When I took over the reins as Director of the KMDI in 2018, I had big plans and an ambitious five-year timeline. One of my main goals was to merge the KMDI and the Semaphore Research Cluster on Mobile and Pervasive Computing, creating exciting new research synergies for the Institute and building a sustainable home for Semaphore’s ground-breaking research labs. I also wanted to establish the KMDI as a place where innovative forms of knowledge mobilization—or knowledge media—could be explored, developed, and advanced across the tri-campus. As my time as Director draws to a close, I am grateful to the KMDI community for joining forces with me in the realization of these goals. I am very proud of all that we accomplished, especially during such an unexpectedly tumultuous period.
We encountered daunting hurdles along the way due to the global pandemic and its devastating impacts on our personal lives, our work, our social systems, and so much more. We pivoted, we revised our plans, we missed our deadlines, we collaborated virtually, we failed, we succeeded, we explored new possibilities, we experimented, and above all, we established ourselves as a community driven by an ethic of care and compassion.
This last element—an ethic of care—is, in my opinion, what enabled us to do so much despite the massive disruptions happening around and to us. We supported 22 fantastic research projects, including the Academic TikTok Study, the iNet.Edu prototype project, the Digitally Archiving Adult Film History Project, and the On the Land Multimedia Map Project (MEME). We launched 5 research infrastructure support initiatives, including the GLAM Incubator, the Critical Technology podcast, and the Pop-up Video Studio. We built capacity to provide a range of services to our researchers, including in-house graphic design, a research equipment lending library, an active social media presence to share research news, and drop-in hours with our Makerspace tech and project support team. With partnering units from across the University of Toronto, we launched a prestigious new lecture series commemorating the legacy of Ursula Franklin (the Franklin Lecture) and celebrated the achievements of our colleagues. We created 60 casual employment opportunities for students and alumni, which included several remote positions during lockdown.
Through the hard work of our lab heads/directors, our labs produced research addressing a range of timely issues, including the Critical Making Lab’s Toronto Emergency Device Accelerator (TEDA) project, the Technoscience Research Unit’s Environmental Data Justice project, and the Kids Play Tech Lab’s Child Appropriate Game Design project. We also welcomed a new addition to the KMDI family: the Socio-Technical ResistancE and Ethical Technologies (STREET) Lab.
My deepest and most heartfelt thanks to my wonderful staff, students, assistants, colleagues, affiliates, and other members of the KMDI community for your valuable contributions to these efforts and for your unwavering support and kindness. You made it all possible.
I look forward to contributing to the KMDI in an ongoing capacity as director of the Kids Play Tech Lab. And to drawing on the KMDI’s impressive repertoire of knowledge media design and mobilization expertise to extend the reach of my research moving forward. I’m excited to see how the KMDI develops and the new directions it will take under Dr. Luka’s leadership, with an additional big thanks and congratulations to ME for taking over this vital role.
Sara M. Grimes, PhD
Director of the KMDI from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2023