Four unique immersive experiences round out York’s CRAM program, April 5

On April 5, inquiring minds from across the Greater Toronto Area are invited to a special evening of learning and discovery at CRAM, the first free learning festival of its kind in Canada. From 5 to 11 p.m., Toronto’s four universities will open their doors to the public to share some truly fascinating and novel research experiences that would not normally be available to the public. York University is taking this festival in a totally innovative direction with a slew of research events, a presidential panel, food trucks and more.

This article profiles a group of immersive events at York University’s Keele Campus. These events don’t require registration.

Listen to the Land, a 39-minute documentary followed by a talk
Screened at 7 and 10 p.m. in Seminar Room 1016, Vari Hall
Presented by Professor Celia Haig-Brown, Faculty of Education

Celia Haig-Brown

Reconciliation begins with our fundamental relationship with the land.  In her documentary, Haig-Brown explores how we can reconcile relationships with each other and with the land. She delves into questions of economic, environmental and cultural sustainability with Indigenous community members of the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach, in what is now called northern Quebec. The film also looks at what it means for a white filmmaker to work respectfully with an Indigenous community and asks viewers to consider what truth might be in such complex spaces.  How will we survive together into the next century?  Will we?

Haig-Brown’s research focuses on Indigenous education, land-based knowledge and relations between communities and the University. Author of four books and numerous articles, she is now exploring film.  Her first co-directed film, Pelq’ilc, was a selection at the Smithsonian’s Native-American Film Festival in New York.  Listen to the Land, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, is her first solo-directed work. She has received several awards for her writing and teaching including the Aoki Award for Distinguished Contributions to Canadian Curriculum Studies and the Faculty of Graduate Studies Teaching Award.

Artificial Nature – an immersive experience (drop in session)
Staged at 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 p.m. in Seminar Room 1152, Vari Hall
Presented by Graham Wakefield, assistant professor and Canada Research Chair Department of Computational Arts, School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design (AMPD)

Graham Wakefield

Step into a virtual garden of the mind. Artificial Nature combines art and research in an immersive, interactive installation that puts visitors in an invented ecosystem. Wakefield presents nature as it could be, drawing on software models rooted in biology and mixing them with immersive virtual and mixed reality technology. The imagined landscape comes alive around us through large-scale displays, stereoscopic rendering, virtual reality and augmented reality, projection mapping and spatialized audio. Interacting with this world makes us members of an ecosystem with its own physics and biology. This experience of a heightened, alternate natural world invites the child-like wonder we have for the complexity, beauty, and sublimity of “real” nature.

Wakefield is cross-appointed to the Digital Media Program and Department of Visual Art and Art History, and holds a five-year Canada Research Chair in Interactive Information Visualization. Wakefield is an artist-researcher whose contributions include both scholarly research and the creation of works of art. His research-creation is founded upon a trans-disciplinary academic training in interactive art, music, virtual/augmented reality, mathematics and philosophy, partnered with extensive professional practice in software engineering for creative coding in audio-visual, interactive and immersive media.

Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic, a full-body video game
Staged at 6, 7, 9 and 10 p.m. in Seminar Room 1154, Vari Hall
Presented by York PhD student Alison Humphrey

Alison Humphrey

This full-body video game lets you see the invisible effects that your choice to vaccinate, or not, has on those around you.  As you play, you explore a public health story rooted in gut-level truths and head-level facts. Shadowpox debuted during the 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva, where The Lancet called it “one of the most powerful and playful ways to illustrate both the individual and population-level implications of community immunity.”  Stay tuned for Shadowpox: A Torch in the Firewall, a science fiction story world co-created throughout 2019 with young artists on four continents.

Humphrey plays with story across drama, digital media, and education. After starting out as an intern at Marvel Comics, she produced one of the first alternate reality games for Douglas Adams’s Starship Titanic, initiated one of the earliest transmedia in-fiction blogs in a TV series, and co-created interactive, live-animated theatre projects Faster than Night (Toronto) and The Augmentalist (Silicon Valley). A Vanier Scholar in Cinema and Media Arts at York University, her doctoral research explores how a science-fiction story world (, co-created with young artists on four continents, can empower civic engagement and public health problem-solving.

Watch Without Being Seen: Snowden Archive-in-a-Box
Staged at 6, 7, 9 and 10 p.m. in Seminar Room 1022, Vari Hall
Presented by Evan Light, assistant professor, Communications Program, Glendon College    

Evan Light

In 2013, Edward Snowden leaked a cache of files detailing how the United States government and its allies are essentially surveilling the world. The Snowden Archive-in-a-Box (SAIB) is an offline archive of all publicly available Snowden files – it means you can do research on these files without being watched online. The SAIB offers libraries and other institutions, a system for easily disseminating sensitive material without incorporating it into their actual collections.  The version for CRAM adds an interception device that displays the digital conversations occurring between, for instance, your phone and the SAIB, to show you what it feels like to be surveilled.

Light is an Assistant Professor in the bilingual Communications Program at Glendon College, York University and a 2018 York University Research Leader.  He is a faculty member of the Masters of Public and International Affairs, Masters of Translation Studies and York’s Graduate Program in Communication and Culture.  A member of the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies and the Algorithmic Media Observatory, Light is also director of Border Probes, a research project documenting experiences crossing the US-Canadian border and the border surveillance apparatus.  He publishes widely on issues of privacy, surveillance and communication policy.