WHAT IS IT?
The Critical Media Lab (CML) is a cross-disciplinary, research-creation initiative developed in the English Department at the University of Waterloo. The CML fosters the creation of new media projects that explore the impact of technology on society and the human condition.
The rapid and relentless production of new technologies has outstripped our ability to carefully consider their social, ethical, psychological, and physical implications. This race between high-tech manufacturing and our understanding of its social and personal impacts has been observed by many researchers in the Arts and Social Sciences over the last fifty years. But their efforts, which range from curmudgeonly skepticism to technophilic rhetoric, have had very little impact on the ways in which technologies are designed and implemented. The primary reason for this inefficacy is that the critical assessment of new media in the Arts and Social Sciences is often presented in forms (i.e., printed academic articles in specialized journals) that are incongruent with new media culture.
By contrast, the CML serves as a research-creation incubator that links researchers in the Faculty of Arts with the people and tools necessary to apply critically reflective work at the R & D level of technological production. This approach, which challenges the boundaries between art and science, research and artistic practice, will result in the invention of new technologies and media artifacts, dialogue facilitation across disciplines and communities, and policy formation that directly impacts technological design and implementation.
The Critical Media Lab was launched quietly in the fall of 2008, and it currently supports a number of projects funded through various sources including the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
The CML was founded by Marcel O’Gorman, a Professor in the Department of English, who consulted heavily with colleagues in English, Psychology, Fine Arts, and Engineering. Currently, the lab is co-directed by Drs. Beth Coleman and Marcel O’Gorman. The CML is engaged in a generative partnership with CAFKA, THEMUSEUM, and the Research Lab for Virtual Immersive Environments, directed by Professor Colin Ellard . The current lab space is distributed both on and off campus, but the headquarters is currently at 195 King Street in downtown Kitchener. This multipurpose space includes a graduate design lab, biofeedback devices, handheld development tools, physical computing benches, and VR and AR environments. It is also host to visiting artist/researchers, arts and culture events, and community outreach projects established through partnerships with the City of Kitchener and artists and arts groups from the Waterloo Region and beyond.
The CML welcomes proposal for projects from any individual or group with an allegiance to the CML mandate.