear it like a watch. The user can then move their hand or extremity that the sensor is attached to in 3D space to create art and music in an application on the host computer.

Machine learning algorithms will aid in the recognition of gestures made by the user. This can aid in recognizing patterns that can help improve the enjoyability of the interaction and aid in the recalling of memories for the user and their caregivers.

MbientLab MetaMotion R+ wearable sensor
MbientLab MetaMotion R+ wearable sensor wristband

Future research to be conducted between Pulse Lab and older adults is the application of wireless gesture based control to art, gaming and music based applications. Our initial research is designing a paint by numbers style art experience that can be based on photographs from the users’ own collection and music that is augmented by the users’ progress in completing the art work.

The paint-by-numbers experience is fully digital. The users input with a wearable sensor controls the paint brush in order to complete the composition, filling in each cell of colour as they move the sensor around.

The beginning of a paint-by-numbers experience.
The finished fully painted art work.

At McMaster, we are devoted to the cultivation of human potential. We are committed to taking a collaborative approach to improving people’s lives, contributing to global knowledge and advancing the health and well-being of the world around us.

One of the ways we fulfil this commitment is by pioneering groundbreaking research in fields ranging from health care to business, arts and culture to advanced manufacturing.

Brighter World Blog

The ABLE (Arts Based Therapies Enabling Longevity for Geriatric Outpatients) project led by Paula Gardner, Asper Chair in Communications and Associate Professor in the CMST department has been featured on McMaster University’s Brighter World Blog.

The ABLE project includes researchers from health care, computer science, engineering, and communication and multimedia, ranging from undergrads and graduates, up to full professors.

Stephen Surlin (left), Adekunle Akinyemi (centre) and Caitlin McArthur test out the ABLE device. Photo by JD Howell.

ABLE is a digital platform that older adults or their caregivers can use for either rehabilitation exercises or free-flowing dance movement. People who use ABLE can create a piece of music, paint a digital picture or play a game by waving their hands, dancing or making similar movements. It’s similar to Xbox Kinect or Nintendo Wii games, except that the result is arts-based, rather than a hole-in-one or knocking all the bowling pins down.

ABLE is also a lot more than just technology, explains the project’s lead investigator and Asper Chair in Communications, Paula Gardner.

“We’re also trying to understand the relationship between aesthetic or art practice and movement, and what types of art engagements might incentivize older adults to engage in movement or mobility,” she explains.

“Some research suggests that, neurologically or affectively, something happens when you engage in visual or multi-sensorial experiences – that it triggers desire and interest and allows you to engage more freely and intuitively.”

Brighter World, McMaster University, 2019
Internet café in Accra, Ghana. Cafés are populated almost entirely by men and boys, and some do not allow females to enter. For context, see ‘Give a Laptop, Change the World: The Story of the OLPC in Ghana’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfVrTSq_iKc. Photo by H. Leslie Steeves.

The Ada: Journal of Gender, New Media and Technology has released its publication of Ada Special Issue (No. 16): Emerging Gender, Media and Technology Scholarship in Africa, co-edited by Paula Gardner, Audrey Gadzekpo and Leslie Steeves. Ada is an open access journal.

Dr. Paula Gardner has a co-authored article in this special issue titled, Emerging Gender, Media and Technology Scholarship in Africa: Opportunities and Conundrums in African Women’s Navigating Digital Media. The article is co-authored with Audrey Gadzekpo and H. Leslie Steeves.

Over the past decade and earlier, much of the academic and grey literature has painted an optimistic picture of rapidly increasing access and growth of digital technologies in Africa. Industry statistics put internet penetration in Africa close to 40 percent and growing, even though the continent still lags behind the world average of Internet users (Internet World Statistics, June 2019). Some estimates predict that by 2025 the sub-continent will add 167 million mobile subscribers to its existing 456 million (GSMA Report, 2019). Mobile devices, especially, have assumed centrality in the lives of ordinary people and provide prospects for Africa to leapfrog into the modern digital world. Smart phones are enabling millions of Africans to share news and information more easily and to tap into all kinds of essential services, much like elsewhere in the world.

Emerging Gender, Media and Technology Scholarship in Africa: Opportunities and Conundrums in African Women’s Navigating Digital Media by Audrey Gadzekpo, Paula Gardner, H. Leslie Steeves, 2020.

This article is written in association with the Fembot Collective.

The Collective that brings you the Ada journal and the Fembot Collective podcasts. The Fembot Collective was founded in 2009 at the University of Oregon. The Collective’s intent was to create an open access, open source publishing platform for feminist research on gender, new media, and technology. It launched its journal, Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology in November 2012.

Fembot Collective, 2020