This project is a collaboration between game:play and Super Ordinary Lab.

IN SITU is a research project in partnership with Ubisoft Toronto funded by ReFiG ( that examines the opportunities around and impact of internal and external efforts aimed at creating a diverse and inclusive work culture in the game development industry.

The primary research goal for the project is to explore the factors that create an environment and culture of diversity, inclusivity and belonging (DIB) for game developers who identify as women at Ubisoft Toronto. This pilot stage of an ongoing research collaboration has been designed to feed into and support a diversity, inclusion and belonging initiative organized around internal task forces being rolled out at Ubisoft Toronto. 

The research insights from an environmental scan and ethnographic interviews will provide context to the primary research question and will inform the development of the task forces and programmatic initiatives at Ubisoft Toronto. A secondary phase of the project will evaluate the efficacy and impact of the task force programs through ongoing developmental evaluation. 

The collaborative nature of this research is central to it’s goals, partnerships of this nature are essential to build sustainable bottom-up DIB initiatives that are well informed, understood and embedded within existing corporate structures, practices and people. 


This research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


The logo for Ubisoft Toronto
Monday, July 16, 2018 - 4:30pm
Lab Member: 
Emma Westecott
Suzanne Stein
Cheryl Hsu
Kashfia Rahman

Gift-Commodity Conversations in a Transnational Philippine Market Trade

As studies have documented, the millions of men and women who have left the Philippines to find work across the globe regularly send cash remittances and in-kind gifts to family and friends in the Philippines. Filipinos working abroad are known as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) or balikbayans (returning Filipinos) – Filipinos visiting or returning to the Philippines after a period living in another country. The cash remittances OFWs send to family and friends in the Philippines are renowned for the direct contribution these funds make to the country’s national economy. The in-kind material gifts OFWs send, however, can experience more circuitous life-histories depending upon whether recipients keep the gifted items, sell, or exchange them for goods that better meet their subsistence needs. The gifted goods, such as personal grooming and health products, clothing, and canned goods are packaged in standard-size cardboard containers (60 x 30 x 30 cm or 60 x 60 x 90 cm) known as balikbayan boxes. Overseas Filipino Workers can economically send these boxes via small freight-forwarding companies directly from pick-up at their residences and shipment via cargo container to the Philippine recipient’s home. Because these “gifted” goods contribute to the economic and social well-being of Filipinos in the Philippines, they enter the country tax-exempt and duty-free.

Given that the Philippine state has failed to construct the basic political and economic foundations that can provide the majority of people with viable livelihoods, both gift recipients and entrepreneurs operationalize this transnational flow of balikbayan box goods by diverting selected products into public market commodity trade – transactions that straddle informal/formal, gift/commodity and sometimes other-than-legal practice. The Philippine government, cognizant that such transnational gift-to-commodity transactions can provide income for residents across classes while acknowledging the commercial capitalization of these untaxed goods, issues vacillating by-laws that variably allow, prohibit, or restrict the duty-free entry status of this trade.

Within this political economic context my research project, conducted in Baguio City, northern Philippines, investigates the mainstream strategies and the edgy side roads through which Baguio City Public Market entrepreneurs selling the aforementioned balikbayan box goods sustain their livelihoods given municipal policies that periodically threaten their viability. I argue that these entrepreneurs, rather than emerging as passive and oppressed recipients, have established alternative businesses that service urbanites’ everyday needs and profitably contribute to the city’s economy. By sourcing goods across local-to-global sites through both commodity and gifting transactions, these merchants emerge as self-styled transnational entrepreneurs who connect different sectors of society in new and innovative ways while remaining firmly seated in their Baguio market stores. Their on-the-ground enterprises create new social and economic interstitial spaces within old ones thereby contesting local government livelihood constraints imposed from above. Traders respond to consumers’ changing consumption needs, foster personal ties with suppliers in global locations, transform part of their business profits into community outreach or gifting gestures, and consign goods on flexible repayment terms to part-time, often not-so-legal sellers. That entrepreneurs create such in-between or “gray spaces” of practice and that the city grants marketers formal and legal permission to pay rent to do so, highlights how the government “formalizes informality” and that both government and entrepreneurs are complicit in using informality and “extralegality” as urban organizing logics when these practices are to their mutual advantage. One Baguio City Public Market entrepreneur aptly captures the pivotal position of her fellow marketers when she describes her entrepreneurial practice as kapit sa patalim – “holding on to the edge of the knife.” She explains that the often unpredictable and potentially vulnerable nature of her public market work means that, “One just needs to forge one’s own way with it.”


Milgram's 2017 article "Recrafting in/formality, leveraging public market trade in Baguio, Philippines," published in Vol. 6, Issue 2 of Anuac

Milgram's 2015 article "Unsettling Urban Marketplace Redevelopment in Baguio City, Philippines", published in Vol. 2, Issue 1 of Economic Anthropology

Lynne Milgram featured in OCAD University's 2016 Annual Research Report: Transformation through Imagination


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: In the Philippines Lynne Milgram is a Research Affiliate of the Cordillera Studies Center (CSC), University of the Philippines Baguio. Lynne thanks the CSC staff and faculty for their ongoing support of her research. Lynne also thanks her current Research Assistant, Rose Busacay, and expresses her gratitude to the many public market entrepreneurs and consumers who answered her many questions.

B. Lynne Milgram is Professor of Anthropology at OCAD University, Toronto. Her SSHRC-funded research in the northern Philippines analyzes the cultural politics of social change regarding women’s work in crafts, the Hong Kong-Philippine secondhand clothing trade, and street and market vending. Milgram investigates issues of nationalism, “tradition,” and “authenticity” vis-à-vis crafts, and issues of informality, governance, and extralegality regarding local livelihood rights and food security. Milgram’s recent co-edited book (with Hansen & Little) is, (2013) Street Economies of the Urban Global South; and recent book and journal articles include: (2018) “Informality and Legality in Women’s Livelihoods in Baguio City.” In Routledge Handbook on Contemporary Philippine Culture and Political Economy, (Thompson & Batalla, eds.); (2017) “Recrafting in/formality, leveraging public market trade in Baguio, Philippines.” Anuac 6 (2); (2016) “Refashioning Global Craft Commodity Flows from the Central Philippines.” In Critical Craft: Technology, Globalization, and Capitalism. (Wilkinson-Weber & DeNicola, eds.).

This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


Photograph of Bagiuo City Public Market
Photograph of Bagiuo City Public Market, dry goods section
Photograph of Bagiuo City Public Market vendors working
Photograph of Bagiuo City Public Market vendors working
Photograph of Bagiuo City Public Market vendors working
Photograph of Bagiuo City Public Market vendors working
Photogarph of a large hall filled with shops: the La Trinidad Space vegetable trading post, Benguet Province, Philippines
Photograph of vegetables in market stall of Baguio City Public Market vegetable section, Baguio Philippines
Friday, March 2, 2018 - 12:30pm
Lab Member: 
B. Lynne Milgram
Embed Video: 

From Within an Active PoV: Feminist VR Game Making

From Within an Active PoV: Feminist VR Game Making is a research-creation project that investigates a feminist intervention in virtual reality game-making. It aims to build a generous and inclusive coalition of feminists in games by bringing feminist VR makers together and studying how, what, and why they make VR games.

From Within an Active PoV builds on the research of ReFiG, a 5 year project supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Composed of an international collective of scholars, community organizers and industry representatives, ReFiG is committed to promoting diversity and equity in the game industry and culture and effecting real change in an often myopic space that has been exclusionary to many. ReFig accomplishes this by intervening in four areas: game cultures, the games industry, informal learning environments, and formal education.

Unlike the world of commercial digital gaming, the VR ecosystem includes diverse voices: marginalized makers are visible in this emerging sector of technology (for example, CFC Open Immersion lab is open to indigenous artists and artists from the global south).  The inherent physicality of VR (which involves two audiences: the immersant and the voyeur) is also an opportunity to explore feminist approaches to game-making. From its development in the early nineties VR art has been driven by female artists, including works such as Catherine Richards’ Spectral Bodies (1991) and Char Davies' Osmose (1995). This clearly indicates a feminist interest in the ability of VR technologies to extend and reconfigure embodied experience. By featuring a living body, performance (and subsequently VR) allows women to “assert themselves as the active and self-determining agents of their own narratives” [1].

Through feminist game jams (distinguished by methods engaged and identification of participants) supported by multiple approaches to research documentation situated in OCAD University’s game:play lab, From Within an Active PoV will produce a series of VR sketches that explore, document, and instantiate a range of feminist approaches to processes of capture, design and development and interface.​ Engaging politically motivated activity in game cultures should grow from a purposeful playfulness in approach: playfulness is a much more potent force than direct conflict and offers an important means of engagement. 

​This will culminate in public exhibition and a co-Laboratory. Interested ReFiG researchers will join an open call for participation to these research jams. The jams will be documented using multiple methods (audio, video, note-taking, sketching, mapping, etc.) and the outcome shared in a range of channels including publication (academic and on the web), learning kits (for use in community and classroom) and via exhibition.

Additional Resources:
ReFig Website 
CFC Open Immersion Lab

1. Wark, Jane. 2006. Radical Gestures, Feminism, and Performance Art in North America. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press.

This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.





Photographs of immersants interacting with VR technology
Photograph of girl kneeling while playing a VR game
Photograph of two people: an immersant steps forward while interacting with VR and is observed by a second person
Photograph of a person using VR. Their right arm is extended forward as they move through the game world.
Tuesday, May 15, 2018 - 11:00am


Richard Fung’s RE:ORIENTATIONS  brings together a filmmaker, historian, and sociologist to produce a groundbreaking longitudinal documentary film on LGBTQ Asian Canadians covering a 30-year period. It fosters collaborations between community groups and academic institutions and brings critical conversations around sexuality, race, and nation to wider audiences.

RE:ORIENTATIONS (2016) revisits the interview subjects of Richard Fung’s 1985 film Orientations: Lesbian and Gay Asians, which was the first documentary on diasporic queer Asians in North America. RE:ORIENTATIONS presents seven surviving subjects of the original documentary with raw interview footage from the 1980s, putting them in dialogue with their younger selves. Their reflections on identity, sexuality, racism, activism, and cultural expression are contextualized through conversations with six younger queer and trans activists, scholars, and artists. The project examines continuities and transformations in identities, political discourses, social processes, and legal frameworks as they relate to the intersecting and continually shifting categories of ‘LGBTQ’ and ‘Asian Canadian’.

RE:ORIENTATIONS had its world premiere at Inside Out: Toronto LGBT Film Festival on Saturday May 28, 2016.The film was presented in international LGBT film festivals as well as Asian and Asian diaspora festivals. It has been acquired by university libraries and screened at universities and academic forums. In addition, RE:ORIENTATIONS opened the inaugural Shanghai Queer Film Festival and was the focus of a residency and roundtable at Simon Fraser University, to be published in a peer review journal.

Re:Orientations has produced enriched discourse among, and advocacy on behalf of, LGBTQ and Asian/Asian diaspora/Asian Canadian communities. and provided a pedagogical tool for academic institutions and a resource for research.


This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


Still from Re:Orientations - Interview subject on a Toronto street, standing before a wall covered in LGBTQ-postive statements
Photograph of a dancer performing. He is lying on the ground, wearing a mask.
Film still: a photograph of a man playing the piano while an elderly man listens in the background.
Monday, October 30, 2017 - 10:15am
Lab Member: 
Richard Fung

Digital Governance

Digital governance is the central challenge facing governing institutions and societies in the coming decades where information knows no boundaries, power is dispersed and authority and accountability need to be reconceived. What is digital governance and why is 'digital' a governance issue?

Westminster parliamentary democracy is widely credited with a high capacity to adapt to societal evolution. Its ability to adapt to the realities of a digital society is putting this claim to the test. Westminster governments were never designed with the digital era in mind. Two forces – digital and governance – are meeting like tectonic plates, shifting the landscape and giving rise to new peaks and valleys around key governance questions that all Canadians need to be concerned about: Who has real power? How should decisions be made? How can all players make their voices heard and ensure that account is rendered?

Digital Governance, an sLab research project, explores unprecedented challenges and opportunities facing governing institutions and associated groups in the digital era. Through research and engagement activities the project develops a network equipped to understand these dynamics and to guide innovation. The initial partners are University of Victoria, Institute on Governance (IOG), OCAD University, Dalhousie University, and MIGHTY Purpose. Together with additional partners (to be identified) the Digital Governance team will build a digital governance research network.

Project Objectives:

  • Provide a platform for a national conversation on the issues and possibilities of digital technology and governance. The partnership has established itself as a Digital Governance Commission – a modernized, virtual royal commission that combines visibility, engagement and evidence based research, and that engages Canadians to develop practical solutions.
  • Recognize that the discussion must move beyond technological change to an understanding of the disruptive nature of digital transformation as an historic opportunity to recast the role and responsibilities of governments, citizens and other actors.
  • Explore emerging governance challenges and possibilities, but also specific practice areas such as evidence based policy analysis, advising ministers and legislators, citizen engagement, modernizing service delivery and realigning administrative systems to meet new and ever increasing demands on the part of governments at all levels.
  • Examine the new and emerging governance challenges of the Westminster system in light of the advent of digital, and to determine the transformative and evolutionary changes required of government and non-government actors in an evolving democratic environment across Canada.
  • Determine and articulate the new, core competencies required of all stakeholders and institutions (e.g. politicians, public servants, citizens, the private sector, and students) in the digital age.
  • Design a research program with windows of opportunity in mind in order to maximize impact and generate practical impetus for change.
  • Articulate the value brought to key stakeholders and include open, transparent and participatory methodologies on an ongoing basis.


For further information, please visit

This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


Large text reading "Digital Governance: transforming government practice in the diigtal era"
Monday, October 23, 2017 - 12:30pm
Lab Member: 
Greg Van alstyne
Peter Jones