Speaker Series

2017-2018 Schedule

The Sherman Centre is pleased to host leading scholars, practitioners, and artists whose work intersects  digital scholarship.

Thursday October 19, 2017 / 3:30-5:00 

Co-creation in Place: Participation, Energy, and the (un)Settled Politics of Work

Maria Michails, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Maria Michails works across disciplines in the arts, engineering, science and social sciences to produce projects that draw on scientific ideas and emerging technologies. She is interested in developing diverse modes of participation for the co-production of knowledge-making tools that could re-imagine civic engagement with environmental issues. Taking consumer behaviour, labour, and ecological crisis as the entry points of inquiry, her gallery-based works have recently spawned a new direction toward a critically-engaged eco-social practice, where her focus has shifted to engaging communities in co-creative processes to tackle localized environmental problems. Her current (PhD) research centers on methods that integrate citizen science, critical-making, and ethnography – embedding oral histories with interactive mapping, environmental sensing and performance, as tactics for knowledge-production and sleuthing activism to affect policy decision-making. Addressing these themes, concerns and methodologies, Michails will discuss several works including S.OIL, a human-powered installation that communicates the connection between energy and food production; AirTRACS an art-science community air quality sensing project created with youth in an environmental justice community; and a new archiving and documentation project titled The Orphans with Saskatchewan farmers who are left with abandoned oil wells without much recourse for cleanup.


Maria Michails is a Canadian cross-disciplinary artist and writer. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group shows throughout North America and Europe, including New York Hall of Science, NYC; Urban Institute of Contemporary Art, Grand Rapids, MI; Central Michigan University; Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba; Rockland Center for the Arts, NY; Charleston Heights Art Center, Las Vegas; IMAGES Festival, Toronto; and the Centre d’Art Contemporain de Basse Normandie, France, to name a few. Grants and fellowships in support of her projects include the Canada Council for the Arts; Heritage Canada; Conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebec; and the New York State Artists Workspace Consortium. Recent residencies include BRiC at Banff Centre; Eyebeam Art + Technology Center, NYC; Sculpture Space, Utica, NY; the Santa Fe Art Institute, and in 2012-13 she was the Barstow Artist-in-Residence at Central Michigan University where she also developed and taught a special topics course, Art, Ecology & Culture. Her recent publications include a survey chapter in Media Art and the Urban Environment – Engendering Public Engagement with Urban Ecology (Springer-Verlag); “Mining Data, Making Art” in Digital Creativity; and an upcoming essay in Transformations – Journal of Media, Culture and Technology. Michails’ work has been written about in local and national press and recently featured on the Scientific American blog. She earned an MFA in Intermedia from Arizona State University and a BFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Concordia University, Montreal. She is currently a Doctoral dual-fellowship recipient (SSHRC and HASS) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY.

Ezra Prentice Earthweek Event, Maria Michails

Thursday January 16th, 2018 / 2:00-3:00 

Radical Transparency, Representing the Material Digitally, and the Database as a Methodological Model

Matthew Evan Davis, Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship

Traditionally, databases have been seen as a repository for scholarship—a place to store information for later retrieval. This only taps into part of the potential of the potential of databases, however. Carefully constructed and articulated databases serve not only to store information, but are an aid to critical thinking that identify points of tension, clarify what seems muddled, and allow the examination of textual cruces. Moreover, thinking about the database in terms beyond the repository belies a falsehood that has become a societal truism: that data is itself objective.

Popularly thought to be free of bias and thus a window to objective “truth,” this bias can be seen in phrases like “the wisdom of crowds.” In reality, however, the “thing”-ness of the material object is never completely captured, understood, or explained. A version of that thing, mediated by the tools, ideas, and experiences of both the researcher and viewer is instead inscribed and read from whatever medium is used. By putting such moments of mediation foremost in the mind of the scholar, databases serve to prevent the text reverting into a black box, receiving input and generating output, but in a way that cannot be understood or articulated.

Beginning with an examination of Davis’ work with medieval and early Tudor written and performed texts—specifically the Chantry chapel at Holy Trinity, Long Melford, the parish registers “Baldwyne” and “Herveye,” and the fifteenth-century poems of John Lydgate—this first part of a two-part talk will explore what the process of mediation the database brings to the relationship between these works reveals for larger questions surrounding the role of the laity in late medieval and early Tudor religious culture.

Tuesday, April 17 / 1:30-4:00

Hot Tips To Boost Your Interdisciplinary Web Archive Collaboration!

Nick Ruest, York University

Web archives are intimidating. You’re dealing with size and scale issues, wild formats from the live web, and just a massive amount of information to sift through. But, we can’t hide our heads in the sand, and ignore it. This is our cultural heritage, and we need to make sense of it. You definitely don’t want to tackle this alone, and the good news is that has been a lot of work done already, and there are a lot of great people working here. Nick Ruest will discuss the research and tools he is working on with an interdisciplinary team of collaborators from fields as varied as history, political science, sociology, and computer science to help make sense of it all.

Nick Ruest is the Digital Assets Librarian at York University, co-Principal Investigator of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funded The Archives Unleashed Project, co-Principal Investigator of the SSHRC grant “A Longitudinal Analysis of the Canadian World Wide Web as a Historical Resource, 1996-2014”, and co-Principal Investigator of the Compute Canada Research Platforms and Portals Web Archives for Longitudinal Knowledge.

At York University, he oversees the development of data curation, asset management and preservation initiatives, along with creating and implementing systems that support the capture, description, delivery, and preservation of digital objects having significant content of enduring value. He was previously active in the Islandora and Fedora communities, serving as Project Director for the Islandora CLAW project, member of the Islandora Foundation’s Roadmap Committee and Board of Directors, and contributed code to the project. He has also served as the Release Manager for Islandora and Fedora, the moderator for the OCUL Digital Curation Community, the President of the Ontario Library and Technology Association, and President of McMaster University Academic Librarians’ Association.