KMDI-Semaphore is an interdisciplinary research institute, situated in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. KMDI-Semaphore’s Director, Professor Sara Grimes, along with a distinguished Executive Committee work with faculty, students, and alumni from over twenty-five departments and eleven faculties across the Tri-Campus. The KMDI community extends to researchers, non-profits, policymakers and businesses in both the public and private sectors. Our team supports the research community by identifying potential collaborations, supporting new projects, and working to access new funding opportunities.
The Knowledge Media Design Institute (KMDI) was founded in 1996 by Professor Ron Baecker, and was UofT’s first virtual institute. Our researchers and students explore, design, and critique the knowledge media that enable people to communicate, create, learn, share, and collaborate. Today, the KMDI is in the process of merging with the Semaphore Research Cluster, which was co-founded in 2011 by Professors Matt Ratto, Sara Grimes, and Rhonda McEwen, as part of the Inclusive Design Institute (IDI). Semaphore generates action research into the technosocial dimensions of mobile, pervasive, digital and virtual technologies, that is aimed at supporting marginalized groups and individuals.
The goal of the merger of KMDI and Semaphore is to expand our research agenda, and advance our shared values for social justice and human-centred design through action research. This is represented in the work being carried out in our different research labs including Critical Making Lab, the Sensory Information Processing Lab, the Critical Games Lab, and the Technoscience Research Unit. Much of this work is driven by critical inquiries of technologies that bridge the material and digital, such as 3D printing and gaming technologies. This is done through hands-on engagement, deconstructing and modifying the researched technologies, complementing the theoretical and abstract approach of information research that is found at the Faculty of Information.
KMDI-Semaphore is concerned with the ever-evolving interaction between humans and technology. We live in a designed world where the role of humans is constantly changing and will continue to change. The mission of the KMDI-Semaphore is to carry out research and education that will inform the design of devices, systems, and applications to enhance and ameliorate the role of humans in a world of embedded, supporting, and sometimes controlling technologies. We approach this role from a multidisciplinary, collaborative, and human-centred perspective, combining science, technology, arts and design in its response to technological opportunity and change. In a rapidly evolving world, KMDI-Semaphore is a continuous evolving organization that seeks to address the problems of today as well as the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow. The increasing use of sensors, availability of data, prevalence of mobile devices and augmented intelligence, and rapid advances in brain science and software tools of all kinds provide KMDI-Semaphore with a rich palette to work with. Although it works at the frontiers of design and technology, the overarching goal of KMDI-Semaphore is to support and enhance the role of humanity in a world of mixed human and technological intelligence.
Today, KMDI-Semaphore is situated in an open-concept cluster of offices, workspaces and dedicated research spaces, on the 7th floor of the Robarts Library. We also run a Makerspace, Virtual Reality Studio and Demo Room in the Bissell Building, where we hold the majority of our events, community outreach and public initiatives. In addition, students in the Collaborative Specialization in Knowledge Media Design (KMD) are a vital part of the KMDI-Semaphore community. KMD’s graduate courses bring together students from several different disciplines who are interested in the interaction between technology, media and society to work on problems that will help enrich people’s lives.