Emma Westecott publishes book chapter addressing Gender in Games

Cover of book.
Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 4:00am

Faculty Member Emma Westecott has published a chapter entitled "Playing with Gender: Promoting Representational Diversity with Dress-Up, Cross-Dressing and Drag in Games" in Etc Press's book "Diversifying Barbie and Mortal Kombat: Intersectional Perspectives and Inclusive Designs in Gaming", edited by Yasmin B. Kafai, Gabriela T. Richard, Brendesha M. Tynes. 

You can find more information about the book, including an option for a free digital download in the link below. 



Avatar Daughters: Envisioning a Spectrum between the Material/Virtual through Feminist Theory

The hypothesis of this research is that a mother daughter relationship is a metonymy for a human to avatar affinity. This idea is explored through feminist analysis, a lyric essay and the practice of visual arts, specifically a series of comic books featuring an avatar created in Second Life, an online, user-built virtual world. Through a human connection to an avatar, the boundaries of the material and the virtual are blurred and become a seamless spectrum—a space of suspension—which can be infinitely mined but never parsed. The thesis employs both practice-based (visual art) as well as theoretical (art historical and feminist) frameworks, to explore the spectrum of the material/virtual. The corresponding relation- ship, artist/avatar is also a spectrum between self and not self— subject and object at the same time.

An avatar is envisioned by an individual creator but is also the result of a necessary collaboration with the developers of the virtual world where the avatar is digitally materialised, so thus another spectrum between the individual and the collective is delineated. By acknowledging the agency that we often confer on images, and the nature of complex identities, the avatar, though ostensibly insentient, is positioned as an animated, mercurial image that encourages a psychologically complex reaction from humans. In linking the feminist analysis of French philosopher-artist, Luce Irigaray, to an affective reaction towards an animated avatar, an argument for a new perspective on a stubbornly enduring mind/body dichotomy is offered. These ideas are poetically echoed in the included artwork and theorised in the interwoven supporting academic analysis. Art making methods, such as collage/found object, playfulness, and unstable authorship, collectively named in this writing as a methodology of poïesis, are interjected into academic discourse, and literary strategies, and employed in the creative practice to con- struct a holistic approach to art and knowledge production. De- fining the material as the physically present and the virtual as a collective imagining supported by digital materiality, tools and technology, the resulting gamut becomes an inherently fluid, un- stable and contested expanse for which binaries of subject and object, material and virtual, are wholly inadequate. It is a vast, oceanic unknown that supports different ways to dream, from the mundane to the beautiful to the sublime.

Photograph of a pink hardcover edition of Lynne Heller's PhD Thesis
Image of Lynne Heller's avatar, Nar Duell
Image of a spread from Lynne Heller's PHD thesis, including a graphic of her avatar Nar Duell
A grid of of pages from Lynne Heller's PHD thesis which include graphics of her avatar, Nar Duell
Friday, February 5, 2016 - 9:15pm
Lab Member: 
Lynne Heller

Feminists in Games (FIG)

Feminists in Games (FiG) is a SSHRC-funded network development grant in partnership with Dr Jennifer Jenson at York University. The purpose of the project is to gather an international research association of digital media researchers to better understand the origins and consequences of the gendered digital divide and intervene in its reproduction.

OCAD University Graduate Researcher Madeline Ashby is funded to produce research for distribution by FiG. For Great Justice is a manual for feminist activism in the video game culture, community, and industry. It chronicles and examines successful strategies for activism, including examples from Occupy Wall Street, the Riot Grrls, Pussy Riot, and others. It models these movements and highlights the most effective traits of each. It then advises on strategies for activism and agency within online gaming communities and corporate video game development environments. With these strategies in place, individuals and communities can work more effectively for gender justice at work, at home, and at play.

FiG has funded 5 proposals for projects to receive incubator funding listed at http://www.ludicjunk.com/fig/ and Emma Westecott from OCADU will mentor the PsXXY¥borg (pro­nounced “cyborg”) project with game artist Hannah Epstein.


Materials and publications reviewed and created over the course of this project will be collected in the library of a group on the academic social bookmarking service zotero.

Reflections on research will be gathered on Tumblr for easy access, populated with links of interest and lengthier reflections on the design of compelling information interfaces.

Project Deliverable Downloads:

In development.

Project blog: http://www.ludicjunk.com/fig/

Poster with blue bands for the event
Monday, September 10, 2012 - 7:15pm
Lab Member: 
Madeline Ashby

Canada, gender and the Summer Olympics: A visualization

Curious about the balance of male versus female athletes competing for Canada in the Summer Games? Here, 2016 Graphic Design grad Jessica Yao takes a closer look at the numbers.

View more of Jessica’s work online.

Canada, gender and the Summer Olympics, Canada!, Jessica Yao , 2016             
| Jessica Yao , 2016
             Click here to view a larger version
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Women and art education: A history of belonging, inspiration and success

To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, InStudio is publishing photographs of women from the early 20th century who pursued their artistic ambitions by studying at the Ontario College of Art (as OCAD University was then known).

As a matter of fact, since our founding 140 years ago in 1876, women have been part of OCAD U’s vibrant and diverse student body. By contrast, it wasn’t until 1884 that women were permitted to enrol at the University of Toronto.

We hope you enjoy – and take inspiration from – these uplifting images.


G.S. Menzie, OCA students in front of the Grange (September 1922) G.S. Menzie, OCA students in front of the Grange (September 1922)
OCAD University Archives [PH110/57_004_367_010]


OCA students in front of the Normal School, St. James Square (ca. 1919/1920) OCA students in front of the Normal School, St. James Square (ca. 1919/1920)
OCAD University Archives [PH634/38_10_127_034]


OCA students inside the Normal School, St. James Square  (ca. 1919/1920) OCA students inside the Normal School, St. James Square (ca. 1919/1920)
OCAD University Archives [PH646/38_10_127_046]


OCA students in front of the Normal School, St. James Square (ca. 1919/1920) OCA students in front of the Normal School, St. James Square (ca. 1919/1920)
OCAD University Archives [PH635/38_10_127_035]


OCA students on McCaul St. (ca. 1920s)
OCA students in Grange Park (ca. 1920s)
OCAD University Archives [PH650/38_10_127_50]

InStudio thanks Scott Hillis, the visual resources coordinator and acting archivist at OCAD U’s Hoover Library, for his expert assistance in locating and identifying these images.

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Feminist Architectures

Poster for Feminist Architectures
Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 4:00am to Sunday, September 27, 2015 - 4:00am

Wall works by New York artist Adrienne Reynolds and Toronto-based ARTIFACTS (Pam Patterson & Leena Raudvee) explore imagery which defines how, and engages with, the limitations and potentials of feminist theoretical and architectural space. They articulate imagery through vectors of activity and/or, as bodies contained by/in structures. The work is critiqued and reframed by academic and cultural critic Dina Georgis.

[insert feminism]
Curated by OCAD U Illustration student Julia Pereira
Online at: http://insertfeminism.tumblr.com/

Venue & Address: 
Artscape Youngplace 2nd floor Hallway Gallery Opening Reception: Wednesday Sept 23, 6.30 p.m. with Panel at 7 p.m. Exhibit Dates: Sept. 16 – 27

Feminist digital initiative challenges universities’ race for MOOCs

Monday, August 26, 2013 - 4:00am

(Toronto—August 26, 2013) FemTechNet, a network of feminist scholars and educators, is launching a new model for online learning at 15 higher education institutions this fall, including OCAD University. The Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC), is a new approach to collaborative learning and an alternative to MOOCs, the massive open online course model that proponents claim will radicalize twenty-first century higher education. FemTechNet’sfirst DOCC course, “Dialogues on Feminism and Technology,” will launch fall 2013.

The DOCC model for 21st-century higher education recognizes and is built on the understanding that expertise is distributed throughout a network, among participants in diverse institutional contexts. This model explicitly departs from the typical MOOC approach organized around the delivery of information from an “expert” faculty (or a pair of instructors) to the uninformed "masses." The organization of a DOCC emphasizes learning collaboratively in a digital age by enabling the active participation of all kinds of learners (as teachers, as students, as media-makers, as activists, as trainers, as members of various publics and/or social groups). By virtue of its reach across institutions and learning sites, the DOCC also enables the extension of classroom experience beyond the walls, physical or virtual, of a single institution.

The participating institutions range from small liberal arts colleges to major research institutions. They include: Bowling Green State University, Brown University, California Polytechnic State University, Colby-Sawyer College, The CUNY Graduate Center, Macaulay Honors College and Lehman College (CUNY), The New School, Ohio State University, OCAD University, Pennsylvania State University, Pitzer College, Rutgers University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Yale University.

Faculty members at each institution (working singly or in teams) have developed courses within their specific educational setting. Both faculty and students will share ideas, resources, and assignments as a feminist network: the faculty as they develop curricula, and deliver the course in real time; and the students as they work collaboratively with faculty and with each other at their institutions and beyond. Participants may engage as onsite or online students enrolled in a course, or as "at-large" or "drop-in" learners.

At OCAD University, the Digital Futures Initiative will offer “Dialogues in Feminism and Technology” (DIGF 5B90), taught by Dr. Maria-Belén Ordóñez, to graduate and senior undergraduate students. This project has been realized and initiated through the ongoing collaboration of FemTechNet scholars at OCAD U including Dr. Paula Gardner, Dr. Caroline Langill and Dr. Sara Diamond.  Feminist scholars whose research is in media, technology and science at OCAD U will be collaborating through organized discussions that will ultimately facilitate the development of FemTechNet initiatives. A public panel discussion and two video dialogues featuring feminist scholars will be recorded live at OCAD U on September 27: 

Dialogues on Feminism and Technology
September 27, 6 to 8 p.m.
Free and open to the public


  • Dr. Sara Diamond, President, OCAD University
  • Dr. Paula Gardner, Associate Professor, Liberal Arts and Sciences & School of Interdisciplinary Studies and Graduate Studies; Co-Director, Mobile Experience Lab


  • Dr. Anne Balsamo, Dean of the School of Media Studies and Professor of Media Studies, The New School


  • Dr. Brenda Laurel, Chair and Professor at the California College of the Arts Graduate Program of Design
  • Dr. Janet Murray, Professor, Graduate Program in Digital Media, School of Literature, Communication and Culture, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Dr. Kim Sawchuk, Professor, Concordia University
  • Shu Lea Cheang, multimedia artist

Generously supported by a Connection Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

These dialogues are also anchored by video curriculum produced by FemTechNet. “Dialogues on Feminism and Technology” are currently twelve recorded video dialogues featuring pairs of scholars and artists from around the world who think and reimaginetechnology through a feminist lens. Participants in the DOCC — indeed, anyone with a connection to the web — can access the video dialogues, and are invited to discuss them by means of blogs, voice threads and other electronic media. As the course meets, students and teachers can plug in and join the conversation. Through the exchanges and the participants’ input, course content for the DOCC will continue to grow. From this process emerges a dynamic and self-reflective educational model.

The DOCC’s feminist focus highlights the interactions of art, science and technology as foundational knowledge areas for the twenty-first century and aspires to create innovative learning contexts that value the voices and expertise of both students and faculty.

While the DOCC initiative will be piloted primarily in North America, international participation in future projects ensures the kind of challenging dialogue and stakeholder inclusiveness necessary to imagine, and then create, more equitable and socially just educational models in the digital world.

About OCAD University
OCAD University (www.ocadu.ca) is Canada’s “university of imagination.” The university, founded in 1876, is dedicated to art and design education, practice and research and to knowledge and invention across a wide range of disciplines. OCAD University is building on its traditional, studio-based strengths, adding new approaches to learning that champion cross-disciplinary practice, collaboration and the integration of emerging technologies. In the Age of Imagination, OCAD University community members will be uniquely qualified to act as catalysts for the next advances in culture, technology and quality of life for all Canadians.

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For more information please contact:

Sarah Mulholland, OCAD U Marketing & Communications
416 977 6000 x327
mobile: x1327