Wednesday October 28th

Writing group and Podcast

I am bushed today

  • I had meetings and work all the way from 9:30am and I won’t be done until around 11pm. Today was really great though. The writing space, although it’s completely not CS, is a nice quiet space to just write. I appreciate this space, and the people are kind. I think at least two persons in the group might be writing Art History dissertations, and one of them chose the topic, which was on a participatory work from an artist that I didn’t know. So I guess it’s kind of out of my element, although I did do a minor in Art History in Undergraduate study, so I have some context for observing or commenting on work (something something repoussoir).
  • I also did Improv night for Data Scientists last night, if you can believe it! So I mentioned that in the interview when they asked about Covid activities! I definitely have quite a few! Definitely been stepping into a few random spaces, and enjoying it. I was familiar with many of the exercises, though! I guess I’ve done enough improv groups in my life! I really like the idea of engaging in storytelling and improv with computer scientists and data scientists, though. Such a great idea! A lot of the exercises are about listening and empathy with regards to the person you’re working with, and reacting to that, which are skills anyone can benefit from improving. Also, the larger the group, the more flexible you have to be, as when doing things like collaborative storytelling, the story can change quite a bit before you have to add to the arc of the story.
  • I enjoyed the podcast, which I did with another member from BAI, and after that, I engaged in a lovely conversation with a friend from another University who is also in her second year. We have so much in common! Oh my goodness! She also likes privacy, particularly mpc, and her research involves using mpc for good, which is awesome!
  • I’ve only been learning a bit of mpc through my class with my advisor this semester but I love it! I love everything about the whole privacy and encryption space, but in a humanistic way (so the focus is on systems that help people rather than on the technology).
  • We both like hybrid spaces, and the application of technologies rather than technology or science for science’s sake, and we both like people (or rather, using technology and science to help people). Also, we both didn’t start out in Computer Science! How cool is that! I am so thankful to have met her! It’s inspiring. She a superstar!

And to writing

  • The prompt for tonight’s writing session was Nadia Myre’s “The Scar Project”. The project is a participatory exhibit in which persons can “describe their pain, hurt, healing and scars with a needle and thread, and paper and pen.”


  • Part of what it attempts to do is represent scars as stories. The medium is sewn canvas. What does it mean to leave behind a scar as canvas? What does it mean to make a participatory project in which we engage in sharing our pain on canvas collectively? It’s an interesting idea because it represents a notion of collaborative care as a practice, borne out of a sharing of individual moments or memories of pain. From afar, the work looks like pieces of wood. In fact, at first I thought they were pieces of wood. That gives the impression that they are living scars, rather than the canvas, which though having an element of breathability, does not have the same organic quality than wood. Wood also allows permanence in engraving, versus the canvas, in which persons had to sew scars out of thread.


  • The canvases are places so neatly in line, as though they were pixels on a computer. It reminds me of data, particularly computer vision analysis, where instead of representing an embedding with a bit value, we can represent it with elements that make it human. We can physically embed the human experience as a scar and of pain into the pixel image. Because it is represented in a way that reminds me of a pixel, there is a strange contrast of a wooden pixel, an organic pixel, with individual memories of pain or scars embedded, or engraved. It seems like a strange but interesting contract.


  • From afar, some of the embeddings look like strokes, like calligraphy, as though they were a language trying to communicate expressions in aggregate, like letter characters, with no indication or rules as to whether they should be interpreted left to right or right to left, or in any other way. There is something beautiful and clean and minimalistic about the canvases strung together; none of the wooden pixels seem to attempt to work outside of themselves; everyone has etched their scars within the limits of the square canvas or “wooden pixel”. Each scar is boxed in.


  • The towers of additional canvases sit on the wooden ground as though they were the audience, watching on display their own scars on canvas. Some of the scars are filled in, and some are just outlines of images. Some are simple line strokes. What strikes me as bizarre is that the scars do not intersect; I think that in real life, our experiences and the scars that we have interact or intersect with others; perhaps the thread from one would be intertwined with the thread from another block. We engage in experiences that hurt other people; if I had a canvas, my scar would leak out into the canvas of another person’s, and the scar might cut through the canvas and leave a permanent hole, as I think that scars by their very definition, at least some of them, never heal. We take them with us as we continue to outwardly appear to be healed.


  • Another thing is that the scar only shows the final process; we only see the single image. That doesn’t tell us about each person’s process, the happy accidents, the winding road that led them to the final piece. I was reading that her work deals with indigenous identity and memory. She focuses on the skin as metaphor. As a researcher dealing with data, the idea of that relationship between the canvas as skin and the way it looks like pixels of data is compelling. Particularly when we think about data as the encoding of humans or human identity. It might have been nice to use different gradations of canvas instead of the neutral colour, but I guess it’s kind of neutralizing in a particular way.

Tomorrow is another day

  • I have more stuff to catch up on tomorrow, but I am going to try to head to sleep at a decent time today (I think!)

That’s it

Written on October 28, 2020