I imagine that the GRAND network and PlayPR are strange and unknown beasts to those wandering between the two TAG labs – we work on different PlayPR funded projects – we participate in the monthly Skype meetings – but what is the bigger picture? How do all of the projects and people intersect?
GRAND = Graphics, Animation and New Media Canada
GRAND is a five-year project that was established in 2009. It has a $23-million federal mandate to integrate academic R&D, social and cultural relevance and commercialization for technologies in five “cross-pollinating” themes: new media; games and interactive simulation; animation, graphics and imaging; social, legal, economic and cultural perspectives; and enabling technologies and methodologies. It is federally funded by Industry Canada’s Networks of Centres of Excellence program, which was founded in 1989. Its creation precipitated a significant shift within Canada’s research community, which was designed to break down barriers between disciplines, institutions, and sectors. Professionals from a wide variety of sectors and disciplines were asked to embrace collaboration and to create a multidisciplinary approach to building expertise in areas of strategic importance. GRAND is currently the main new media focused NCE and it supports 34 research projects divided into 5 cross-pollinating themes involving researchers at 25 universities across Canada with more than 60 industry, government, and nonprofit partners.
Researchers at Concordia University participate in a number of these research projects and TAG researchers are involved primarily with PlayPR, DIGLT and DIGILAB. Lynn Hughes (Concordia) and Ron Wakkary (SFU) are the project leaders for PlayPR, Cristina Conati (U of BC) and Jennifer Jenson (York) are the project leaders of DIGLT and Sam Trosow (UWO) and Bart Simon (Concordia) are the project leaders of DIGILAB. Other active projects for TAG researchers include AFEVAL, PRIVNM, HDVID and NEWS.
The DIGILAB project spans a number of concerns related to shifting landscapes of digital labour and cultural and social economics. Researchers in this project study IP and labour policy, independent game development, changes in the regimes of publishing and other forms of cultural production and the growing economic and cultural significance of user generated content in new media applications. Our focus in this project at TAG was the summer incubator project with Shawn Bell (Dawson college) in 2010. GRAND funding supported Stephanie Bouchard’s and Katian Witchger’s involvement with the incubator as well as a visiting student, Owen Livermore (UWO) in 2010-2011. Will Robinson and Bart Simon have also been working on a project on creativity, conceptions of labour and player generated content in Little Big Planet (Media Molecule) as part of this project.
The focus for DIGLT is to bring together an interdisciplinary team of researchers to develop formal knowledge and methods for the design and evaluation of games and learning technologies. Researchers within this project include Robert Biddle, Edward Lank, Lynn Hughes, Ron Wakkary, Alissa Antle, and Bill Kapralos. Three of our students – Carolyn Jong, Salvador Garcia, and Leif Penzendorfer are working under the DIGLT project umbrella. Recently Carolyn Jong and Salvador Garcia wrote a paper called “A Systematic Review on the Potential of Motion-Based Gaming for Learning”, which is published on the DIGLT site.
PlayPR, which has been the project I have been leading, is a little bit bigger than DIGLT and is focused on the relationship between performance and content in digital media. Researches under this project umbrella are attempting to integrate the analysis, evaluation and design of cultural and entertainment applications with the development of interfaces for play, performance, and storytelling. Research/creation occurs along three axes: spatial play, gestural play and vocal/audio play. PlayPR is composed of researchers from different universities across Canada – SFU, U of Alberta, Carlton, OCAD, and Concordia. From the site you will see that all of the research groups are actively pursuing unique and individual research projects under PlayPR in general. Aside from the individual research directions of each group, we collectively have spent a lot of time to find ways to develop relationships and potentially collaborate with people remotely. The first collaborative project was the development of the PlayPR web site. Together I worked with student representatives from the different universities – Audrey Desjardins (SFU), Shannon Lucky(UofA), and Symon Oliver(OCAD) as well as Max Stein – our web programmer. We also held a cross-Canada Logo design competition to find the look of the PlayPR site, and the winner was Xiao Zhang, a design student from SFU. We initiated monthly Skype presentations – where people from the different labs presented their projects relating to the PlayPR theme. Check out our blog for videos of past presentations. Finally, we organized the first – of what I hope to be many – student trips between the universities. The idea is that students get the opportunity to travel between the universities in order to find meaningful ways that their research interests intersect with other student’s research. This year Symon Oliver came to Concordia, and got a chance to work with Will Robinson’s team of game creators at the Global Game Jam of 2012 – they even won a prize and Symon’s design skills were highly praised.
Next year, we will continue with the Skype presentations – and we want one student travel per university – we were thinking travel between Alberta and Vancouver, and of course between Toronto and Montreal. This does not preclude the possibility of travel between Montreal and Alberta or Vancouver – but only if there is a strong interest.
The GRAND conference will be held in Montreal next week from May 2 – 4, so would be an excellent time to familiarize yourselves with GRAND and the research projects. We really hope that Concordia/TAG students can use the web site and take a look at what is going on. Perhaps there is an opportunity for you – a way to travel – meet potential collaborators. We really want a chance to find ways to connect people. If you want more information – don’t hesitate to contact me – Jane Tingley and we can explore your options.
Highlights for next year in PlayPR
- Student travel
- More Skype presentations
- Banff meeting of the groups
- Wormhole exploration