Who We Are

KMDI-Semaphore Director

Sara Grimes
Prof. Sara Grimes

Dr. Sara M. Grimes is Director of the Knowledge Media Design Institute (KMDI) and Semaphore Labs, as well as Associate Professor in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. Her research and teaching are centred in the areas of children’s digital media culture(s) and critical theories of technology, with a focus on digital games. Her published work explores the commercialization of children’s play culture and creative expression, discussions of intellectual property and fair dealing in child-specific digital environments, as well as the legal and ethical dimensions of marketing to children online. Her scholarship appears in numerous academic journals, edited collections and readers, and has been presented at multiple national and international conferences. Community outreach forms a core part of Dr. Grimes’s professional practice, and she regularly speaks at media/cultural industry conferences, participates in policy consultations, and engages in community outreach. Most recently, Professor Grimes was Principal Investigator on a multi-year, cross-sector, transnational research collaboration called the Kids DIY Media Partnership, which identified key opportunities and challenges associated with children’s “do-it-yourself” media platforms, and investigated their implications for children’s creativity, learning, cultural rights, and well-being. Professor Grimes holds degrees in Communication  from Simon Fraser University (PhD, MA) and the University of Ottawa (BA Hons). She is the founder and head of the Critical Games Lab.

Lab Heads

Prof. Matt Ratto

Dr. Matt Ratto is Associate Professor with the Faculty of Information, and the newly appointed holder of the Bell University Laboratories (BUL) Chair in Human-Computer Interaction. He is also Chief Science Officer of Nia Technologies, a non-profit social enterprise aimed at using 3D printing technologies to help improve the lives of people with disabilities in developing countries. Previously, Matt created and ran ThingTank, a collaborative project between private, non-profit, and academic partners working collectively on the then-new Internet of Things. Widely known as an expert on 3D printing and digital fabrication, Matt’s academic work first and foremost centers on the notion of “critical making,” a term he uses to describe the making of material objects as a means of engaging with both the practical and theoretical. It forms the basis of his Critical Making Lab, housed at Semaphore, and is discussed in his many journal articles, conference papers, chapters, and his upcoming book (provisionally) entitled Critical Making. Professor Ratto received his PhD from the University of California, San Diego in 2003, completed a 2 year post-doc at the Netherlands Institute for Scientific Information (NIWI) and received a research fellowship at the HUMlab, an innovative digital humanities laboratory located at the University of Umea, Sweden. He moved to the University of Toronto in 2008. He is the head of Critical Making Lab.

Prof. Michelle Murphy

Dr. Michelle Murphy is a feminist technoscience studies scholar and historian of the recent past who theorizes and researches about the politics of technoscience; decolonial approaches to environmental justice; sexed , raced, and queer life; reproductive justice; infrastructures; and critiques of racial capitalism and particularly in contemporary, settler colonial, cold war, and postcolonial conjunctures associated with Canada and United States, and more recently Bangladesh.She is the author of The Economization of Life (Duke UP 2017), Seizing the Means of Reproduction: Feminism, Health and Technoscience (Duke UP, 2012) and Sick Building Syndrome: Environmental Politics, Technoscience, and Women Workers (Duke UP 2006), winner of the Fleck Prize from the Society for the Social Studies of Science.Professor Murphy is Red River Métis from Winnipeg. She has a PhD in History of Science from Harvard University and is Professor of History and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Toronto. She is the head of Technoscience Research Unit (TRU).

Prof. Rhonda McEwen

Dr. Rhonda McEwen is Canada Research Chair in Tactile Interfaces, Communication and Cognition and is an Associate Professor of New Media & Communication. Professor McEwen has worked with and researched in digital communication media for 15 years, both for companies providing services and in management consulting to those companies. Her research and teaching centre around information practices involving new media technologies, with an emphasis on mobile and tablet communication, new media, social networks, and sensory information processing. McEwen’s research was covered by the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes in 2012 and 2013. Her recent publications appear in Information, Communication & Society, Computers and Education, Learning & Instruction, New Media and Society, and Library and Information Science Research.
Professor McEwen holds an MBA in Information Technology from City University in London, England, an MSc in Telecommunications from the University of Colorado, and a PhD in Information from University of Toronto. She is the head of Sensory Information Processing Lab.

Post-doctoral Fellow

Dr. Michelle Liu is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology, University of Toronto Mississauga. Her research lies at the intersection of the Learning Sciences and Human Computer Interaction, where she is currently investigating tactile interactions, communication and cognition in mixed-reality learning environments. Dr. Liu has a PhD in Education (Curriculum Studies & Teacher Development) from the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto, specializing in Knowledge Media Design. Her thesis, “Designing EvoRoom: An immersive simulation environment for collective inquiry in secondary science,” looks at the learning and design affordances of a mixed reality environment and collective inquiry curricula for students learning Grade 11 biodiversity and evolution topics. Her previous work includes several different research projects in smart classrooms (Math, Physics, EPIC) and technologies for health including PEIR and CHAT.

KMDI-Semaphore Staff

Rekha Morbia

Rekha Morbia is the Administrative Coordinator – KMDI at the Faculty of Information. She has over 14 years of experience working at the University of Toronto in various administrative roles. Please contact her if you have any questions related to admissions or course requirements for the KMDI Collaborative Specialization.

Jose Guzman

Jose Guzman works as a Research Assistant at KMDI-Semaphore and is a Master’s of Information student at the University of Toronto. He is a published author and sports journalist. His interests academically and professionally focus on health and wellness technologies for those with physical disabilities.

Halla Imam


Halla Imam
works as a Digital Archivist at KMDI-Semaphore and is a Masters of Information thesis candidate at the University of Toronto. Her interests centre on systems design, culture, and technology.

Sarah Dunn


Sarah Dunn is an Events Coordinator at KMDI-Semaphore and a Masters of Information candidate at the University of Toronto.

Doctoral Students

Allen Kempton


Allen Kempton is a PhD student at the Faculty of Information. His area of interest focuses on the intersection of digital communication technologies and theories of play and game. Allen’s research currently focuses on the development of metaplay via information communication technologies and how globally developed practiced influence local digital gaming play practices of Pokemon players in Durham Region.

Dawn Walker


Dawn Walker is a PhD student at the Faculty of Information. Her research focuses on participation in civic technology and design practices. She completed her Master’s of Information at the University of Toronto in 2016. Her previous research includes co-design to investigate how community mapping increases participation in urban agriculture. Dawn
also hold an Honours Bachelor of Arts with Distinction in Philosophy and
History.

Curtis McCord is currently a PhD student at the Faculty of Information, generally nondisciplinary scholar focused on democratic sociotechnical infrastructures, participatory design of community/civic technology, and how these types of political and social activity relate to transformative sustainability and social change. Previously, Curtis’ studies included a B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science, and an MI in information systems design, and a thesis focused on reading values in the design of online consultation systems run by governments. Currently favoured techniques include qualitative data collection with frames from critical systems thinking, science and technology studies, and communications.