History

History

The University of Toronto’s Knowledge Media Design Institute was established within the School of Graduate Studies in the spring of 1996, and now consists of over 85 faculty members from 25 different academic departments. Drawing on the expertise of our membership, the Knowledge Media Design Institute has roots in a number of intellectual traditions in which University of Toronto faculty have played an important role.

The McLuhan Program today, under the leadership of Dominique Scheffel-Dunand, is now an independent research and teaching unit within the Faculty of Information Studies. Program members are currently involved in a variety of research projects and seminars addressing the impact of new media technologies on culture. In the spring of 1998 a graduate course entitled New Media and Policy: Designing a Canadian Knowledge Nation was given with FIS and accompanied by a public lecture series entitled Canada by Design, produced by Dr. Liss Jeffrey and co-sponsored by KMDI and the Information Commons.

The Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto was founded and led by KMDI member Professor Emeritus Kelly Gottlieb. In Professor Gottlieb’s long and illustrious career he built the first computer in Canada, founded CIPS (the Canadian Information Processing Society), wrote the first book on the social impact of computers on society, and received the Order of Canada in recognition for his lifetime of achievement.

Biomedical Communications is an interdisciplinary profession which bridges the disciplines of art, science, medicine and communication. Since its creation by Professor Nancy Joy 53 years ago, the Biomedical Communications (BMC) Program, previously known as Art as Applied to Medicine, has received international recognition for its educational program.

Biomedical Communications is a Division within the Department of Surgery and its current graduate M.Sc. degree is offered through the Institute of Medical Science, Faculty of Medicine. In the past, medical illustration was confined to anatomical and surgical subjects. Today, biomedical communication focuses on complex conceptual subjects within multiple disciplines including cellular and molecular biology, integrated cellular and organ systems (e.g. immunology), design and testing of interactive health-care teaching systems, and health-care promotion. The production of this visual material often involves the use of advanced technology including image synthesis and manipulation, instructional technology, and scientific visualization. Through the selection of appropriate content and media, the analyses of target audiences, and the evaluation of communication instruments, the effectiveness of original visual communication material is further enhanced.

The Computer Science Department’s Dynamic Graphics Project (DGP) has been carrying out pioneering computer graphics and human-computer interaction research since it was founded by Professor Leslie Mezei 30 years ago. Professor Ron Baecker, the initiating force behind KMDI, is a founding member of the fields of interactive computer graphics, computer animation, and software visualization, areas that emerged in the 1960s and are having an enormous impact far beyond the laboratory today in, for example, special effects in film. Professor Baecker is being honoured for his pioneering efforts in a exhibition being mounted in the Boston Computer Museum this year. Professor Alain Fournier, and, more recently,Professors Eugene Fiume and Michiel van de Panne and their students have been working on 3D modelling and rendering and on computer animation using physical modelling, and have collaborated on problems of scientific visualization with colleagues from Alias|Wavefront and INRIA (France). In the last decade, a world-class Human-Computer Interaction group has formed within DGP. Originally led by Professors Baecker, Bill Buxton, and Marilyn Mantei, they have been designing, developing, applying, and testing novel human-computer interaction techniques and systems.

Professor Barry Wellman at the Department of Sociology has had a long term interest (since the late 1960s) in non-local communities that are connected by communication technologies (e.g., phone, email) and transportation systems which he calls “Liberated Communities.” Professor Wellman’s work led easily to his interest in how non-local “virtual communities” and “computer-supported cooperative work” are connected by computer-mediated communication. Led by Barry Wellman, the Sociology Department’s Structural Analysis Programme in the 1980s gathered together a dozen faculty members interested in studying social networks. This work has formed the intellectual basis for ongoing research into computer networks as social networks.

In the 1970s Professor John Senders of the Human Factors Group of the Dept. of Industrial Engineering was a pioneer in the development of the electronic journal, a format that today is an integral part of the work practises of scientists in the physical and life sciences. The Group within Mechanical and Industrial Engineering has for several decades been developing principled methods of using data about human capabilities in the design of technologies and systems; this includes Professor PaulMilgram‘s work on augmented reality interfaces, Professor Mark Chignell‘s work on hypermedia authoring and navigation, and Professor Kim Vicente‘s work on ecological interface design.

Centre for Landscape Research of the Faculty of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, led by Professors John Danahyand Rob Wright, has for over a decade carried out world-class research in the applications of interactive computer graphics to three-dimensional visualization, design, and planning. Its members have also collaborated with Professor Carl Amrhein of Geography on geographic information systems (GIS). In addition, the work of the Centre provides leading edge insights into the nature of the design process itself; a process central to many of the disciplines represented in KMDI, but not traditionally taught or well understood in most departments or faculties.

The Ontario Telepresence Project (OTP), which ran from 1992-94, was a $6M industry-university consortium supported by the Province of Ontario, a number of firms and corporations, including Bell Canada, and the University of Toronto, Carlton University and the University of Ottawa. Under the scientific directorship of Bill Buxton in the UofT Computer Science. OTP brought together scientists and scholars from computer science, sociology, industrial engineering, and information studies, including at the University of Toronto, Professors Marilyn Mantei, Barry Wellman, Janet Salaff, Ron Baecker,  Kim Vicente, Andrew ClementDr. Gale Moore was head of social science research and Professor Gerald Karam of Carlton University was the director of engineering . The mission was to investigate the user-centred design and use of novel collaborative technologies, especially “media spaces.” The project became a world focal point of research and practical experience in advanced systems and methodologies for the support of groups distributed in time and space. While other groups were also building prototype systems (e.g., Bellcore, Xerox, Sun) and testing them in the lab, the OTP was conducting arms-length field studies with users in ‘real-world’ organizations. In the three years of the project, over 55 project publications appeared in refereed journals and conference proceedings. One commercial outcome was the selection of the OTP model of videoconferencing by Corel for the development of CorelVideo and their engagtement with the concept of “ethical” software proposed by the OTP team. Team members contributed several chapters to a book entitled Video-mediated Communication (Lawrence Erlbaum, 1997). The OTP was a model of transdisciplinary research and collaboration and an inspiration for the possibilities and potential of cross-disicplinary university based research.