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The art of war

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

As Canada commemorates the end of the military mission in Afghanistan, a new exhibition at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (AEAC) explores issues around international conflict and the Canadian Forces’ involvement on the world stage.

Curator Christine Conley leads a tour of Terms of Engagement during the spring launch of exhibitions at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre on April 26.

Terms of Engagement displays works by three artists who participated in the Canadian Forces Artists Program (CFAP). Adrian Stimson, Dick Averns and nichola feldman-kiss deployed to Afghanistan, Sinai and Sudan with the United Nations mission, respectively, from 2009-2011. Unlike previous war art programs that date back to the First World War, the CFAP does not exhibit, purchase or otherwise support artists once their deployment is over.

“Although the exhibition doesn’t directly address the National Day of Honour, works such as Adrian Stimson’s Afghanistan video series can help viewers better understand and contemplate international conflicts,” says Sarah Smith, Curator of Contemporary Art, AEAC. “I believe his work has a critical edge that offers viewers the opportunity to go beyond memorializing and ask questions of Canada’s military involvement in Afghanistan.”

[Dick Averns]Dick Averns, "MFO Canadian Contingent (Corporal Jeremy Duff)," 2009, colour digital print

Christine Conley, a professor at the University of Ottawa, curated the exhibition that was organized by the AEAC in partnership with the Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery in Halifax and the Esker Foundation in Calgary. Ms. Conley says the independence of the artists allows them to explore the politics of military intervention.

At the same time, the artists relied on the Canadian Forces’ hospitality, protection and social networks in order to access the war zones. The result is ambivalence in the works, according to Ms. Smith, most notably in pieces by Dick Averns, who was hosted by the Multinational Force and Observers (North Base, Sinai), an international peacekeeping force.

“In the 20 photographs that make up the 2009 work “Canadian MFO Contingent,” you can see Mr. Averns really engaged the soldiers who are sitting for those portraits,” Ms. Smith says. “The exhibition offers, I believe, an important duality of both honouring the troops but also reflecting on the recent history of Canadian military engagement abroad.”

The exhibition continues until Aug. 10. The Terms of Engagement website also contains videos of the artists speaking about their work and their CFAP experience. The AEAC has two tablets that patrons can use to view the videos when they are walking through the exhibition. Ms. Smith will lead a free tour of the exhibition on May 29 from 12:15-1 pm. There will also be a public discussion on peacekeeping and Canada’s military at the gallery on June 8 from 2-3:15 pm. This event will feature Major Brent Beardsley in conversation with Jamie Swift.
 

PhD student embraces 'activist scholar' role

By Dominique Delmas, Communications Intern

Krystle Maki believes her research into welfare surveillance in Ontario can make a difference in the world beyond the walls of academia.

“I have this vision of positive social change,” says Ms. Maki, a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology. “There’s stigmatization on so many different fronts, and my research is intended to dismantle stereotypes. I also want to shed light on the labour conditions social assistance case workers often face and the single mothers within the system who are so often silenced.”

Krystle Maki, a Vanier Scholar, is nearing the end of her doctorate work investigating the ways welfare surveillance in the Ontario Works program impacts social assistance recipients, service providers and community advocacy groups.

Ms. Maki, who is nearing the end of doctorate work, is investigating the ways in which welfare surveillance in the Ontario Works program impacts social assistance recipients, service providers and community advocacy groups. She has used the support from the prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship she received in 2011 to conduct 35 in-depth interviews across Ontario with single mothers on social assistance, case workers, frontline workers and antipoverty advocates.

“After sitting with single mothers who shared with me their trauma, violence, abuse and poverty, I would just leave the interviews shell-shocked. Their powerful stories speak to why I do the work I do,” she says.

Her experience with poverty has driven her to get involved in the Kingston community. Currently, Ms. Maki sits on the board for the Kingston Interval House, a service for women and their children who have been victimized by violence. In the past, she has volunteered for the Elizabeth Fry Society, investigated human rights violations in penitentiaries for women, helped organize Kingston international women’s week activities and was a co-organizer of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) funded Instigate 2010 anti-poverty conference.

Ms. Maki came to Queen’s for her Master’s degree in 2007 after completing her undergraduate studies at Trent University in Women’s Studies and Sociology. She was drawn to the Sociology graduate program at Queen’s because of feminist legal scholar Laureen Snider (Professor Emerita, Sociology), who first introduced Ms. Maki to the field of surveillance studies.

After sitting with single mothers who shared with me their trauma, violence, abuse and poverty, I would just leave the interviews shell-shocked. Their powerful stories speak to why I do the work I do.

PhD candidate Krystle Maki

She chose to stay at Queen’s following her Master’s degree to pursue her doctorate studies under the supervision of Margaret Little (Gender Studies/Political Studies) and Catherine Krull (Sociology/Cultural Studies).

“Dr. Little’s work as an anti-poverty activist and academic was essential in transforming me into the activist scholar I am today. I was being offered the chance to work with my idol,” she says. “Dr. Krull has also been a huge inspiration. I’m lucky to have the chance to work with people whose work I really admire and respect.”

Ms. Maki looks forward to teaching ‘Advanced Studies in Gender’ in the Sociology Department in the 2015 winter term. Her future ambitions include raising awareness on social justice issues and developing community resources for low-income populations.

“We often forget that poverty is an incredibly isolating experience. I plan on continuing to participate in academic and non-academic workshops and seminars. Knowledge is power and that’s what my research is about: giving knowledge back to the people who have to use these services.”
 

Combat soundtrack

Dr. Kip Pegley.

In early April the Canadian Opera Company (COC) opened its production of Hercules. The play — written in 500 BC and adapted by George Frideric Handel in 1745 — tells the story of a soldier’s struggles after returning home from war. Kip Pegley (School of Music) was invited to an advance performance of Hercules and gave a talk about war veterans, music and rehabilitation at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs as part of a symposium organized by the COC and the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto.

Dr. Pegley sat down with Rosie Hales, Communications Officer, to discuss her research into music as a rehabilitation technique for war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how she hopes her research will help soldiers and veterans in the future.

Rosie Hales: Your research centres on music and veteran health. Why did you decide to choose this as a research focus?

Kip Pegley: I believe that the research we choose to undertake says a lot about us. For example, my father was a Korean War veteran and served in the Canadian Navy for 35 years. He was an emotionally reserved man; to learn more about him, I joined the Naval Reserves as a teenager. However, as I got older I realized that the best way to know him was through music – it was the one place he really opened up emotionally. Music was entwined with his sense of duty and his career in the Navy.

Since 2002, when Canada officially deployed our military to Afghanistan, I’ve been interested in learning more about what music means to this generation of soldiers. With so many soldiers returning with PTSD, I was also curious to seek out ways that music might help them while they are deployed as well as in post-deployment.

RH: How has the role of music for deployed soldiers changed since your father’s work in the Navy?

KP: When my father was deployed he was listening to big band and other music that was played over the radio with his fellow soldiers. Now, soldiers use different technologies, like iPods and CDs, to pump music through the tanks or listen in their bunks alone at night. For my father, music was more of a shared event but soldiers today have the option to make it a more personalized and individual experience.

RH: So, what kind of music do soldiers listen to when they’re going into war?

KP: The music soldiers blare in the tanks when they’re going into combat isn’t the music you might initially suspect: Popular culture today is saturated with “militainment,” a genre that conflates entertainment with war. Watching “militainment” movies or playing video games like Call of Duty or American Army might make us believe that soldiers listen to heavy metal and rap music to get them pumped up for combat. It might surprise some to know that a Canadian veteran I interviewed was going into combat in a tank with 10 other men singing along to Deep Blue Something’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” The female tank driver, meanwhile, listened to hymns her grandmother sang to her as a child through her iPod headphones. This same female tank driver used music as a way to bond with the women living in her barracks – she played the Dirty Dancing soundtrack and that got everyone up and moving. Music provided them a safe opportunity to sing, dance and lower their hyper vigilance for a little while.

RH: How can music help soldiers once they’re home from war, or if they’re suffering from PTSD?

KP: Music gets people, veterans or not, talking. Music therapy can be anything from a group singing country songs to a drumming circle. Music is an important portal for veterans to access a range of feelings-- ̶love and loss, fear and guilt. Sometimes they can sing what they cannot  ̶ and would not ever ̶̶ say.

My upcoming research will involve studying how neural feedback can help war veterans cope with their PTSD. In neurofeedback, the subject puts on a headset and listens to music with electrodes wired up to their brain. When they are listening to the music, they may start thinking and their brainwaves might become more stressed. When this happens, the music stops and they hear a “click” sound which refocuses them by resetting their brain. 

It's my hope that one day music will play an important role in traumatic rehabilitation and help get soldiers - and all traumatized individuals - back on their feet. 

Programming problem solvers

Last Saturday the Queen's School of Computing hosted the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario's (ECOO) annual East Regional Programming Contest for eastern Ontario high school students. 

Thirteen teams from high schools in Ottawa, Brockville, Kingston, and Belleville competed to find working solutions to four programming problems. Congratulations to Team 1 from Bell High School in Ottawa who placed first.

Photos courtesy of Dave Dove.

Personalizing cancer treatment with 'big data'

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

David Skillicorn (School of Computing) has been awarded a Big Data, Big Impact Grant from the Cancer Institute of New South Wales and the Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Australia to help personalize cancer treatment for children.

The grant, in its second year, will support Dr. Skillicorn and 10 other researchers for work on their project entitled Generating Actionable Knowledge from Complex Genomic Data for Personalized Clinical Decisions. The project will involve a large scale analysis of detailed data about childhood cancer patients suffering mainly from leukemia.

The project will challenge the previously defined categories that are currently used to determine cancer treatment for the patient.

“After a cancer diagnosis and some tests, patients would typically be categorized based on the risk and variance of their disease,” says Dr. Skillicorn. “The category would then determine the treatment program. There were always a few patients who didn’t seem to fit their category; they would do well against the odds, or poorly when they shouldn’t have.”

Current technology, called “high-throughput devices,” collects tens of thousands of marker values for each patient. Patients are then clustered and their eventual treatment is based on their cluster. Dr. Skillicorn’s research could result in a redefinition of these clusters.

“Patients don’t form clusters,” says Dr. Skillicorn. “The disease almost always looks different from one patient to another. We believe there must be some bottleneck that causes the wide variety of patient configurations to appear as a much smaller set of disease categories.”

Student's online game soars to success

Flappy48 combines the popular games Flappy Bird and 2048.

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

The idea was “nothing special,” Queen’s computing student Dan Moran says of a video game he created that drew over 100,000 visitors to the website in the first few hours.

Flappy48 combines two popular games that can be played on mobile devices: 2048 and Flappy Bird. Flappy Bird was discontinued in February, but 2048 is still available for download.

“I often do these competitions called ‘game jams’ where people challenge themselves and others to create a game in short periods of time, say 24 or 48 hours. I figured I’d just quickly whip up this idea for Flappy Bird and 2048 blended together,” says Mr. Moran, Artsci’14. “One time I did a game jam and I was through the roof when my game got 1,000 views. When Flappy48 quickly broke 100,000views my head was spinning.”

Since the game went online Monday, Flappy48 has had more than 900,000 views. He has also produced a mobile version of the game that users can download for free through Google Play and the Amazon App store. Mr. Moran says the iOS version of the game should hit the Apple App Store in the next few days.

“When you see such a huge positive reaction to something you’ve made and something you’re passionate about doing, it’s just a great feeling,” says Mr. Moran. “I hope I can try and channel some of this buzz into my other projects so I can really get involved in the mobile game scene.”

Mr. Moran is graduating from the game development option of the School of Computing’s Software Design Program.

“The success of this game is a testament to Dan’s ingenuity and skill,” says Selim Akl, Director of the School of Computing. “It also illustrates the importance of logical and algorithmic thinking, creativity, and problem solving ability, all fundamental features of the excellent education Queen’s computing students receive."

Flappy48 is now available in the Google Play store.

For the love of science

By Hollie Knapp-Fisher, Communications Intern

In response to a sharp decline in the number of students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) five years ago, Associate Professor and Director of Queen’s Community Outreach Centre, Lynda Colgan brought Science Rendezvous to the Kingston community. This concept of a day-long celebration of STEM subjects, scientists and careers was the inspired by research chemist Dwayne Miller from the University of Toronto, and quickly became a national event.

Lynda Colgan is organizing the fourth annual Science Rendezvous.

“Through research we know that children engage with topics early on,” says Dr. Colgan. “The development of negative attitudes towards the sciences is well established by the eighth grade. These students have no idea what the sciences can do for them.”

With over 60 stations, 250 volunteers and an anticipated audience of more than 2,500 visitors, Science Rendezvous, Kingston is expected to continue to be one of the largest events of this type in Canada. 

“Informal education opportunities like these are crucial in exposing and stimulating children’s curiosity around the sciences.  Avenues such as museums, conservation areas and even the science channel are important ways for them to learn and discover,” Dr. Colgan adds.

This free event is open to children and their families in hopes of changing the public’s attitude towards STEM subjects. Students will have the opportunity to interact with scientists while they perform experiments or experiment with new technology. Stations will include a Chemistry Magic, surgical simulations, demos by KPF Canine unit, off-road Baja vehicle races, endangered species, green roofs, laser light shows and much more.

The Science Rendezvous is also beneficial to the STEM community. It allows researchers to engage with the public and share their work.

This event takes place on May 3 at the Rogers K-Rock Centre from 10am to 3pm. For more information check out their website http://educ.queensu.ca/coc/science-rendezvous.

Queen's professor unveils revolutionary foldable smartphone

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

Queen’s professor Roel Vertegaal and student Antonio Gomes have unveiled PaperFold, a ground-breaking smartphone technology.

The shape-changing, touch sensitive smartphone allows the user to open up to three thin-film electrophoretic displays to provide extra screen real estate when needed.

Displays are detachable so users can fold the device into a number of shapes that can range from an ultra-notebook, to a map and back to a smartphone shape.

“In PaperFold, each display tile can act independently or as part of a single system,” says Dr. Vertegaal, a professor in the School of Computing and Director of the Human Media Lab at Queen’s. “Advantages to this technology include better support for performing tasks that would usually have required multiple devices, like a phone and a tablet PC or ultra-notebook in one.”

The technology was released at the ACM CHI 2014 conference in Toronto – widely regarded as the most important conference on interaction techniques for new technologies.

PaperFold demonstrates how form could equal function in malleable mobile devices. 
                                                                                                            - Roel Vertegaal

PaperFold automatically recognizes its shape and changes its graphics to provide different functionality for each shape.

  • For example, a user could search for a building in New York City on Google Maps in three ways.
  • By flattening the three displays, the user changes can view a Google map across all displays.
  • Manipulating the device into a globe-like shape opens a 3D Google Earth view.
  • Folding the device into the shape of a 3D building on the map will pick up available 3D SketchUp models of buildings on that location and turn the device into an architectural model that can be printed in 3D.

Inspiration for PaperFold came from its namesake: paper. Typically, mobile devices require scrolling or zooming in order to see different parts of a document whereas paper can be folded, detached or combined allowing it to be accessed in multiple documents.

“The development of electronic paper computers that can adopt similar qualities to paper has been a research goal for our team,” says Dr. Vertegaal. “The PaperFold smartphone adopts the folding techniques that make paper so versatile, and employs them to change electronic views and display real estate on the fly. PaperFold demonstrates how form could equal function in malleable mobile devices.”

A video of PaperFold is available at the Human Media Lab's Youtube channel and high resolution photos of the new technology can be found on the Human Media Lab's website.

Graduating students fly the coop for international project

By Hollie Knapp-Fisher, Communications Intern

Hasina Daya and Gabrielle Armstrong anxiously await to hear if their proposal was accepted by the Pathy Family Foundation. 

With the end of their undergraduate careers in sight, Gabrielle Armstrong (Artsci’14) and Hasina Daya (Artsci’14) chose to follow their passion and commitment to international development. They came together to form Team Impact with the goal of creating a co-operative chicken farm in Piave, a small rural village in Kenya. Their proposal recently earned them the support of the Pathy Family Foundation (PFF) Community Leadership Fellowship to implement their project.

“We are going into this endeavor with an idea but not a plan,” says Ms. Armstrong. “Plans can be very rigid and often affect our ability to see what the real problem is. We want to listen to the needs of the people and adjust our plan to fit those needs.”

They will live in Kenya for 10 months and work on the “Co-operative coop,” that is being built with the intention of generating income and financial support for the local residents.

Queen's in the World

“We are both very excited to see the money being generated from this coop and our project put to community growth and development,” says Ms. Daya. “The money will be allocated in three ways. First, the money will be reinvested in to the farm, to support its growth and sustainability. Second, the local laborers will receive a stipend which will enable them with purchasing power. Lastly, the money will be used to support people living with HIV/AIDS and orphans and vulnerable children in Piave. We’re looking to break the cycle of poverty in a sustainable manner”

“No idea is too small to start change,” Ms. Armstrong adds. “In a rural village like Piave developing a chicken farm will significantly change their way of living. The community will have the opportunity to develop new skills and make money which gives them stability.”

Ms. Armstrong and Ms. Daya, graduates of the global development studies program, have a previous connection to Kenya. Ms. Armstrong travelled to the country last summer with the Reach Out to Humanity (ROTH), a non-governmental organization that works to improve the capacity of existing community groups in several different developing countries. Ms. Daya’s mother and brother were both born Kenya and witnessed the impact of international aid. Their professors have been a driving force in the development of this project, and they are grateful for the support they have received.

During their stay in Kenya, they will write a blog to keep friends, family and the university informed about developments with the project.

The program is funded by the Pathy Family Foundation, a private foundation that invests in leadership and education initiative, and administered by the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC). Established in 2010, the program supports undergraduate and graduate students as they carry out an international project over an eight to 12-month period. More information about the PFF Community Leadership Program is available on the QUIC website.
 

Taking the thesis to the theatre

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

When I Get There written by Tracey Guptill and directed by Liam Karry

April 24-26, 7:30 pm, April 27, 2 pm (followed by a talk back event)

Modern Fuel (21 Queen St.) More info
 

For many, research is a solitary pursuit. That’s not the case for Tracey Guptill, a master’s student in the School of Environmental Studies.

Ms. Guptill (MES’14) is collaborating with more than 40 people -- many from the Queen’s community -- on a multidisciplinary theatre project that will serve as a chapter in her thesis. The result of more than a year’s worth of work is When I Get There, a one-act play that runs April 24-27 at Modern Fuel.

The play incorporates multimedia elements, dance and live music to tell the story of Cara, played by Ms. Guptill, a young woman struggling with the ineffectiveness of her activism as well as her own identity. A search to find her birth father evolves into a much deeper quest to discover and understand what she can and should do to address sustainability issues.

[Tracey Guptiss]Tracey Guptill (MES"14) is working on a multidisciplinary theatre project that will serve as a chapter in her thesis.

 

The Queen’s participants on the project came from a variety of backgrounds including English, education, sociology, drama and environmental studies.

“The project is so much richer because of their input. I was really impressed by the generosity of others,” says Ms. Guptill. “I also found that academics really enjoyed having a space to express themselves. One person who studies climate change said he felt more positive and hopeful about the environment after participating.”

Involved in theatre much of her life, Ms. Guptill knew she wanted to draw on that passion for her graduate project that examines public engagement related to sustainability.

“There is a lot of research around environmental and sustainability issues, but it needs to be disseminated to the broader public. I believe culture is important for moving this knowledge into the practical realm outside of academia,” she says.

Ms. Guptill began writing a draft of the play before coming to Queen’s in 2012 but set it aside in her first year to concentrate on her course work. In the fall term of her second year, she formed a “coLABoratoy” where Queen’s academics as well poets, dancers and actors came together twice weekly to discuss the themes, read over the script, perform theatre games, and create their own scenes. Ms. Guptill rewrote the script based on that “lab” work.

For the second phase of the project, the actors trained in physical theatre, devising ways of telling the story through movement and music in addition to dialogue. Jane Kirby, a Cultural Studies PhD student, serves as the choreographer for the production.

Ms. Guptill says she was careful to avoid a prescriptive approach when writing and staging the play.

“Through the various characters, I discuss the opportunities that are available to us now that allow us to make a difference. However, as a community of performers and theatre-goers, I hope we can come up with new ways. I truly believe art helps us imagine the possible.”

More details about When I Get There are available on the co-Lab-oratory website and Facebook page.
 

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