About us

This research cluster is led by co-PIs Ganaele Langlois (LAPS, Communication & Media Studies) and Patricio Dávila (AMPD, Cinema & Media Arts). Langlois is Associate Director of the Infoscape Centre for the Study of Social Media. Her research focuses on media theory, critical theory, and the shaping of subjectivity and agency via media technologies. Dávila is co-Director of the Public Visualization Lab and core member of VISTA. His research and practice focus on the politics and aesthetics of participation in the visualization of spatial issues and on investigating data visualization practices as assemblages of subjectivation and power.

We have formed a large interdisciplinary network of faculty members for this from a range of areas at York University including Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD), LAPS, Education, Lassonde, Health, Science, Glendon, and EUC. There are multiple threads that connect researchers across this cluster. Our aim is to strengthen existing connections and foster new ones based on shared concerns, technologies, and methodologies. A strong area is media making, which uses digital tools for immersion and expression; examples include Caitlin Fisher’s (AMPD) recently funded work in AI and storytelling, as well as for justice-focused media making as demonstrated in Brenda Longfellow’s (AMPD) work in interactive documentary, and John Greyson’s (AMPD) work in queer community-based media and documentary. Several researchers focus on the ways participation is framed and conceived in critical issues in disability, gender, race — Mary Bunch (AMPD) works on queer, critical disability and decolonial political ethics and visualization in virtual worldmaking, XR and crip technoscience, and Alison Harvey (Glendon) works on issues of inclusivity, justice, and accessibility in digital culture, emphasizing games, social media platforms, and creative work through community-engaged action research. Shital Desai’s (AMPD) work investigates inclusive design solutions and participatory human-centred methods for assistive adaptive technologies for children, older adults, and persons with cognitive impairments.

How youth make use of digital tools for communication, sharing, and community is part of the work done by Desirée de Jesus (LAPS) in video essays, curation exploring the intersections of race, gender, aesthetics, youth, and technology in narrative film and media. It is also a focus of Gabrielle Moser’s (Education) work on the biopolitics of digital imaging and youth, and Natalie Coulter’s (LAPS, IRDL) work on youth, gender, and digital literacies. These areas find resonance with Archer Pechawis’s (AMPD) work teaching youth in merging traditional knowledge with new media objects, his work in creating performances, experiences, and installation, and developing Indigenous protocols for AI.

Social media platforms also constitute a large part of how communities are forming and sharing information, as well as being monetized, surveilled, and marginalized. Researcher Rianka Singh (Markham) will continue to work on developing Platform Feminism as a framework to understand how material media platforms amplify or invisibilize voices. Kelly Bergstrom’s (Markham) work investigates ‘non-participation’ — who is not “counted” because they don’t engage in a way that is legible to larger extractive data structures. Yan Shvartzshnaider’s (Lassonde) work develops contextual integrity-based methods for analyzing privacy norms in online communities. Digital sharing in communities is also the focus of Amanda De Lisio’s (Health) work on health, safety, and social media tactics by marginalized communities and informal workers. Ganaele Langlois’s (LAPS) work critically engages with digital media and subjectivity, highlighting structural violence and inequalities in the social media ecosystem and uncovering the long history of digital technologies in non-western and Indigenous contexts.

Digital performance and environmental justice form part of Ian Garrett’s (AMPD) work that integrates performance, ecology, technology, and scenography, while Laura Levin’s (AMPD) work uses transborder digital performance as a unique method for addressing humanitarian and ecological challenges shared by multiple communities across the Americas through research-creation. How sensing and evidence collection processes can inform justice-focused work and health frame both Joel Ong’s (AMPD, Sensorium) work that looks at citizen science and digital literacy around environmental monitoring, interspecies communication with a focus on the hyperlocal, as well as Helene Mialet’s (Science) work on human and non-human collaboration for data-gathering processes. This also connects with Vera Pavri’s (Science) work on new pedagogical practices in science education, policymaking, and the process of creating a new graduate certificate in Science and Technology Studies (STS) at Markham for training new researchers.

Digital justice also forms part of how diasporic communities continue to imagine themselves through a variety of media and cultural productions. Casey Mecija’s (LAPS) work on ‘queer sound’ made in and beyond the Filipinx diaspora and Marissa Largo’s (Markham) work on diasporic communities, Filipinx art, and research-creation tie these threads together. Digital media is also more important than ever for communities to maintain histories of resistance and of place. Janine Marchessault’s (AMPD) focuses on this through her work in the creation of counter-archives by and for marginalized communities. Shirley Roburn (LAPS) investigates this through her work in environmental media, community-media, and Indigenous media.

Representation of issues in spatial justice that deals with the movement of people and borders informs the work of Michael Darroch (AMPD) who investigates spatial issues, migration, and borderlands, as well as Taien Ng-Chan’s (AMPD) work in urban counter-mapping and XR storytelling. The use of digital tools in public space concerns Patricio Davila’s (AMPD) work in critical data visualization practice and public interactive installation, as well as James Elder’s (Lassonde) work in AI, computer vision, automated observation, and anonymization.

Part of a digital justice framework is also attending to the non-digital forms of relations, gathering, organizing, sharing, and learning. These dimensions are sometimes the result of choice to provide space and experiences that are slower, more meaningful, and tied to land like in Lisa Myers’s (EUC) work in curation, and traditional cultures of food and environment. Other times, it is a result of poor access that may further division — Rebecca Caines (Markham) undertakes this work in the use of socially-responsive technologies within social-justice driven art projects that address digital divides and accessibility, including recent multi-agency funded work on immersive audio art and strengths-based responses to sensory difference and neurodivergence.

Our team also strongly represents key equity priorities in its composition, specifically of equity-seeking groups identified in York University’s EDI Action Plan. As part of the team’s focus on Digital Justice, equity as one form of justice in an academic context already figures prominently in their research and activities. The research cluster team includes 11 early-career faculty members who will benefit from a range of opportunities for sharing peers and established faculty members. Additionally, four faculty members from our team (Marissa Largo, Rebecca Caines, Rianka Singh, Kelly Bergstrom) are also new Markham hires and will facilitate the cluster’s ability to engage the community in the new campus, particularly through the Digital Cultures cluster at the Markham campus.