Can Machines Be Flawed Enough to Be Human?

Wednesday, March 4, 2020 - 6:30pm


Can Machines Be Flawed Enough to Be Human?
Wednesday, March 4
6:30 p.m.

Onsite Gallery
199 Richmond St. West

Free event as part of Onsite Gallery's public event program for CodeX: playable & disruptive futurist eArt.

A panel discussion that will examine our growing dependence on glitchy AI learning for business and culture and how this affects our daily lives.

Panelists: Jimmy Ba, Leyla Imanirad and Dr. Alexis Morris
Moderator: Tom Barker

ASL interpretation will be provided.


Among his many accomplishments, Jimmy Ba developed the Adam Optimizer, one of the go-to algorithms to train deep learning models. Jimmy completed his undergraduate degree, Master’s degree and PhD at the University of Toronto under the supervision of Geoffrey Hinton, Brendan Frey and Ruslan Salakhutdinov. Jimmy’s research focuses on the development of learning algorithms for deep neural networks. He was the second-ever student from a Canadian institution to win a Facebook PhD Fellowship and in 2015, his team achieved the highest place among academic labs in the image caption generation competition at CVPR.

Leyla Imanirad joined Bristol Gate Capital Partners in 2011, bringing her experience of software development and quantitative research from TD Bank. She initially led the data engineering and technology acquisition efforts to build the research infrastructure at Bristol Gate. She further worked on developing predictive models, investment strategy analysis and portfolio construction tools. As a practitioner, she believes in harnessing the power of the artificial intelligence while being cognizant of its limitations. As a communicator, she enjoys raising awareness about the technology and its impact on our collective future. She has a bachelor degree in computer engineering and a master’s degree in computer & biomedical engineering from the University of Toronto.

Dr. Alexis Morris is an assistant professor in the Digital Futures program at OCAD University, and the Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in the Internet of Things. He is the director of the Adaptive Context Environments (ACE) Lab, and is a specialist in the overlapping research domain of software engineering for adaptive systems based on the incorporation of fuzzy human-factors in socio-technical systems and conducts core research on adaptive interfaces and collaborative approaches to context awareness through mixed reality, for a host of domains, including the Internet of Things. His work engages a cross-section of approaches in artificial intelligence (i.e., soft-computing via neural networks and fuzzy logic), virtual and augmented reality, passive brain-computer interfaces, adaptive risk management, multi-agent systems modelling, organizational culture simulations, and pervasive technologies. He also aims to impart insight into the broad impact of rapid technological advances on society, through lecturing and teaching roles that engage and inspire students.

Tom Barker has worked internationally as a multidisciplinary creative in the fields of design, art, and technology for many years. Tom’s diverse and ground-breaking collaborations have included the capsule and boarding design for the London Eye ferris wheel with David Marks Julia Barfield Architects; creating the world’s first Bluetooth headset for Emkay; and projects with the late architect Zaha Hadid for buildings, dance and opera stage sets. He curated The Art of Shopping for the Arts Council of England in 2002. Tom contributed an interactive futuristic 3D walkthrough entitled Masterplanners of the Universe: Brick Lane for the Barbican Arts Centre’s blockbuster global touring show Game On: 2002-2016. Tom collaborated with Langlands & Bell on the digital interactive artwork entitled The House of Osama Bin Laden which won a BAFTA and was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2004. He was the Founding Chair of the Digital Future programme at OCAD University 2012-2015. An author of many book chapters and papers, Tom’s book on Web App design was published by McGrawHill in 2019. A British citizen and permanent resident of Canada, Tom has lived and worked in the UK, Australia and Canada. He is currently the President and Chief technology Officer of Six Trends, a Toronto-based creative digital agency.


CodeX: playable & disruptive futurist eArt
January 22 to April 25, 2020

Jason Baerg
Tom Barker
Rob Elsworthy
Samantha Fickel
Dennis Kavelman
Nick Puckett
Six Trends Inc.
Jane Tingley, Cindy Poremba and Marius Kintel

Curated by Tom Barker

This exhibition of leading-edge digital art, or eArt, investigates the future of human society through technology, innovation and design. It encourages audiences to reflect on the symbiotic relationship between technology and human society, and the resulting possibilities for our future through algorithms, identity and the nature of reality.



Onsite Gallery is the flagship professional gallery of OCAD U and an experimental curatorial platform for art, design and new media. Visit our website for upcoming public events. The gallery is located at 199 Richmond St. W, Toronto, ON, M5V 0H4. Telephone: 416-977-6000, ext. 265. Opening hours are: Wednesdays to Fridays from noon to 7 p.m.; Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. Free admission.


Image: Jimmy Ba, Leyla Imanirad and Dr. Alexis Morris.

Venue & Address: 
Onsite Gallery (199 Richmond St. West)
416-977-6000 x456
Jimmy Ba, Leyla Imanirad and Dr. Alexis Morris.

Culture Creates Bonds


The Culture Creates Bonds study defines key drivers, scenarios, and conditions that create  natural human bonds, those of cultural activities and practices, in a residential or immediate neighbourhood. Historical and contemporary research indicates that cultural contexts, content, and activities act as mechanisms and factors that create a sense of identity, engagement, and relationships within and between communities. Research explores constraints as well as conditions that lead to successful bonding. The study applies a mixed methods approach that includes a literature review; interviews with stakeholders; an analysis of the data and results from the 2017 Culture Track Canada report, and a series of case studies.

Research Study:

For the Toronto Star feature on this research project, please see here:

Wednesday, March 20, 2019 - 3:00pm
Lab Member: 
Dr. Sara Diamond
Dr Alia Fortune Weston
Marcus A. Gordon

ReBlink up for Webby award!

Circle with words webby awards vote for us
Friday, April 6, 2018

The app that brings art to life is in the running for a prestigious Webby award in the category Best Use of Augmented Reality. Designed by digital artist and faculty member Alex Mayhew with the participation of OCAD U alumni, ReBlink is an augmented reality experience. The app is currently available to experience the AGO in new ways: Visitors use their device’s camera to unlock Mayhew’s modern twists on historical works of art from the gallery’s Canadian and European Collections.

The app invites visitors to look at paintings such as Evisceration of a Roebuck with a Portrait of a Married Couple, Drawing Lots and Marchesa Casati through his unique 21st century lens. By looking at a selected work using a smartphone or tablet, visitors will see something unexpected – the painting’s subjects coming alive, reflecting a vision of our daily reality in the 21st century.

Vote for ReBlink online, voting closes April 20.

Creative Director and Concept
Alex Mayhew (OCAD U faculty member)

Developer and technical artist
Hector Centeno (OCAD U alum)

Lead Production Artist
Saffron BOldUc-Chiong (OCAD U alum)

Production Artist
Emma Burkeitt (OCAD U alum)

3D Art
David Mc Kenna
Yifat Shaik (OCAD U alum)

Max Mezzowave
Christian Chuquihuara

Creative & Business Consultant
Ian Kelso


image of a person using their phone to look at a painting
Older man looking at a painting

Thinking Through Craft and the Digital Turn

Thinking Through Craft and the Digital Turn is an ongoing research project.

Notions of craft and working by hand are inextricably linked in the popular imagination. Yet today's craft studios feature technological innovations such as 3D printing, laser cutting and computerized textile machinery. Students, faculty and technicians, in university studio departments, develop and explore the relationship of handwork to digital technologies daily. This study focuses on questions of how digital technologies intersect and combine with traditional, mechanical and hand fabrication processes, particularly the possible affordances of digital technology through embodied learning, a pedagogy of the whole body not just the intellect. The discourse is complex, however, autonomy and agency---the control of creative methods and output through materiality, tools and process---are central concerns in craft methodology. We interrogate the concepts of re- and deskilling as they pertain to craft and the digital turn.

In 2016, a study titled Craft, Pedagogy and the Digital Challenge sought to consider the place of teaching and learning digital craft at OCAD University from the perspectives of faculty, staff, and technicians. It identified the challenges of merging traditional techniques with the digital tools within an institution and finding ways of improving the gap between students, faculty, staff, technicians, and their work. OCAD Faculty, staff, and technicians who teach and facilitate traditional and digital craft methods provided insight and their perspectives through interviews.

Project Team:

     Dr. Lynne Heller (Material Art & Design) - Principal Investigator
     Dorie Millerson (Chair, Material Art & Design) - Principal Investigator
     Claire Bartleman - Graduate Research Assistant
     Ellie Manning - Undergraduate Research Assistant and Videographer
     Enna Kim - Undergraduate Research Assistant
     Keiko Hart - Research Assistant

Summary of study:

This research was inspired by the teaching environment of the Material Art and Design program, which includes the study of ceramics, jewellery and textiles practices. Research questions included, "What is the relationship between craft making traditions and the advent of advanced digital tools, and what are the pedagogical implications of that confluence"?

A number of faculty, staff and technicians who teach or facilitate digital craft methods were asked to participate in an interview for the Thinking Through Craft and The Digital Turn project. After consenting to participate in an interview and video, participants were given a list of questions in advance. Questions asked participants to discuss experiences in learning and teaching digital craft methods with reference to how they set goals or evaluate digital processes and what they see as the future of digital craft teaching. During the interviews PIs Heller and Millerson encouraged participants to answer or expand the questions in their own ways, which led to a variety of findings.

During the interviews RA Ellie Manning documented audio and visual material to create a video that was used in part to frame the presentation at the Canadian Craft Biennal (CCB) Conference on September 15th, 2017. In addition to the video, RA Claire Bartleman and PI Lynne Heller created a Research Wall in the host lab, the Data Materialization Studio. The Research Wall facilitated a visual and research-creation approach to the data collected and the theoretical stances being explored.

After the interviews, the research team chose a quote from each interview that best represented its participant. Quotes were then incorporated into posters designed by PI Lynne Heller. The posters were hung in the entrance to OCAD U during CCB conference proceedings. The intention in documenting and attributing quotes was to give a voice to the participants and draw attention to the findings of the project. The posters utilized a suffrage banner format as a framing device (based on the poster Standing Together ... by the National Women's Party, 1913-1920, as photographed in the exhibition Agitprop! at the Brooklyn Museum in 2016 by Alex Kittle).

The CCB Conference was well-attended and Hands on the Tech: Craft, Pedagogy and the Digital Challenge was scheduled for the session "Making Education: The Changing Nature of Teaching Craft", which was facilitated by PI Dorie Millerson and included papers from across the world. Heller and Millerson summarized their findings through the video, which was followed by a PowerPoint presentation. Afterwards, in a lively Q&A session, members of the audience asked questions about approaches to intersectional feminism within this context. The CPDC team described teaching practices that encourage students to investigate their own identities through their work and commented that there is an unequal gender representation in Material Art & Design that should be better understood and discussed. 

Moving forward, the Thinking Through Craft and The Digital Turn team is engaging student voices and collecting the findings, along with theoretical analysis, into an edited anthology focused on the relationship between teaching and learning digital craft. In order to expand the research across Canada the team has also applied for an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

The research team realizes the world of digital craft is a complicated topic that requires more time to theorize than simply referring to the binaries of digital and analogue. The team believes in providing a voice to OCAD U faculty, staff and technicians and is looking forward to extending this opportunity to students. The Principal Investigators are developing more research with the Faculty and Curriculum Development Centre along with pursuing more funding to augment this initial pilot project.

Click here to view the Craft, Pedagogy and the Digital Challenge video recorded and edited by Ellie Manning, Undergraduate Research Assistant.

A note on the Posters: The quotes that appear on the posters below were developed from each of the inverviews undertaken and include two quotes from the Principal Investigators. The posters were an amalgam of both digital and analogue techniques. The banner image is based on the sufragette banner Standing Together ..., by the National Women's Party, 1913-1920 (as photographed by Alex Kittle in the exhibition Agitprop! at the Brooklyn Museum, 2016). The quotes were 'typeset' in Photoshop and then the posters were printed in black and white. Researchers then hand-coloured the posters using pastels.

The posters are currently being exhibited in OCAD U's Office of Research and Innovation and Faculty and Curriculum Development Centre.

Photograph of CPDC posters exhibited on a wall at OCAD U.
Photograph of PIs Dr. Lynne Heller and Dorie Millerson and Head of Instructional Services Daniel Payne in front of a poster.
Poster reading "Beautiful expensive machines are pretty useless if people do not know how to use them" - Nick Hooper
Poster reading "I like working with the malfunctioning of a computer as the focus of investigation" - Stan Krzyzanovski
Poster reading "It is rare that you just push a button and the hand is not further involved in the making" - Marie O'Mahony
Poster reading "Materiality is the message" - Lynne Heller
Poster reading "Machines do not run themselves" - Laurie Wassink
Poster reading "Whether it is digital or analogue the subjectivity of the maker is paramount" - Kathleen Morris
Poster reading "The digital privileges the design process over making" - Dorie Millerson
Poster reading "The digital calls into question the whole meaning of craft" - Greg Sims
Poster reading "The term rapid prototyping is somewhat of a misnomer" - Darrell Currington
Poster reading "How can we use this technology but make it human" - Chung-Im Kim
Photograph of Lynne Heller and Dorie Millerson speaking about their research to faculty and students at OCAD U
Photograph of viewers examining the hung posters
Saturday, January 26, 2019 - 10:30am
Lab Member: 
Lynne Heller
Dorie Millerson

Office of Research & Innovation honours faculty members

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

OCAD University’s Office of Research and Innovation has announced the 2016/2017 recipients of The OCAD University Award for Excellence in Early Stage Research, Scholarship & Creative Activity: Emma Westecott, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Science and Patricio Dávila, Associate Professor and Associate Dean in the Faculty of Design. 

The award recognizes promising, recently-appointed faculty members for their outstanding promise to be distinguished researchers, scholars, artists and designers within a university context. The goal of the program is to support the development of a culture of research, scholarship and creativity within OCAD University.

The Office of Research and Innovation also announced the 2016/2017 recipient of The OCAD University Award for Distinguished Research, Scholarship & Creative Activity: Johanna Householder, Professor, Faculty of Art and Graduate Studies, and Chair, Cross-Disciplinary Art Practices.

The award recognizes faculty members for their outstanding portfolio of research, scholarship and creative activity, and the impact that activity has had on the broad spectrum of art and design research and practice internationally. The award also recognizes contributions toward undergraduate and graduate research and scholarly training.
As Canada's university of the imagination, OCAD University offers a depth and breadth of undergraduate and graduate critical inquiry. The university engages in art and design research and creative practices through a diversity of perspectives, methods and approaches.


Avatar Lives: Developing Collaborations in Art, Technology, and Science

An Ontario College of Art and Design University, Toronto and University of Wolverhampton, UK Collaboration


Avatar Lives: Developing Collaborations in Art, Technology, and Science is a scholarly and research-creation based initiative, taking place in the spring of 2016, that will include a Roundtable, an Exhibition and accompanying print and digital publications. Avatar Lives is envisioned to explore the relationship between the physical and digital embodiment through developing/designing avatars with a focus on identity and gender, using both contemporary and historic paradigms, and state-of-the-art digital platforms for building and analysing these evolving subjectivities. The project will be hosted by OCAD University and supported by collaborators at the University of Wolverhampton, UK; Polytechnic of Viseu, Portugal; the Digital Dramaturgy Lab at the University of Toronto, macGRID based at McMaster University and Digifest 2016, Toronto. 

The aims of the project are:

(1) To explore the notion of the digital embodiment through a series of research paradigms that address the material, physical and virtual tensions that emerge from the creation and experience of the virtual body and the digital self;

(2) To experiment with inter and cross disciplinary methods in order to review concepts of gender and identity and its construction;

(3) To investigate how creative collaborative practices and methodological processes develop through
technological platforms such as virtual worlds and to consider how they can be applied to other fields
of research and practice.

Research Questions

(1) What do contemporary paradigms in feminism, gender and science studies bring to our understanding of the avatar as a digital form of the self? What novel insights can biomedical concepts bring when considering the avatar form?

(2) How can emerging forms of collaborative art practice in virtual worlds inform the construction of the self? How can they be applied to or inform other fields of research?

(3) At what point can digital creations be considered to have a life of their own?


This proposed collaboration with the Centre for Art and Design Research and Experimentation (UK) will see visiting Professor, Dr Denise Doyle and associate Professor and artist Lynne Heller working together and alongside an international team from the UK, Portugal, Norway, and Canada from the diverse fields of Digital Arts, Gender Studies, Contemporary Arts Practice, Bio-Medicine, Digital Fabrication, Science Studies, and Virtual Worlds.

Illustration of 3 people in an empty room
Digital image of a person standing in front of a street vendor cart.
Silhouetted woman standing on a table in a computer lab.
Thursday, August 13, 2015 - 8:15pm
Lab Member: 
Denise Doyle

Digital Promises

Red text of the event name with a grey to white gradient
Monday, January 20, 2014 - 5:00am to Sunday, January 26, 2014 - 5:00am

Reception and party: Friday January 24, 6-11pm
Informal artist presentations: Tuesday January 21st, 6pm and Saturday January 25th, 4pm

Part of the Toronto Design Offsite Festival

Making It Real is exhibiting a selection of works, as part of Digital Promises, a participating show in the Toronto Design Offsite Festival. The exhibition brings together Toronto-based and International artists, designers and craftspeople who are working with digital tools and motifs to engage in a public exhibition and discussion about the intersection of art, design and technology.

Digital Promises:
Organized by Ian Devenney; Co-curated with Making It Real: a juried collection of 3D printed objects originally presented at OCAD University in May 2013.

Venue & Address: 
Open Daily: January 20-26th, 2014 1-8pm Artscape Triangle Gallery 38 Abell St. Toronto, Ontario

Call for Submissions: Digital Visual Arts Show

Event Logo
Thursday, August 28, 2014 - 4:00am to Friday, September 12, 2014 - 4:00am

Deadline for Submissions: September 12, 2014

Assistant Curator and OCAD U alumna, Bryn Ludlow

International Conference on Residency Education (ICRE) 23-25 October 2014, Toronto, ON

Advancing medical technology, from the stethoscope, to the x-ray, PET, and MRI, have introduced dramatic new ways of imaging, controlling, intervening in, and remaking bodies. These technologies have participated in a complete reshaping of the notion of the body in the cultural imaginary, and have transformed our experience of actual human bodies.

Technical Instructions for Online Submission of Artwork
The following pieces of information are required during the submission process. Please have all information ready prior to submitting as you will not have the opportunity to save your work in progress. Submissions may be in any visual form or genre.

• Artist information (may or may not be the same as the submitter): Full address and contact information is required for the main artist.
• Topic area: Select from the drop down menu.
• Title
• Artist description: Note that the limit is 250 words (including headings).
• File type: 1 high-resolution jpeg image

This digital art exhibition will be projected, in the Exhibit Hall as part of the ICRE. These images will also be available on-line.

Review and Selection
All submissions will be acknowledged upon receipt. Submissions will be peer reviewed and selected based quality and on overall fit with the theme of the exhibit.

At the end of September, an official acceptance will be sent to the submitter of the artwork.

You are not required to attend the conference if your work is accepted. All artists wishing to attend the conference in person are required to register for the conference and are responsible for their own expenses including hotel, travel, and registration fees.

Please note: By submitting their artwork, the submitter consents to their contact information being shared with the Dr. Lisa Richardson, Dr. Allison Crawford, and Ms. Bryn Ludlow for curation purposes only.

E-mail: or