A Farewell Message from MaryElizabeth Luka, Interim Director

To the KMDI community,


Thank you so very much. What a gratifying year, to get to serve as the Interim Director for KMDI for the 12 months following my three years as KMD CS Director. To the advisory committees, the interns and work study students, to the lab directors and researchers who aim to build inclusive futures, and to staff who make everything run: thank you.

It’s been a busy year. Two students from the Faculty of Information Bachelor of Information program, Tayedza Chikumbirike and Sebastian Rodriguez, revamped the KMDI website in the summer and fall of 2023 to make it more user friendly. Carol Lee, Kathy Shyjak, and I wrestled with the budget on numerous occasions to help meet as many of the needs of the labs, outreach activities, Makerspace, and partnerships as we could. Demand was about double what we could offer, and I expect this will continue to develop as research intensifies at KMDI. This included co-sponsoring the Ursula Franklin Lecture again this year, along with the Centre for Culture and Technology, and many others, which featured Mckenzie Wark. Our budget also supported the modification of viable space for labs, and other research activity related to the labs and to previous and new Institute commitments.

It was such a satisfying year in the Makerspace for Cookie Brunel, and for Yier Cao and Maha Khurram, our 2023-24 work study interns. We reached out to several student groups and classes, who took tours or worked in the Makerspace, and several labs or other research projects also made use of it. Brunel built a comprehensive inventory of equipment, including instructions for use and priorities for repair and replacements, as well as setting up new equipment and organizing it for better use, including with the help of Dube Burin and Kathy Shyjak at FoI, who sifted through boxes of previous invoices to determine provenance. Xinyan Fu has been a stalwart and efficient communications work study intern throughout 2023-24, increasing our social media presence as well as taking on specific projects for the GLAM Incubator and others. The GLAM Incubator itself has launched and supported several projects this year.

As for me, I have been directly involved in the Amplify Podcasting Network, connecting the KMDI podcast to this international scholarly endeavour, thanks to a successful proposal from the previous KMDI Director, Sara Grimes. The 2024 podcast is currently in editing, with four episodes anticipated for launch in the fall, thanks to the help of Faculty of Music work study student Lyndon Kwan, and York University intern Abi Seymour. Graduating Master’s students Trevor Cross and Samantha Younan, as well as Abi Seymour, provided research and editorial assistance to complete the Dirty Methods open access resource hosted on the UTSC Critical Digital Methods Institute website.

I also completed the KMD collaborative specialization self-study early in 2024, with invaluable assistance from Carol Lee, and advisory members from participating faculties. The CS self-study is a key step in the broader Institute self-study to come under the new Director. While I was no longer the official KMD CS Director, it was a pleasure to orient the new KMD CS students in the fall of 2023, and to check-in with existing students throughout the year: several graduated, and others touched base with updates from their new lives, post-U of T. Additionally, I had the pleasure of teaching INF3014, a doctoral methods course offered at the FoI in winter 2024, in the Makerspace as well as the KMDI meeting room, and encourage others to take up these multi-use spaces in comparable ways.

Most interestingly to me, I have learned a lot about the functioning of an Institute at University of Toronto. As someone whose research and teaching is deeply involved in governance structures, policy, and systems management, this has been both intriguing and informative.

As I embark on my first sabbatical leave as of July 1, I wish you all the best that the summer can bring, and look forward to seeing how the new Director of KMDI will take up the work ahead.


MaryElizabeth (M.E.) Luka

Interim Director of KMDI from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024