Friday, May 24, 2024

Shadowcasting at Wiky High

Following an inspiring visit in October to Wiikwemkoong High School on Manitoulin Island, I was delighted to return last week for a five-day Shadowpox workshop.

Wiikwemkoong (formerly Wikwemikong) High School flies with the eagles

A dramatic entrance

Teacher Natalie Parrington's brilliant grade 12 English class welcomed Debajehmujig Storytellers directors Joahnna Berti and Bruce Naokwegijig, along with arts animators Daniel Recollet-Mejaki, Quinten Kaboni and Tyler Pangowish, all of whom have collaborated on previous Shadowpox workshops in 2018 and 2022.

With Joahnna Berti and Natalie Parrington in front of a Shadowpox vocabulary list (a good lesson for me in readability levels!)

We were piloting a new branching narrative, Shadowcasting • Mazinaateshin. "Mazinaateshin" is an Anishinaabemowin word that means both “s/he casts a shadow” and “s/he is on television or in a movie,” and echoes the traditional teachings shared by Debajehmujig Knowledge Keeper David "Sunny" Osawabine that we should have compassion for everything and everyone our shadow falls upon. 

The four-scene cycle of Shadowcasting • Mazinaateshin 

This new version of the participatory story framework Shadowpox: The Cytokine Storm takes the form of a choose your own adventure branching narrative, in order to foreground the theme of choice and the effects our choices can have on our own lives and the lives of those around us.

The new Shadowcasting • Mazinaateshin branching narrative 

Students role-played as volunteers in a Phase 1 vaccine trial in the middle of a shadowpox pandemic (a scenario that required a lot more imaginative heavy lifting in Debaj's first workshop back in 2018!). The school's wonderful IT wizard Rudy Mandamin helped set the students up to use Microsoft Stream to record their in-character video journal entries, which would then be embedded in branching narratives using the open-source software Twine.

On screen: Natalie Parrington using Microsoft Stream

We also got to try out a new augmented reality effect I'm half-seriously thinking of calling a "projectro-glyph" (a petroglyph projected on the body). This attenuated vaccine shadowpox glyph was coded in 8th Wall by Shadowpox technical director Lalaine Ulit-Destajo, with the support of the Immersive Storytelling Lab and a Canada Council Digital Greenhouse Grant. Check it out yourself on 8th Wall!

8th Wall augmented reality "projectroglyph" effect by Lalaine Ulit-Destajo
Modeling the new augmented reality Shadowpox effect

Debaj animators Tyler Pangowish and an augmented Quinten Kaboni 

Gchi miigwech, huge thanks, to our hosts at Wiky High and the directors and animators at Debajehmujig, but especially to our multi-talented student workshop participants. I can't wait to see what they do next with all their creativity, intelligence and insight!

I'm also thrilled that Joahnna Berti and I ended the week in discussions with Natalie Parrington and science and technology teacher Chris Mara around a new project for next year, using "citizen science fiction" to explore the energy transition. Stay tuned...

Baa-maa-pii to the electrifying Wikwemikong Warriors!

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Gold Egg

Once when I was in elementary school and my dad came home from parent-teacher interviews, I asked what they had discussed. "They said you're a good egg," was all he would tell me.

He passed away a few years ago, but his lesson in humility about academic accomplishments bubbled back up in my memory this week.

York University’s Faculty of Graduate Studies has awarded six graduates with 2024 Thesis and Dissertation Prizes "for outstanding contributions to the local and global community." 

I'm deeply honoured to be one of them, and thrilled that a fellow member of the Cinema and Media Arts (CMA) department, Pooya Badkoobeh, also won a Thesis Prize for his MFA film “Based on a True Story.” 

Congrats to all the grads, and thanks to the Faculty of Graduate Studies awards committee, my doctoral supervisor Caitlin Fisher, graduate program director Mike Zryd, and the whole department for being such a brilliant place to do research-creation. 

It's more fun to be a good egg when you're in such good company. CMA FTW!


Update, June 12

I absolutely did not expect this, given that two of the three GG’s last year went to Cinema and Media Arts grads Lawrence Garcia and Aaron Tucker, but here we are!

Governor General Mary Simon said of her coat of arms, which are emblazoned on the current medals and are pure visual poetry: "This coat of arms is my story, my true history, and it speaks of my lifelong commitment to bridge-building and family, and of my hopes for a future where we respect and share each other's stories to help foster better relationships between peoples." 

An inspiration to treasure.