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Meet Milieux’s 11 new undergraduate fellows

The students' research projects range from smart textiles embroidery to eSports ethnography
February 7, 2018
By Renée Dunk and Kathryn Jezer-Morton

Six of Milieux's 11 undergraduate fellows. From left: Dion Smith-Dokkie, Ryth Kesselring, Kieran Airey-Lee, Ben Compton, Abbie Rappaport and Michael Li. Six of Milieux's 11 undergraduate fellows. From left: Dion Smith-Dokkie, Ryth Kesselring, Kieran Airey-Lee, Ben Compton, Abbie Rappaport and Michael Li. | Photos by Concordia University

New funding and support through Concordia’s Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology is empowering 11 undergraduate students to answer unique research questions.

Each covers vastly different territory, from experimenting with new and old textiles, to drawing connections between science fiction and Indigenous thought, to conducting a preliminary ethnographic study of Super Smash Bros. Melee players.

The fellows were nominated by Milieux-affiliated faculty members. The goal of the initiative is to offer a unique opportunity for students who aim to pursue graduate studies.

“Our new fellowship program is a transformative experience for undergraduates to be immersed in a research setting with leading scholars and artists,” says Bart Simon, director of Milieux and associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

Each fellow received $500 in funding plus institutional membership privileges. Their appointments began in October and run until the end of August. They’re expected to engage in a substantive research or research-creation project linked to one of the institute’s eight clusters. 

Kieran Airey-Lee

Kieran Airey-Lee, English

My research examines the means by which MMORPGs — massively multiplayer online role-playing games — retain players. In my work, I focus on the various strategies implemented by studios. What are the pros and cons of each strategy in the long term, and how can they be improved?

Under the supervision of Darren Wershler, associate professor of English in the Faculty of Arts and Science, I am conducting research on softmodding Wii video game consoles to emulate older consoles in the Residual Media Depot and Media History cluster. “Softmodding” is a method of using software to modify the intended behaviour of hardware.

Abbie Rappaport

Abbie Rappaport, Studio Arts

My research goal is to begin an ethnography of the competitive eSports community that plays Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Melee. My work will include interviews, first-hand documentation, sketches and portraits of players to incorporate my fine arts background. This research will encompass the community’s cultural processes, tacit knowledge and semiotics.

Being affiliated with Milieux’s Media History cluster has exposed me to a passionate, hardworking and welcoming community that I feel excited to be a part of and work within.

Alejandro Barbosa

Alejandro Barbosa, Studio Arts

My research focuses on the experience of looking at the planet. I aim to articulate an installation project that stresses the definition of mediation in relation to race, gender, privilege and the status of global peripheral identities.

Milieux provides me with the opportunity to push my ideas much further. The collaborative culture at the institute not only heightens my academic experience, it also enriches my critical thought through social exchange. Being a fellow at Milieux, and affiliated with the Post Image cluster, during my final year of studies is an invaluable experience that will fully prepare me to take my first steps in the professional art world. 

Simon-Albert Boudreault

Simon-Albert Boudreault, Design and Computation Arts

I make video games that might not be video games, for people who do not play video games, which is simpler than it sounds. I also organize events centred around the local experimental scene so that artists, hobbyists and other solo developers can find a place to enjoy and discuss weird games.

I entered academia with a cynical and somewhat jaded attitude, but I quickly had to change my mind. After only a year with Milieux’s Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) cluster, as well as with Obx lab, I’ve been able to travel the world to teach and give conference presentations, as well as participate in numerous research-creation projects that empowered me in ways I never would have expected.

Charline Lemieux

Charline Lemieux, Studio Arts

To have access to the workshop and facilities that Milieux and the Textiles and Materiality cluster offer is truly a great opportunity. It makes me want to pursue, investigate and do more research on what I am passionate about: textiles.

When doing projects, I like to integrate opposition. This could mean mixing natural materials with synthetic, or using advanced technologies like laser cutting alongside old techniques like basketry. With the help of new technology, fibres are expanding into a new realm of innovation. 

Ben Compton, Studio Arts

My research as part of lePARC, Milieux’s performing arts cluster, explores the use of live video in performance. I’m interested in how this format can help us understand the body, space, contemporary media, and liveness.

Getting connected to a community of artists and researchers has been very motivating. It is the first time that my own self-directed projects have been placed on the same plane as the work of full-time professionals. It is exciting to be surrounded by so many people who are passionate about what they do. Having access to Milieux space as part of the fellowship program has also made a big difference.


Owen Coolidge, Design and Computation Arts / Computer Science and Software Engineering

A member of the Speculative Life cluster, I make computationally-intelligent objects that think critically about the world around them and exhibit this ‘thought’ using abstract expressions. The non-symbolic quality of this communication starkly contrasts common methods of human-computer interaction and motivates us to think more deeply about what it means to be intelligent.

The Milieux undergraduate fellowship has helped me elevate the quality and complexity of my studies by connecting me with other students and professors whose research I am genuinely interested in.

Ryth Kesselring, Studio Arts

As a member of Studio subTela, affiliated with the Textiles and Materiality cluster, I work on electronics and embroidery for smart textiles. My personal research is about how textiles perform as living archives and how acoustic inputs influence our understanding of their materiality.

I explore the schematics of remembrance by using sonic elements and rhythms of craftsmanship as imprints of the textile memories, weaving processes into the textile object by creating a soundscape from the fibrous structure and the repetition of the manual actions that created it.  

Michael Li, English

My research is in Japanese popular culture, from its production to the impact it’s had on targeted audiences and mainstream media. My current project uses a community-built animation program to create music videos for VOCALOID, a singing voice synthesizer that spawned a multimedia phenomenon.

Milieux’s Technoculture, Art and Games cluster has become an important part of my undergraduate experience as it allows me to work on things related to my interests outside of my studies. It’s also given me the opportunity to work on things not normally seen in academia, especially when it comes to Japanese culture. 

Dion Smith-Dokkie, Studio Arts

By exploring the science fiction canon and contemporary Indigenous thought on gender, technology and the future, the goal of my work is to create an intellectual basis through which I can speculate on the effects of extractive resource development in northeastern British Columbia.

Milieux’s undergraduate fellowship program supports my self-directed bridging of the areas of Indigenous art and ways of knowing. It also helps me to be in a community with brilliant scholars and artists who share my interests and politics, especially those in the Indigenous Futures cluster.

Clara Lacasse, Studio Arts

Located in a critical consideration of the image as an instrument of power, my work examines the functions and ubiquity of images today, with a particular interest in their contribution and framing of knowledge, imagination, ideology and history. By exploring the contemporary cultural industry and visual culture, in collaboration with the members of the Post Image cluster, I’m questioning the rhetorical effects images have on the act of looking. 


Learn more about Concordia’s Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology.



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