Category Archives: Research Assistants

Making sense, sensing space: an inter-sensory walk & workshop

Trinity ChurchTrinity Square Park

On Monday November 9th, Responsive Ecologies Lab (RE/Lab) RA Melanie McBride will facilitate an inter-sensory talk and walk focused on the urban ambiances and ecologies in and around the RE/Lab with special guest Dr Milena Droumeva of Simon Fraser University. Drawing on applied and critical perspectives from sensory studies, acoustic ecology, critical pedagogy and smell walking/mapping, this workshop introduces practices of ‘sensory inquiry’ and ‘DIY sense making’  as a means of relating with, representing and constructing inter-sensory ambiances. Through a short inter-sensory walk involving listening, smelling, touching and (maybe) tasting different ambiances of place and (urban) space, participants will gain an understanding of more embodied, critical, inclusive and socioculturally situated approaches to studying the senses. Participants will be introduced to transdisciplinary techniques of engaging with and representing sensory, spatial, material and sociocultural ambiances that exceed traditional ethnographic methods, through an emphasis on non-visual stimuli such as smell, sound, touch, temperature, movement and bodily state.

Workshop facilitators

Dr. Milena MilenaDroumeva is the Glenfraser Professor in Sound Studies at Simon Fraser University. An experienced sound researcher, multimodal ethnographer and soundwalking enthusiast, Milena has been recording and listening for over 14 years in Vancouver and Europe as part of her urban soundscapes and mobile media cultures research. You can find her musings on sound and other material goodies at follow @ambientfluff



MelVentMelanie McBride
is a doctoral candidate in Communications and Culture at York University where she is researching inter-sensory learning and communications practices involving smell (and, increasingly, taste). Melanie’s developing practices of ‘sensory inquiry‘ are informed by her sensory ethnographic field work in Canada and France and her background as an inner city educator. Melanie is also a researcher with Ryerson’s RE/Lab, where she has created a DIY smell lab.  Find her online at:

Co-Facilitator: Daniel Harley
Daniel Harley is a Research Assistant at the Synaesthetic Media Lab (SynLab) at Ryerson University, studying interactive narratives for tangible and embodied technologies. He also has a background in music, with over ten years of experience working as a violinist in the Greater Toronto Area.




testing out the stomp interface

Farheen’s testing out the stomp interface of the @ReLabRye AAC device for Ontario Accessibility Innovation Showcase #OntarioAIS. I posted a picture of kamran grinding down some plexiglass for one of the devices in a previous post.

Farheen testing the stomp interface...
Farheen testing the stomp interface…

The AAC (Augmented and Alternative Communication) is something that our undergraduate research assistants have been working on all summer. They started with an open source ACC unit developed by Jim Wroten‘s as a replication project (to confirm the best hardware for the implementation) and a platform to develop new input switches, and design a new 3D printed case to integrate the speaker in a single unit. Though the hardware is the best for the code they developed, we decided to search around for what we thought might be a better input method. We settled upon the H4 (4 button huffman code) method developed by Scott Mackenzie and his grad students at York University.

Presently, we’re working to finalize input methods, such as this unique stop interface, to help people realize that input methods can be anything, and that only through observation and careful communication with an individual can needs of that person be understood, and the best possible input device developed with them. I doubt anyone would need a stomp interface, but it does get you thinking!

We have not developed a standalone H4 version based on Jim’s hardware yet, but we should have it done by the end of the summer. The next step will be to port the code over to new open-source hardware with the goal of simplifying the design and cost while increasing the number of languages that this can be used with to any language that can be represented using roman characters.

Kamran’s prepping our AAC device for #OntarioAIS

kamran grinding plexiglass
kamran grinding plexiglass

Kamran’s (@KamranWeb) grinding down some plexiglass to fit in the electronics for the RE/Lab’s new alternative and augmented communication (AAC) project. We started with the design Morse2Go developed and have been trying to make a more compact single unit that will allow someone to create text and spoken English/Spanish using just for buttons. Rather than morse code, we’re using H4 input method developed by Scott MacKenzie at York University. More to follow.

Getting ready for the ParaPanAm Games

Komal grinding metal
Komal grinding metal

Komal is one of the lab’s summer RA students working on 5 projects to present at the ParaPanAm Games’ Accessible Innovation Showcase. She’s grinding down some aluminum struts to build a frame for Mapping Place, one of our tangible narrative surfaces. All of the RAs are learning to use various traditional fabrication tools (grinders, sanders, drill presses) as well as 3D printers and laser cutters.