Making a Network of Relations Visible
Where are the margins of the local? What are the ethics of data/representation
Constance Crompton, Deanna Fong, Tomasz Neugebauer, and Ryan Rice
Friday, August 6, 2021 @ 2 – 3:30 pm
See the transcript below.
Support documents: https://osf.io/87g2a/
Network diagrams: http://photomedia.ca/visualizations/artexte/sigma/agyu/
The Desire Lines series began with the proposition that we could see communities formed around print production in Toronto, between 1978 and 1988, by drawing network visualizations from the metadata describing magazine issues. This final panel in the series brings together different perspectives on the ethics of working with collective mapping practices and metadata to make visible relationships in archives and periodicals, which may or may not resonate in human hearts. What are the ethics of working with metadata? Do these algorithmically-derived relationships resonate in human hearts? How do we address the absences in these networks?
For Making a Network of Relations Visible, we bring together four people whose work is intimately tied to the quantitative (metadata analysis) and qualitative (oral histories) methodologies we have explored over the course of this project. Tomasz Neugebauer, a librarian from Concordia University with a particular interest in data visualization, has been central in the creation of the network maps that are at the core of this project. Constance Crompton, Canadian Research Chair in Digital Humanities at University of Ottawa researches the ethical and methodological potential for code to represent queer cultural histories. Deanna Fong, a postdoctoral fellow at Concordia University and member of the SpokenWeb, works at the intersection of oral histories and social metadata, with a particular interest in the ethics of listening for gender relations in recordings of cultural events. Ryan Rice, curator and professor at OCAD University, has been involved in ongoing work tracing absences and presences in contemporary Onkwehón:we visual art exhibition and publishing histories, and he brings to this series a vital reminder of different research modes for exploring the textures of relations in artistic communities of Tkaronto/Toronto.
This panel takes inspiration from the critical data work of Safiya Umoja Nobel, Ruha Benjamin, Jennifer Wemigwans, and Catherine d’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein to think through what we’ve learned along the way from our speakers and our listening audiences. Can these networks be perceived as hopeful social movements, or are they the product of the computational algorithms of oppression? Is listening with care to oral histories a way to get closer to respectful engagement with the humans behind the data? And why the absences? The absences, what you cannot see, are just as important as what is visible to you in the data.
Constance Crompton is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Ottawa and Canada Research Chair in Digital Humanities. She directs the University of Ottawa’s Labo de données en sciences humaines/The Humanities Data Lab and co-directs the Lesbian and Gay Liberation in Canada project. She is part of the Linked Infrastructure for Networked Cultural Scholarship and Implementing New Knowledge Environments Partnership research teams. She serves as VP English of the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities / Société canadienne des humanités numériques and an associate director of the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (uVictoria), North America’s largest digital humanities training institute. She lives and works on unceded Algonquin territory.
Deanna Fong is a SSHRC-funded Postdoctoral Fellow at Concordia University where her research project, “Towards an Ethics of Listening in Literary Study” intersects the fields of Oral History and Literature through an investigation of interviewing and listening practices. She co-directs the audio/multimedia archives of Fred Wah, for which she was recently awarded a SSHRC IDG grant to pursue research on social metadata. Her critical work appears in the recent publications Canlit Across Media (MQUP, 2019) and Pictura: Essays on the Works of Roy Kiyooka (Guernica Editions, 2020). With Karis Shearer, she co-edited Wanting Everything: The Collected Works of Gladys Hindmarch (Talonbooks, 2020).
Tomasz Neugebauer is the Digital Projects & Systems Development Librarian at Concordia University, where he participates in the design, development, and implementation of various research and library applications. His current research interests include information visualization, linked open data, metadata interoperability, open-source software systems used for digital curation, preservation, and the building of digital repository infrastructure. Tomasz has developed software for the visualization of bibliographic metadata, DNA data, and a number of software plugins to the EPrints digital repository platform. In 2013, he helped to launch the e-Artexte open access digital repository. He has been collaborating with the SpokenWeb research project since 2016. Tomasz is the editor of the PhotographyMedia, containing a blog and a selection of his data visualization and photography.
Ryan Rice, Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawake, is a curator, Associate Professor, and the Associate Dean in the Faculty of Arts and Science at OCAD University, Toronto. His institutional and independent curatorial career spans 30 years in community, museums, artist run centres, and galleries. Rice’s writing on contemporary Onkwehón:we art has been published in numerous periodicals and exhibition catalogues, and he has lectured widely. He is currently working on three solo exhibitions including Jordan Bennett: Souvenir for Onsite Gallery and Pageant: Natalie King for Centre , while his touring exhibition Bait: Couzyn van Heuvelen recently ended in Summer 2021. Rice was recently appointed Curator, Indigenous Art at Onsite Gallery (OCAD) and is currently developing two public art projects as the Indigenous Public Art Curator with Waterfront Toronto.
Desire Lines: the series
The trajectory of arts magazine publishing in Toronto from the 1970s onward has always been a space criss-crossed by lines of desire. This speaker series takes an algorithmically produced network diagram of publishing metadata as a jumping off point for story-telling around personal memories.
This series is organized by Felicity Tayler, Interim Head, Research Support (Arts and Special Collections) at the University of Ottawa Library and Michael Maranda, assistant curator. New generation respondents are curated by Faith Paré, made possible by an RA-ship from the SpokenWeb partnership. The background to the series comes out of a metadata analysis of three magazines from the seventies and eighties, Fuse, Border/Lines, and Fireweed, that Felicity put together with Tomasz Neugebauer of Concordia University.
We would like to offer thanks to the participants who are generously contributing to this program, which is deeply informed by the legacies of their practices. We would also like to thank our partners Artexte and SpokenWeb.
Notes on this transcript:
The following transcript has been edited for clarity and published without a Q&A section in keeping with the other event transcripts of this series.
Michael Maranda: Welcome. In recognition of our place on the traditional territory of numerous Indigenous nations, the Art Gallery of York University thanks the Wendat, the Haudenosaunee, and the Anishinaabeg, who have and continue to care for this land. This land is the subject of the Dish With One Spoon covenant and Wampum between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Three Fires Confederacy, and other allied nations in an agreement to share the land and its resources. The Gallery occupies land referred to in Crown Treaty 13, also known as the Toronto Purchase, which was originally signed in 1805. While the government of Canada and the Mississaugas came to an agreement in 2010 on the claims arising from this treaty, we should continue to acknowledge that treaties are not isolated in time, and the obligations outlined in them should be understood as part of an ongoing relationship, not a one-off historical exchange.
The land which we are acknowledging here is not an area to be found on a surveyor’s map. It is a set of interrelationships between the ecologies and subjects. It is an understanding of a set of responsibilities to one another. I would ask that we all consider the territories in which we currently find ourselves in. Please feel free to use the chat for your own personal acknowledgements.
Okay, thank you, and welcome to “Making a Network of Relations Visible,” although we could as easily refer to the panel’s theme as just making a network. This is the final online conversation in the series on art publishing in Toronto. It comes out of a project of mapping the metadata of a series of magazines active in the seventies and eighties in Toronto to establish a network diagram on the social relations within the pages and the offices of those magazines.
These maps are not end points, however. Like the land of our land acknowledgement, these maps stand in for these social relations which we were attempting to document. This panel is intended to be adjacent to the various methodologies and influences at play in this collective process. If you haven’t familiarized yourself with the project, I would encourage you to visit our website for a fuller description.
We are also uploading documentation of all the panels there, including responses to the content of the panels from various peoples.
Before turning this discussion over to Felicity, I would like to thank her for all the work that she’s putting into this project. It’s been a real pleasure as it has unfolded over the past six months, and I’m sure will continue to surprise in the coming months as we continue to prepare and present ancillary documentation.
I would also like to extend thanks to both Faith Paré and Josie Spalla, who have been key in helping us keep on track, and, of course, I need to thank the two organizations whose resources have been vital in supporting this endeavor, and those would be Artexte and the SpokenWeb network.
Finally, we have to acknowledge the support of our funders, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council, York University, and our donors, friends, and supporters. The staff at the gallery have been unfailing in their support of this series, and I want to thank them as well. Finally, of course, the participants in these conversations, who all have been generous with their time, their experience, and their knowledges, and with that, please welcome Felicity Tayler, who will be introducing today’s presenters.
Felicity Tayler: Thank you, Michael.
I’m speaking to you today from unceded, unsurrendered Algonquin Anishinaabek territory. For almost three years, I’ve lived here with my family, and we are grateful for the many generations of stewardship of this land.
I’m going to give a long introduction, a little bit of context about the etiquette of the Zoom room, so bear with me, but what it will do is set up all of our speakers and bring those of you who haven’t tuned in for other parts of the series onto the same page before we start to have our discussion about what the speakers bring with them today. So, in Making a Network of Relations Visible, or Making a Network, as Michael called it, we take up the technical difficulties and ethical conundrums that come with critical data work that combines affect, archival materials, mediated communications, and oral histories to explore collective production and stations of community belonging.
To situate ourselves visually within the Desire Lines series, I’m going to share my screen briefly with you, and what we’re looking at now is the full network. If you want to, you can link to it and play around with it while I’m speaking. It’ll give you something to do.
This is the full network that you see here, and these are some screenshot portraits, let’s say, of some of the speakers that we’ve had in the series up until now. And these are people who have contributed in some way to the production of the magazines Fireweed, Fuse, and Border/Lines, and so we have Lillian Allen, who was in our first panel. We have Clive Robertson, who was in our first panel as well. We have Makeda Silvera, who was part of the second panel, and Kass Banning, and Will Straw, who were part of the third panel.
Most of the recordings for those panels are available if you want to watch them at another time, and other materials related to the panels will be published on the web in due course.
The previous panels in the Desire Lines series foregrounded oral history as a method for giving the floating signifiers of those dots and lines meaning. I’m sure as you looked at it, you were asking, “What am I looking at?” And it’s commonly acknowledged that the dots and lines of these kind of algorithmically produced network diagrams only really gain meaning when we start to read them. It’s sort of like a Rorschach blot, it gets meaning depending on what you project onto it. And so one of the ways that we wanted to explore what kind of meaning that this network could have beyond our own projections was to foreground oral history, as a method for giving those floating signifiers a narrative through the personal narratives and memories of community relations.
Because one of the things that we were proposing was, that the different-coloured spaces of those diagrams, and the connections between people based on magazine issues, somehow reflected a sensation of communities. The earlier panels were about bringing public data sets and publishing histories back to the multiple complex interrelated communities who produced the diagram in the past, right? [laughs]
This included many members of the listening audiences that came to the series along the way, and so we learned more and had more narratives that kind of layered on top according to who was present in the audiences as well.
So in that sense, the series was about listening with intention and with an awareness of how our positionality influences what we perceive in the questions, pauses, omissions, and memory work of our speakers, and also the respondents to the panel, all of whom made this series possible through the lives of their practices and the sharing of memories. This series could go on much, much longer as there are many more narratives out there for listening, so it’s really just a tiny little slice. And this event today is a little different as we ask ourselves how to account for the gaps between what the publishing networks show us, which is a cumulative collectivity of labour, mediated and personal relations, and what they don’t show us, which is mainly the power dynamics at play in publishing fields.
This event will think through why the textures of community relations and the creative affinities, loves, conflicts, and structural inequities often reside beyond the visual, or outside the printed archive.
Just going to pause for a moment to talk about the etiquette points of the Zoom room. I want to thank you all for coming, and I want to remind everyone that the event is being recorded, and will be published and transcribed for accessibility. We also have many participants with us today who were part of the magazines and the social scenes that we’ll be discussing because we’re going to go beyond this network in this talk as well to talk about other kinds of networks, so I do want to acknowledge that you’re out there in the audience. We would love to hear from you.
There’s no live Q and A in the session where you get to unmute and speak live, but we do encourage you to ask questions or make comments or tell stories in the chat. We’ve had some really fabulous contributions and discussions that came out that way in previous panels. And likewise, please be aware that your texts, statements, and questions may appear in the published versions of the video and the transcript later on.
As you saw before, I’ll also be publishing links in the chat to supplementary materials as I talk, and the other speakers may do so as well. So, if you want to know more about the diagrams that I showed earlier, the ones that you’re exploring online right now, I encourage you to watch the recording of the first event in this series with Lillian Allen and Clive Robertson, but briefly, the network diagrams visualize the field’s production around three Toronto-based magazines between 1978 and 1987 as a collectivity, so we have Fireweed, Border/Lines, and Fuse. They all published around the same time, and Fuse began as Centerfold, and so the timeline, again, it’s 1978 to 1987. It’s a very specific slice of time.
All three of these magazines have been acknowledged as spaces where cultural race politics or intersectional feminism were worked through as modes of activist cultural criticism. So, the computational algorithms that produced the network emphasize connectedness within the boundaries of the network through co-contribution relationships, so, people who contribute to multiple magazine issues together. But it also recognizes that people play multiple roles in the production of magazines, so, people can be writers, they can be editors, but they can also be typesetters, illustrators, or photographers, and they can occupy multiple different roles.
What this means is that the dots in the diagram get bigger the more that an individual connects other people together through contributions to individual magazine issues, and you’ll hear more about the technical aspects of the diagram from my colleague, Tomasz Neugebauer, who’s joined us today. He’s the Digital Projects and Systems Development Librarian at Concordia University, a long-time collaborator with me since we completed our master’s degrees in 2005, and now we work together in the SpokenWeb partnership.
Also joining us is another of my research collaborators, Constance Crompton, a Canadian Research Chair in Digital Humanities at University of Ottawa. Today, we’ll hear about how, as co-director of the Lesbian and Gay Liberation Project, she’s engaging with the ethical and methodological potential for network visualization to represent queer cultural and activist histories, which overlap with these Toronto-centric publishing networks as well.
Deanna Fong is another of my close collaborators on the SpokenWeb partnership, and she joins us to speak about her work on how to engage ethics of care when working with metadata and oral history methods. As T.J. Cowan has reflected, responsive care for the communities and people who are the embodied archives behind the data points may mean working outside or beyond the institutional logics of open access and preservation, online publication, or exhibition.
Recognizing that the protocols for this kind of careful work are still in progress, this panel takes an inspiration from the critical data work of Safiya Umoja Noble, Ruha Benjamin, Jennifer Wemigwans, and Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein, to think about what we’ve learned along the way about the archival desires of our speakers and our listening audiences. Can these networks be perceived as hopeful social movements, or do they perpetuate data discrimination through computational algorithms of oppression? Do these digital networks reproduce social inequities of an earlier print era? Is listening with care to oral histories a way to move slower and get closer to respectful engagement with the humans behind the data? And how are the absences, what you cannot see, just as important as what is visible to you in the data?
So, with that being said, we’ll begin the talks with Ryan Rice, who won’t be speaking about data or digital archiving today. Instead, I’ve asked him to speak with us because of his work, and the work of Wanda Nanibush—let me show you the exhibition catalog from Tributes and Tributaries has been a reminder to me of different curatorial research modes for exploring the textures or relations in artistic communities of Tkaronto. The recently published anthology Indigenous Toronto also includes three essays by Bonnie Devine and Brian Wright-McLeod that sketch out parallel networks to that of the Fireweed, Fuse, and Border/Lines network.
These essays center figures such as Anishinaabeg artist and writer Duke Redbird, or Mohawk painter Robert Markle. These essays draw relationships to publishing and performance venues that should overlap with the network that I showed you earlier. For example, Dakota and Anishinaabeg artist and producer Wright-McLeod reflects on his own lived experience of reading magazines such as Sweetgrass in the mid-eighties, and a special issue titled: Native Poets of Poetry Toronto, published in 1987.
He also acknowledges the Native Canadian Center of Toronto, the NAACT, and an Indigenous-owned coffee house, the Trojan Horse, as important venues for musical and poetry performance events. He also nods towards successful fundraising events at the Cameron House.
So, Ryan’s project at A Space, Land is Where Your Feet Touch the Ground (#LIWYFTTG), engaged with artists who work through collective mappings. On a level of personal meaning for me, Ryan’s own practice wasn’t formed through localized communities around Toronto, but we share a relationship to land and colonial histories in Tiohtia:ke, Montreal.
His approach to building relationships in Tkaranto brings me to think about the metadata in my network visualizations as incomplete mappings, and encourages me to think about the interpretations of artists/writers, that Ryan writes, is a “practice of listening, looking, imagining, and locating the stories the land will tell us,” as analogous to the sovereign digital bundles that Ojibwe-Potawatomi scholar Jennifer Wemigwans described as “an online gathering of personal knowledge and traditional knowledge, reflecting a past and a present day connection to land as it has been communicated through community protocols and the lived experience of generational kinship.” So, this thinking makes it clear to me that the Desire Lines network visualizations contain a marked absence of digital bundles before 1998. We could say that these visualizations are a mapping of the publications as colonized spaces that digital bundles actively resist. Through conversations, Ryan has helped me to think about absences in the eighties when, as he puts it in his Redux article, “In the context of Onkwehon:we art in Canada, the signifier of absence was red.”
The nineties has been celebrated as a time of cultural resurgence, as First Nations, Métis, and Inuit artists were exhibited across major institutions, and critical writing on these practices augmented.
In stark contrast, the network of print production in the eighties shows us an absence of engagement by a visual arts press constrained by colonial imaginary, despite the presence of Indigenous practices that surged through parallel channels. This absence merits acknowledgement and further explanation beyond the Desire Lines series. In contemporary art discursive networks, catalogues and periodicals share a function as print media substrates for critical art writing. Richard Hill has noted the same pattern of absence in exhibition catalogue publishing in a series of essays for Canadian Art.
There’s an image in that essay that’s particularly striking, if you want think about absences and how to visualize absences along a timeline. In the eighties, Hill notes, few exhibition catalogues were produced for group shows of Indigenous artists, and were concentrated at institutions mandated for the exhibition of this work, the Woodlands Cultural Centre and the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, for example. Hill notes 1986 as a significant moment when catalogue production for Indigenous artists increases. This corresponds to the few Indigenous presences in the periodicals network, too. In 1986, a special “Native Women” issue of Fireweed was guest edited by Cree poet Connie Fife, Métis writer Midnight Sun, and Dakota writer Ivy Chaske.
Beyond the scope of the network, appear articles calling for self-governance and cultural sovereignty, and denouncing cultural appropriation which appeared in Fuse at the end of the eighties and early nineties. This timing corresponds to the backlash against the notorious exhibition The Spirit Sings in 1988 and leads up to key exhibitions in 1992, centring cultural sovereignty such as INDIGENA, curated by Lee-Ann Martin and Gerald McMaster, and Land Spirit Power, a collaboration between National Gallery of Canada curator Diana Nemiroff, independent curator and Saulteaux artist Robert Houle, and anthropologist Charlotte Townsend-Gault.
So, I’m almost done setting up Ryan, but a short quick bibliography of articles in Fuse after the network that we created ends (in 1987) leading into the nineties. In 1989, we have Joan Cardinal-Shubert’s essay, “In the Red,” which is quite an important article that was republished in anthologies about cultural sovereignty and appropriation, and she also joined the editorial board of Fuse in 1990. In 1990, we have a few articles in Fuse written by Greg Younging, where he interviews Elijah Harper on negotiating self-rule, and reports on a self-determination symposium. And then there’s also an article by Glenn Cooley who writes about Anishinaabe healing practices. And then in 1991, we have an article on the work of Robert Houle, and then in 1992 we have Richard Hill, a very young Richard Hill, who’s just come out of art school, writing his article, “One Part per Million: White Appropriation and Native Voices,” in Fuse. And I just found today the index from 1988 that has a section that indexes articles in Fuse about Native politics and culture which indicate there are earlier articles possibly in 1987, but I haven’t been able to confirm that.
And then, since we’re also talking about Border/Lines, I’ll put a little link to the Border/Lines issue where Indigenous publishing begins in the chat, so you can have a look at that too. And so in Border/Lines, the Indigenous voice arrives with issue 23, or surfaces, in issue 23, in 1991/1992. Guest edited by Randy Kapashesit, who’s the chief of the MoCreebec First Nation, and Winona LaDuke, a founder of the North American Native Women’s Network.
So, all that to say, there’s much, much more work to be done to describe the structural effects of this colonized publishing space on non-Indigenous and Indigenous artists and writers alike. In the eighties, Toronto was a material and discursive center for English Canadian publishing and was funded heavily to counter U.S. media influence. Visual arts publishing can be understood as a subgenre produced within this context.
Throughout working on this series, we found it quite difficult, quite hard, to ask questions like, “Why wasn’t the work of Indigenous artists being covered in these magazines? Why aren’t Indigenous critical voices being published? Where was this writing happening then?” And it shouldn’t be so hard to ask those questions.
On the other hand, Sherry Farrell-Racette’s work on Tawow, which was a magazine published by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development from 1970 to 1981, is a really important bookend in this line of questioning and the emergence of Talking Stick in Regina in the mid-nineties is another really important point. Neither of these magazines were published in Toronto. Their material and discursive relationship to land is located elsewhere. We could see the publishing geographies and engagements with Indigenous languages and artistic practices as a refusal of a dominant cultural imaginary reinforced through national publishing economies centered in Toronto. And with that, I’m hoping that’s a decent enough setup, Ryan, to pass the mic to you. Thank you so much for being with us.
Ryan Rice: Okay, you can see the screen? Perfect.
Shé:kon sewakwé:kon, waʼtkwanonhwerá:ton. Aronienes ióntiats, tsi Tkarónto kenákere nek tsi Kahnawà:ke nitewaké:non. Okwaho niwakiʼtarò:ten tánon Kanienʼkehá:ka niwakonhontsiò:ten.
Thank you for coming out today. Thank you to Felicity for the conversations we had pre-panel and for the invitation. Thank you to Michael, AGYU, SpokenWeb, and Artexte.
Also, I want to acknowledge fellow panelists whom I’m meeting for the first time, and the virtual audience who came out today to hear us speak.
I sort of went a little off of route from what I was originally going to talk about just because I thought that in order to understand the deficit within publishing, we have to understand the deficit overall on why these experiences, or these archives, or these moments are absent, and I start thinking about, in relationship to the project that I’ve been working on, how we need to readjust the foundation. And by readjusting the foundation, I think we can come to terms with why these absences have existed and why they may still exist because we still have a lot of reconciliation that needs to take place in order for that adjustment to find equal footing within this culture. So, land is a living archive, the ultimate metadata that feeds digital signifiers and that sets the pace. This is held in nature and gets interpreted through Onkwehon:we faith and knowledge keepers, who carry forward the philosophical underpinnings instituted through a diversity of Indigenous traditional knowledges that prompts questions such as, “What does it tell us?” and “How do we read it?”
For the Haudenosaunee, the Ohén:ton Karihwatéhkwen, the Opening Address which translates as “the words before all else,” provides the foundation of understanding sustenance, lived environment, experiences, and the fundamental knowledge we require to be present. It starts there.
Teasing out muted, neglected, and elapsed land-based narratives that we can understand as an archive, influence and concretize the foundational scholarship across many intellectual fields addressing a society’s evolution, and progression. Historians, ethnographers, archivists, librarians, economists, urban planners, engineers, and sociologists are among many Western-based scholars and specialists who map, recount, and rebuild a past to consider and imagine society’s future. Contributing research informs curiosity and expands one capacity to experience place and the world. However, such an experience in the Americas has been limited for centuries to a colonial predisposition that champions a monotheistic memory. Recounting a historical precedent through a lens of creativity to recuperate the memory of the land and spirit forgotten can enable our imagination to acknowledge relationships to place and each other. To do so, deep contemplation needs to be an enacted. Active listening, looking, and self-reflection need to be withstood and confirmed. Building on a forensic capacity of what research can offer, and in this case, publishing, territorial practice, and creative practices, all are capable of digging deeper to render and expand myths ascribed onto sites on the land to further substantiate and bear witness to time immemorial.
For this brief talk, I return to Garrison Creek Fort York National Historical site, in situ a sconced linear timeline monumentalized in steel and concrete like a surveyor’s rule, which runs along the park’s eastern perimeter lower staircase flowing upwards to Bathurst Street—because it troubles me and it needs troubling. I’ve been looking at this piece for about five years now. This embellished display enforces the dates of cultural tenancy by Indigenous nations and British and French colonial settlers, outlining a span of approximately 13,000 years. Aside from the small portion that focuses on 400 years detailing colonial history an enormous gap accounting for 12,600 plus years is cited and minimized on the illustrated timeline and it’s in void of any milestones within an elapsed span of 10 millennium. So, if you see on the bottom it says, “9,000 BC Native People occupied this territory.” Native people are only identified two more times within this timeline to the present at the site. Fort York’s romanticizing and yet disparaging manicured site of consequential violence and glory conflates time to relish in the particular moment of imperialism and battle over the significant origins of the Garrison Creek shoreline ecosystems that have been removed from memory and altered indefinitely.
It also supports the erasure of Indigenous occupation, mobilization, and commerce over time well into the present. We still don’t exist at the top of the timeline. This indiscernible animal and human-born crisscrossing routes at this site chronicles the changing topography that is increasingly forgotten, unless we prod the memory the land holds. This memory is waiting to be stirred and awakened. It cites a significant aspect of myth to be celebrated and presence to be mapped and remapped onto the vague linear timeline currently offered that inspires the resuscitation, cultivation, and activation of overlooked and neglected histories.
In the context of Desire Lines, or my understanding of it, the short virtual conversation can expose or attempt to unpack the disparity of colonized publishing space, its economies, and its structural effects in alignment with a consistent practice of ghosting Indigenous presence and contribution, which raises further questions to interrogate, such as understanding specifically the publishing milieu.
Who was the audience, and what was the publishing targeted towards? How do we remedy or reconcile the gap that is not any different from the narrative of the steel timeline? Or do we need to remedy, when the absence is so significant? Pointing to or highlighting the void or avoidance can help us, all of us, understand how colonial residue lingers. By reading and referencing what the land will tell us has and will become useful and, at times, critical for the future of, mainly, politics, planning, and place-keeping, given Toronto’s historical precedent is scattered and embedded within the colonial framework that began in a not-so-distant past.
Through a colonial lens, poured concrete in high steel structures, the city of Toronto is relatively a new space. Canadian colonial history is consistent with burying the origins of place. Montreal, Hochelaga, is a prime example which continues to uphold and support the alienation of Indigenous people from its territories and all that it encompasses, such as in the deficit in publishing, and this causes injury through our absence as well as our obscure presence.
Multiple communities and sectors situated within the largest urban Indigenous population in Canada need to be proactive in order not to become generic within Toronto’s mythology, which freezes us to a misconstrued past and positions us as subjects of the former, trending in now instituted significant, or insignificant, yet polite recital of land acknowledgements in government, education, and cultural institutions. This action, the land acknowledgement, the recognition of territory should lead to further wholesome actions so we are not part of that gap any longer. Through the process of embodied mapping and sharing contemporary narratives of lived experience, inventing urban myths and tracing urban migrations, our communities can symbolically claim the origins of Toronto as an Indigenous place, which is something that Felicity shared in the Indigenous Toronto book that was just published, which I think is going to be an important read.
Toronto is translated from “tsi Tkarón:to,” or “Aterón:to,” traditional Iroquoian-rooted words meaning “where there are trees standing in the water.” This definition significantly shifts the commonly understood gathering place interpretation popularized by the 19th century historian, Henry Scadding. The mnemonics encoded in Indigenous visual and oral languages have the power to contribute to visualizing place, and provide additional inspiration to decolonize and navigate the land. We can draw from the Dish With One Spoon Treaty, which Michael talked about at the beginning, which is an example of a significant visual metaphor coded through a wampum belt, which to me is the ultimate living document holding metadata, that speaks to our historical and contemporary relationships within the shared territory.
In the process of strengthening localized relationships, walking, living, being present, looking, activating senses, digging deep, unanswered questions become apparent. How we negotiate where we are is step one. Knowing where you are, step two. And how do we interact and uncover what was historically excluded, yet perpetually exists in parallel to mainstream society, and that is inclusive of arts and culture, whether it’s exhibitions, collections, archives, and publications.
And now I speak a little bit about the project that I was supposed to speak about for this presentation. So, as a creative form of disruption and response to these questions I propose the curatorial investigation titled: #LIWYFTTG which stands for Land is Where Your Feet Touch the Ground, with an overall goal to develop a visual literacy to place through personal and collective mappings, animated from lived experience and expression present within the urban center of Tkaronto.
The possibilities obtained by teasing out Indigenous narratives in urban spaces and institutions affords land-based opportunities to exist and flourish on the ground we share—as a means to symbolically reclaim relationship, as a process of reterritorialization of the land, and the origins of Tkaronto as an Indigenous place.
So, instead of speaking specifically about the curatorial investigation that has since yielded several projects, one called You’re Welcome at A Space, Listen to the Land as part of Nuit Blanche, and the works I’m doing currently with public art. I want to share and leave you with two works, a painting and a blog entry, that continue to influence and somewhat steer my ongoing curatorial research through the investigation and consequences of Land is Where Your Feet Touch the Ground, that help me locate and map Indigeneity as well as queer fluidities as the centre to navigate land and urban spaces that we call home in Tkaronto on a daily basis in life, love, creation, and community.
Rama First Nation artist Glenna Matoush’s painting My Great Grandfather, Chief Yellowhead, Who’s Buried Under the McDonald’s on Yonge Street in Toronto has lived in my mind for more than 25 years. I curated a solo show of Matoush’s work, titled Requicken, at Carlton University Art Gallery around 2006, and this painting has become part of my daily routine, a navigational tool, as I walk explore, experience, and imagine the city and cities.
Matoush painted My Great-Grandfather, Chief Yellowhead, Who’s Buried Under the McDonald’s on Yonge Street in 1995 after contemplating her history and ancestral connection to the cosmopolitan environment of Toronto from the distance of her studio in Montreal.
The work is a significant gesture to consider the layers that exist under our feet just waiting to be uncovered and recovered. Matoush reminds us that, within the urban landscape, we are not removed from the land. Through her painting, we can recognize the possibilities of our access to the stories, memories, languages and enduring relationships that exist between us and the land. The objective of the curatorial investigation Land is Where Your Feet Touch the Ground was to remind us that we do not have to fall victim in believing romanticized notions that land is at a far away distance, but it remains on the ground here, where we stand, live, and create.
Land is all around us. While Matoush’s painting still peaks my curiosity to place, Kanienʼkehá:ka activist Terri Monture’s writing from her Red Indian Girl blog has grounded me here in Toronto.
Terri blogged, “This city is on Haudenosaunee land. The remains of our villages slumber beneath the streets of this city. To this day, when a new subdivision is built or a street is dug up, shards of our pottery and our particular arrowheads keep surfacing. It is a reminder that this place where we used to walk, where we sang and held our ceremonies, and dreamed our waking reality into life in the process called Ondinnonk.
“When the city dreams, it dreams in Mohawk. Even when it names itself—Toronto, Tkaronto, Ontario, Kanadario, Canada, Kanata—all of these are Mohawk words. You speak Mohawk whenever you name this place as your home. You speak it and you don’t even know that you do.”
Nia:wen, thank you, and I look forward to continuing conversations with everyone around these subjects. Thanks.
Felicity: Thank you so much, Ryan. This is when I remember that the Zoom space is like this weird, canned environment, and it would have been so different to receive that talk, in the presence of living, breathing bodies. But all of our feet are on the lands that we are on, nonetheless.
Thank you so much. Thank you also for bearing with my pronunciation.
Now I’m really pleased to, with all of that resonating in our heads and Ryan did end up talking about data after all, we’ll move to Tomasz, who’s going to give us a much more technical presentation, I imagine, but it’ll be an interesting counterpoint. We’ll learn a lot more about the mechanics behind the network diagrams that were the impetus for this series, and then we had to go in in many other directions to open up spaces to ask questions that needed to be asked.
Tomasz Neugebauer: So, good afternoon. Thank you for this opportunity to speak and to the organizers, Felicity, and Michael, and Artexte.
I’m speaking today from the traditional Indigenous territories known as Tioʼtia:ke to the Haudenosaunee and Mooniyang to the Anishinaabeg, and as Montreal to many others. I’m going to share my screen. So, as I listened in on this wonderful speaker series, I really found it to be an incredible learning experience hearing some of the contributors—nodes in my graph—express their thoughts, feelings, and impressions through stories of their experiences around the production of these magazines, a powerful reminder that storytelling contains and reveals a density of context that goes far beyond what is in any digitized catalogue of metadata. So, it’s a reminder how important it is to remember that these network models are just that. They’re maps, abstractions based on some very flattened, approximated, filtered record of who did what and with whom.
For me, of course, one of the key ethical aspects of this work is just accuracy. I have to write custom software to transform data. So, one of the things I’m always thinking about is if I’m leaving something out, there’s the accuracy of the code that I write, and also being on the lookout for errors that are introduced by software that I didn’t write that I’m using for part of my analysis. And so since it is important, I think stories are important. I thought I would share a bit of my story of how I got involved with this work.
I began experimenting with this e-artexte data back in 2013 when I was involved in converting the Artexte catalogue to an open data set. And I wanted to explore one of the benefits of that, which is this kind of catalyst for innovation that opening data can provide, and I became interested in data visualization as one of those innovations.
The bibliographic records are typically exported as data structure items with properties, so, contributors, artists, places of publications, keywords, that sort of thing. The obvious way to model that through graphic data, then, is as a network that relates publications with these properties, with these metadata fields.
I began writing these XSLT transformations that would take the items in our text and convert it into a format that could be loaded into visualization software. That format is a list of statements with one relation per line. Bibliographic networks are very difficult to visualize just because they contain such a large amount of information, and it seems obvious to me now why that is a challenge: you’re trying to fit on a single screen or a canvas the information that is contained—normally that takes hundreds or thousands of cards or screens to browse through. Sure, there is zooming and panning across the images, interactive features that can help to increase the space that’s available to model the information, but images of networks are difficult because of their complexity and density of information contained in them.
So, a rendering of the entire e-artexte art collection from 2015, which consists of about, at that time, 20,000 items, results in a network of more than 120,000 nodes and 300,000 edges. You can begin to ask questions about which items in this network are the most connected or the most connecting.
So, depending on how we define centrality—and what I mean by that is you can define it as a matter of degree, so how many other entities something is directly connected to, or as a measure of how often that entity is on the shortest path into other entities in the graph—and so, when you look at the centre of the graph you find things like, for the Artexte collection unsurprisingly, Michael Snow and Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp, but it’s equally fascinating to look at the boundaries of that network.
This is from the 2015 presentation that I did with Felicity, and, you see, I looked at the boundary of the network to find this 1988 book called Image Inuit du Nouveau-Quebec about artists from Nunavik. So this is an example of a boundary, it’s something that’s not well-connected otherwise in the network, and I asked myself, “Who are the names that are connected to this book?” Well, these are actually the names of the Inuit artists who contributed to the book. This is actually a good demonstration of why I enjoy working with e-artexte catalogue in that, unlike BANQ and other traditional library records for this book, which only lists the anthropologist and the photographer, the names of the Inuit artists are listed in the artist catalogue.
So, that brings me to this question of the validity and the limitations of the validity of visualizations. In order for someone to be visible they have to be included in the data to begin with. Artexte has an excellent catalogue in the sense that there’s a lot more detail, artists’ names are included, but even still, in this case, the artist’s name would have to be included in the title, or an acknowledgement, or a caption. And so, for example, there’s this article which we discussed by Klive Walker, titled “Lillian Allen and The Future of Canadian Reggae” from the April 1987 issue of Fuse. If you read the full article you see that it actually gives a lot of credit to Lillian’s producer Billy Bryans, but he is not included in the catalogue records, so he’s not going to be in the visualization. Neither is the bassist or the percussionist, despite their invaluable musical input that the article discusses. So, there is the actual data itself that you start with and what is included and what isn’t, and then there is a series of steps or transformations for that data that needs to be programmed and carried out.
So, in this case I have to write a script to download the records. Then, because artists and group contributors such as Maxwell Typing and Northfield News Ltd. are in separate fields, I have to merge that all into one field so that you can convert the data into a series of statements that relates contributors to each other. This is called a projection of the network, so you leave only the contributor nodes essentially and you turn the magazine nodes into edges.
So, now you have only one type of node. This is called a single node network. It’s much easier to algorithmically work with single node networks, and so you end up with a visual map that includes only the contributors and their relations, and you use things like edge weight, the thickness of the lines between the contributors, the color to visualize information about the type of relation that exists between those contributors. So, even though we started with only 88 magazine issues we still ended up with 2,400 nodes, that’s the contributor names, and over a hundred thousand relations.
To understand why the number of relations grows so quickly it’s just because, when you have a magazine issue, all of those people are related to each other. If there’s a hundred contributors that’s over 5,000 relations between them that ends up having to make it on the map, and so, inevitably, there is this need for filtering in order to actually be able to read a visualization. Filtering is used to narrow down the graph, and it’s usually based on some properties of the nodes or edges. In this case, you see this visualization filters based on between-ness centrality, which is how connected the nodes are. It narrows the graph down to 26 contributors and only 193 relations. Another way of filtering is by properties of the nodes and edges. So, for example, you can ask which contributors contributed to multiple magazines. In the case of, for example, in this data set of Centrefold and Fireweed there is Gillian Robinson and Rina Fraticelli; or Fuse and Border/Lines, with Delta Web Graphics, Alexander Wilson, and Jody Berland.
Another way of filtering is by bibliographic network information across time. This is, in many ways, the most challenging aspect. This is why also they’re so large. We’re talking about decades of publishing, and it makes sense for validity and usability that this aspect is included. And so, a temporal graph requires the addition of start and end times, as well as duration to the nodes and edges. How do we convert publication dates of issues to start and end times of contributors in the graph? So, I have to make decisions. A contributor’s start time, for the way I’ve modelled it, is the publication date of the earliest issue that they contributed to, and similarly their end time is the publication date of the last issue they contributed to. Every edge also has a start and end time, and I add all of this information so that we can see how the network changes over time.
We can observe how the network expands and changes over time, but there’s choices to be made as well to which properties change dynamically. So, for example, what you’ve been seeing is the layout was fixed based on the layout of the whole time span, and you could see how it changes but you can also switch it so that the layout is also changing dynamically based on what exists at each moment, and so that would be something that looks like this.
So, there’s questions of how we navigate time, and do we navigate time as an expanding window, a contracting window of time, or do we see it as a small window moving through time? And lastly, there is the duration itself. So, the duration is just the amount of time between the earliest start and end time of a node. So this visualization shows a gradation: the darker the colour of a contributor, the longer the duration of that contributor. So, for the visuals, I just want to… I guess we’ll just leave it there because I think I’ve taken all the time that I have.
Felicity: Thank you, Tomasz.
I was just thinking as I was watching the dynamic graphs of the time whether there was some way that thinking of, when does something begin and when does it end, and what’s the duration, when somebody shows up in a network and then leaves the network? I was just thinking if that could somehow get us closer to where Ryan was coming at this question of erasure, but it’s not a very well-formed question in my mind, but it was just a thought that I had in that moment.
Except that it wouldn’t help in this particular slice that we have because we still wouldn’t have a presence. Go in and out of the timeline, and there still wouldn’t be a presence, unless we elongated the timeline, right? Which I guess is what we have to do, or think about going into it at different, multiple places.
So, thank you very much, Tomasz, for a super quick background into, I would say, I guess almost the six or seven years of wrestling that we have been doing with these technical questions to get to where we are here today. I also just want to remind everybody that the session is an hour and a half and there’s a reason for that because these concepts that we’re digging into in the series usually take more time to get through.
So, I will pass the mic to Connie, and her adorable baby, who is going to play a video for us because that avoids baby interference. The reason that I asked Connie to speak with us today is because she’s going to talk about a similar project that employs similar technical methods to visualize relationships between gay and lesbian liberation organizers and organizations, and has similar conundrums and pitfalls and absences and problematics to the ones that we’ve been working through for the Desire Lines series—and also our networks overlap.
So, thank you, Connie, and please go ahead.
Constance Crompton: I feel like we should highlight some of the publications that we have in common and some of the people who crossed over from the publications that we’ve been covering to yours. I will actually, if I may, just turn it over to Michael to play the video because that’ll make things much quieter.
[prerecorded video starts]
Good morning, all, I’m Constance Crompton from the University of Ottawa, which is on unceded Algonquin territory.
I’m delighted to be on the panel today and without any further ado, we’ll turn to my slides. The project I’d like to discuss today is the Lesbian and Gay Liberation in Canada project which I co-direct with my research partner, Michelle Schwartz, from Ryerson University.
The project itself has its genesis in two chronologies written by our collaborator Don McLeod from the University of Toronto. Don is a long-time volunteer at The ArQuives, formerly the Lesbian and Gay Archives in Toronto. He started this book series in the nineties when he found that researchers who were coming to The ArQuives didn’t have a grasp on the lesbian and gay liberation movement of, at the time, only 20 years before. So, he’s produced two volumes that span 1964 to 1981, from the start of the first homophile group at the University of Toronto all the way up to the beginning of the AIDS crisis in the eighties. He produced these two volumes by meticulously reading through periodicals and ephemera from archives across the country to produce these small event listings that have the places and the time and little write-ups of events, as well as citations for his sources.
So, these two books really had become very important guides for researchers of the gay liberation movement in Canada because they so directly point to their sources. Don retained the rights to these two volumes and very generously allowed Michelle and I to work with the texts in order to create an online version. The text itself is available in PDF—I think when we asked Don, you know, “This is just like crying out to be in database form, could we work with it?” he said, “Well, you know, go right ahead, as long as I don’t have to do anything technical.”
And then in 2011, Michelle and I started encoding the text in TEI-XML. So, .XML has been our base format. It’s human readable, it’s platform agnostic, it’s easy for us to put into repositories—not that we have put things into repositories yet, and we can talk about why not yet in the Q&A. In the intervening years, we’ve had 17 research assistants who have really let the project grow out, thanks to various funders that we’ll see on the last slide.
We’ve also taken Don’s base text, the encoding has led us discover the places, the people, the periodicals that are all included in the text, even Don said that we have 2,000 people listed in the text and he says even he didn’t really know how many people were in there when he was writing things out in long-form. We augmented his records with records about people, places, periodicals to produce XML records, that we’ve then transformed into a graph database format, which then lets us see connections and networks.
One of the things I’ve really been thinking about is that part the point of the project is making networks of relationships, whether those are interpersonal relationships or relationships that have to do with publishing, or not with circulation but with police brutality more visible. And so, the online version of the project, LGLC.ca, runs on a Neo4j database with a Node.js app up front. And so, with the nod to Toronto in mind, I’d love to introduce the database itself and then to talk a little bit about some of the ethics and the politics of making these kinds of networked relationships visible. Oh, I don’t know if I will have time to dive into the St. Charles Tavern, but let’s head over to the site to talk about the Brunswick Four. So, here’s the site itself: https://lglc.ca/.
The main place to look for anything interesting is search the database. Here’s a list of events that happened at the Brunswick Tavern, which used to be at the corner of Bloor and Brunswick. It was open for years and years, and I think now is a Rexall. The central event that happened at it that is of interest to us is four Canadian lesbian activists being ejected for singing “I enjoy being a dyke,” and then suffering both police brutality and assault that really did galvanize the community in producing a defense fund for them, and that certainly some people have called the sort of Stonewall of Canada.
On the site, as much as we can just search the database, what we really want people to be able to do is to explore the interconnections between our citations, the people who are activists as well as the places and the people here.
So, what folks can do is scroll down, you can see related events, if you want to find out the chronology, like what happened as the Brunswick Four case unfurled. So, you can get these little descriptions that come from Don’s work. You could also then explore organizations involved, have a look, of course, at all of the citations and this can be like a springboard for folks who are doing more deep-dive research, or have a look at the people. So, if you’d like to know more about Pat Murphy and her ongoing activism, we have those things available, as well, and people can click around in the graph, as well, to find out about more events that Pat Murphy was involved in. We head back to the slides. Feel free to look up the Charles Street Tavern.
One of the things I want to discuss here on the ethics-front is what it means to be putting this material up online because, of course, all of Don’s material comes from existing archives, and so in some ways like, “Oh. well this material is public.” But for content to be available in an archive’s reading room, and for it to be up online, are two very different things. But we haven’t reached out to all 2,000 people who are listed in the text in order to talk to them about the way they are represented here—Although we have reached out to some people in some targeted ways knowing that they play a large role here, and to double check how we are representing them.
On the one hand, we really do believe in people’s right to be forgotten, to not be listed online. On the other hand, we are working with records of activists who are very public in their work and we are inspired by Don’s motivation, his anxiety in the nineties, that a history that, at the time, was only 20 years old was going to be forgotten. And there’s an important part of queer historical transmission that is worth thinking through.
An anecdote: my mother is Hungarian, so if I’d like to know about Hungarian cultural history and coming to Canada and the whole nine yards, I can ask her. For many queer youth, that sort of cultural transmission is not available and so, one of the things that really drives our project is a desire to show that gay liberation happened everywhere, but we do tend to focus on urban events and those that were spearheaded by white gay men.
That has a lot to do with the publishing record, I think, and what is sort of easily archivable. But one of the pleasures of the project has been to demonstrate that gay liberation happened everywhere, and involved a wide network of people. Not just June, July every year let’s celebrate and mark just these few white male urban activists. And so, we really are motivated by Don’s vision. We do have a take-down notice on the site in case people do find themselves represented on there in a way that they don’t like.
We’ve only had one person contact us in that way, someone who shared a name with his great grandfather who had been an MP. We didn’t end up taking down that record in that we didn’t think anybody reading this text would confuse this living man with his ancestor who had been born in 1916. In thinking this through, too, we’ve been inspired by Ashley Caranto Morford’s work on thinking about how non-Indigenous researchers should be respecting their elders. So, one of the things, too, that I would love to talk through in the question and answer is how we can think about queer historical transmission, but also how these activists are ancestors of ours in the LGBTQ community. Part of this is we hope that respect can brought together in our expansion of the project.
We’re really indebted to Pascale Dangoisse, one of the PhD students who works on the project, for helping us to think through new directions and to expand the project to cover not just the mid-1960s all the way up to 1980, but to expand to 1985, and to extend the project back to 1960. This is our next step for us in order to expand and to cover more Francophone history, more women’s history, more trans history, and, particularly in expanding forward to 1985, the work of lesbian mothers in Canada. The project does skew slightly male at the moment, and to really uncover the work and foreground the work of groups like the Lesbian Mothers Defense Fund is an important next step for us. We’re also working on the data space which I’d be happy to talk through in the question and answer period.
So, without any further ado and with an eye on the time, I’d like to say thank you for having me on the panel, and a special thanks to all the people who’ve worked so hard on the project and our funders as well. Thanks very kindly.
Felicity: Thank you, Connie, for sharing that with us today. Similar questions about time periods, erasure, presences, absences, who gets included in the data, where does the data come from, who is entering the data?
And then, also, I am very intrigued by this question of how do we think about ancestry within queer kinship networks, right? It’s not the same as what Ryan is talking about, but there’s some thinking to be done there in particular with how sometimes there is that transmission that happens intergenerationally but often there isn’t, and it’s often really difficult for people to find and access that archive within communities that have to be formed through affinity and choice chosen families.
So, thank you. Moving on from that affective space, it makes me think a lot about emotions and feelings, and how that drives this kind of work as well, right? We do this work because we care very much about the people that are those dots in that network and we want to forge relationships with them, however complicated they are as family, right? And so, I’ll move to Deanna because I know that she has thinking that works around that.
Deanna Fong: Thanks so much, Felicity, and just wanted to start by expressing my gratitude for being with you all today, my co-panelists, and also for the wonderful work that Felicity and Michael Maranda and Faith Paré have done to bring this series to us. It’s been truly revolutionary, I think, in its methods and its aims, so I’m really excited to be a part of this talk today. I’m just going to share my screen.
So, the title of my talk today is The Fred Wah Digital Archive: Mapping Literary Sociality through A Single-Author Collection. And I did want to begin by acknowledging that I personally am talking to you today from the unceded traditional territories of the Kanienʼkehá:ka people in Tioʼtia:ke, or Montreal.
So, The Fred Wah Digital Archive is a digital repository and bibliography—it’s kind of a hybrid animal of Canada’s fifth poet laureate, Fred Wah. He was a founding member of the TISH group of writers, who were active in Vancouver beginning in the late 1950s. I think he would very, very much appreciate Ryan’s hashtag Land is Where Your Feet Touch the Ground because he himself is a champion of a local poetics, and especially of poetics of place that’s interested in the ways like a proprioceptive way of how the body moves through space, how the body interacts with other bodies. So, yeah. The project came to us, it originally started as a paper bibliography which was written by Susan Rudy in about 2004. At the time, she was at the University of Calgary, and she was modeling this bibliography off of Roy Mickey’s bibliography of George Bowering, A Record of Writing.
That paper bibliography then moved to a digital format which was under the banner of Darren Wershler and Bill Kennedy’s Artmob site at York University. Unfortunately, when the funding ran out for that project, it was built on an earlier version of Drupal and the site kind of went dark, so basically all of the coding work that was done for that was lost. We still had a lot of the sort of digital files and we still had the paper bibliography, so we took those remains and started anew.
So, we rebooted the site in 2014, and I’m very, very fortunate to have one of my collaborators in the room today, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and our other collaborator is Janie Dodd, who just finished her PhD at UBC, but we were all graduate students at Simon Fraser University at the time. So, we built the site on Drupal 7 and made an agreement with the library to host. So, I just wanted to begin by reading a little blurb here from one of Fred’s books.
This is his biography from the book, Tree, from 1972:
“It started out between Mike and I just after I moved out to Slocan from Buffalo. Then Stan started listening to them when he came up from Vancouver. Last fall Derryll said he and Michael would like to print them on their new press up in Argenta. So a week ago Gladys and Lars arrived at South Slocan and so did Derryll and Shirley. Derryl said he was ready to print, so. Brian arrived Monday night and he and I came up to Argenta Tuesday. We ordered paper that afternoon. Wednesday morning I talked with Bird about doing some drawings for the book and so that started then. Gladys M. also arrived on Wednesday to work on her magazine, Hamill’s Last Stand.
Brian gave me reading that night and I started working on the typewriter Shirley had found for us over in Meadow Creek. Yesterday I talked about Love in the World Problems class in the Argenta Friends School and started typing plates. Today, Pauline, Jenefer, Erika, Gladys and Lars arrived, Michael and Derryll are up the hill printing. Bird is working on the title page drawing. The house is full, the sun’s coming up out over the head of Kootenay Lake.
It’s 4:30 and that’s about it.
April 28th, 1972.”
So, I have to say, I think above and beyond all of the bibliographical metadata that comprises this collection of Fred’s work, Fred’s work itself is invested in these kinds of social relations. They are the stuff of his writing, period, so I think it’s particularly apt that sociality be kind of an organizing force in this instance.
So, I’m going just stop my share here, and share the website with you. There we go.
So, this is the site as it exists now. It’s a little carousel of drawings of Fred that we found working through his archive. So, the main part of the archive is this bibliography section which is divided into different materials genres. And so, clicking on one of these records will bring you to, here we have like a full text scan of the work. All of the regular sort of bibliographical metadata that you would find in a paper bibliography. Titles. But we also have indexed in here all of the relations that we find embedded in this particular artifact. So, these relations are things like, you know, the artist, as Fred mentions, is Bird Hamilton. It’s dedicated to Gladys McLeod, and there are a bunch of other mentions of people such as the people who appear in the bio there. And to show you the backend of the site… Just going to go to… So basically, what we’ve done is we’ve made a taxonomy of “associations” and these are associations that are above and beyond the usual publishing type associations because this is a collection that spans many different media and many different genres of writings. So, we have other kinds of relations, like he reads alongside somebody at a reading, or he’s recorded by somebody during the reading, or a book is dedicated to, or somebody has cited or mentioned him in the text. So basically, thinking of all the different ways that we could describe the kinds of social relations that we find within these artifacts in his collection. And, as you can see, this has yielded a pretty large set of data. So, for example, this is just the beginning of the people who are listed in Fred’s work in one way or another, and there are over 3,000 of these individual nodes in this collection.
So, I’m going to navigate back to my slide show here. Okay. So, what I was quite interested in speaking about today is the ethical questions that come along with working with this kind of data. And I wanted to begin with these three questions: What questions do we want to ask of our data set, whose desire is being mapped when we map these things, and what is our responsibility to the communities of production as custodians and interpreter of this data? And I just want to say that I think Desire Lines, the series that you’ve created here, and the research that you’ve is just so exemplary in thinking about the humanistic inquiry at the heart of data-driven research. All these questions of real historical and political import, and the ways that qualitative and quantitative research can kind of work together to produce more inclusive historical portraits, so I’m really happy to be in your company today because I think that’s the question that I’m interested in as well. And I’ve got a little quotation here which says that, “There’s a whole world yet to be discovered, not of unsolved issues but relationships among things we know, and the ways in which they might fit together.”
That’s from Gemma Corradi Fiumara’s The Other Side of Language: A Philosophy of Listening.
And so I think, as Ryan was saying, you know, listening really, whether that’s figuratively listening to what comes back to us from our questions in the data set, or literally listening as we do in oral historical interviews, listening is really at the heart of an ethics of working with any kind of data. For the Fred Wah Digital Archive, I think part of the ethical impetus for us is to catalogue a greater diversity of social relationships, making this really broad taxonomy of social roles that are involved in literary production, and not just the usual sort of things as Tomasz pointed out. The usual author/publisher kinds of relationships, but those other kinds of relationships that may not necessarily be citable on mastheads, so things like mentions and dedications to and people who are blurbing books, people who are reviewing books, people who are writing articles about books, that sort of thing. I think to consider those relations is an ethical impetus, for sure. And I think the reason for doing that is that the second point, that it makes visible the creative and affective labour that goes into cultural production, and when we make that labour visible then we can begin to have a conversation about how that labour is distributed, whether there are default structures that distribute that labour unevenly, and how we go about changing those. This really ties into work that I’ve been doing with Karis Shearer at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. We’ve been doing a lot of work on this idea of gendered affective labour that goes into community building, so things like creating a culture of conviviality through hosting parties and, you know, and, say, giving people feedback on their writing.
And, of course, none of this work is really visible if we look at print as the network, but she and I are looking at more like conversational, candid audio recordings where people are having conversations about these things. And it’s in that medium that I think a lot of that affective labour becomes visible to us, so I think that’s one way of addressing some of the absences that we find in a print-based network. And, to that point, remaining vigilant absence detectors by identifying potential gaps and absences in the data set that arise. Not only from the perspective from which we’re viewing the data, so, in this case, Fred Wah, we have the limitation that this is a single-author collection, so obviously Fred is the node from which many edges ensue, but also the structural inequalities that shape metadata, both on the side of, the systems through which we categorize and catalogue metadata, but also the regime of citability, things that we recognize, certain roles that we regularly recognize in relation to print publication, and just the ways in which the schema that we use to talk about these kinds of productions sometimes have a hard time dealing with difference or ambiguity or multiplicity, so definitely thinking about those things as well.
I’m just going to very briefly—I feel like I’m right at the beginning of a process that everybody else on this panel has done a lot of thinking about, because we have this big lump of data set right now, and right now we’re just thinking about what kinds of questions we can ask of that data set.
We just thankfully received an IDG, a SHRCC IDG grant to do some more research on this topic. We’re hoping to create nuanced, faceted search tools that allow us to ask questions of the data set, identify and visualize significant trends, and I think this is so important, as Connie was saying, to think about how that kind of visualization can be put in the service of creating ties between different communities that might not normally be associated together. So, thinking like intergenerationally or in an interdisciplinary way, thinking across communities. And finally, we want to add geospatial metadata to describe publication and performance locations, so that we can identify cultural exchange between cities, regions, and countries. So, I did want to have a little nod to the Toronto question here seeing as that’s sort of the geospatial locale of this talk. Thinking about the ways that, you know, the central Canada formation of Toronto and Montreal is sort of mobilized by a lot of the West Coast poets, especially the TISH group, that they’re sort of defining an aesthetics against what they perceive as a cultural hegemony that’s coming out of central Canada, and this is, of course, against the backdrop of cultural nationalism in the sixties and seventies. So, if there’s this feeling that poetics must be articulated against the sort of mainstream hegemony of central Canada, what can we see in the data in terms of the social relationships that either confirms or complicates or nuances that kind of idea?
So, you know, things like, event-wise, thinking about the Sir George Williams poetry reading series which runs from 1966 to 1974 in Montreal. Thinking about all of the different exchange with Coach House Press. Thinking about the ways that work circulates across regional boundaries and national boundaries, like perhaps in collecting the work of Asian North American writers or mixed race writers. And, you know, then occasional work in festschrifts that are dedicated to figures who bridge both scenes—there’s quite a few of those artifacts in Fred’s archive as well.
I think these are important directions that we’re going to be taking the archive in the future. So, I think that’s pretty much it for me, but I did maybe just want, very quickly, in closing, and maybe just as something to throw out there for conversation, is thinking about archives. We’ve touched on this quite a bit, like the ethics of care that goes into curating and being custodians of this data, and this is something actually that Ryan Fitzpatrick and I have recently written on in a digital humanities collection that’s forthcoming. The question of, yeah, it’s just such a labor of love some of these things. You know, I’m thinking as you mentioned, Constance, of Donald McLeod and pouring over the archive, you know, with such specificity to make sure that you’re telling the complete story of this community in a way that makes sense, in a way that’s faithful to that community. Or Tomasz, the hours of coding that goes into creating categories that are actually usable for the data set. But also thinking that when we say labour of love, this is not to be confused with unwaged work, you know? That there needs to be some kind of resource and structure and sort of reciprocity that that happens to support that labour. So, I throw that out there as a conversation point. How do we have the resources for the intense affective work that this kind of work demands? And thank you so much for listening.
Felicity: Thank you, Deanna, and thank you to everybody in the audience, the speakers, for your long listening up until this point. Deanna, I think you’ve raised a lot of really great questions that can transition us into more of a conversation between the speakers, and if everybody out there has questions you can put them in the chat.
I’ll keep an eye on the chat and I’ll bring them into the conversation. There is something about thinking about Toronto from outside of Toronto. It does something different than thinking about Toronto from inside the communities of Toronto, and so it’s interesting putting Fred Wah in relationship to the Toronto community in that sense because, as you say, his poetics come from this impulse to—a West Coast impulse to write against the center, the perceived cultural centre. I was doing a quick search in the interface that is available in the digital archive just to see where does Toronto come up? What I can see in that archive and what’s the timeline of when he [Fred Wah] starts to publish in Toronto?
And so this question of like time and space, and how people travel, and how works travel in relationship to another place is evocative for me. And, Tomasz, do you want to add to that?
Tomasz: No, sorry, about that, that’s a note to myself in the chat that ended up making it out to everyone. I’m sorry but I just can’t stop thinking about that staircase [the Garrison Creek Fort York National Historical site monument] and how visually how I would have to, if I was to kind of try to display that in a, let’s say, numerically honest way, how different—I just can’t kind of wrap my mind around it. It’s just that the difference of scale in terms of time, there, that is kind of embedded in that monument. Sorry, I was just trying to make a note to myself and it popped up.
Felicity: And then we all “heard it” [laughing], but it’s relevant. This question of how do you … the visual is like, you think about all those collage films that try to put everything together into an hour-long sensory experience. It’s incredibly difficult to compress so much into one into one image.
Deanna: Yeah, that question of holding complexity and contradiction together without diminishing the nuance of it, the nuance of its meaning at a granular level. I think is something that perhaps we’ve all grappled with.
Felicity: Ryan, did you have a thought?
Ryan: Yeah, I think what I was trying to get at was 12,600 years, we feel the same effect in a decade. Right? When you do that timeline in a decade that blip still exists. They’re parallel situations and we have to come to terms that in trying to look at that gap or avoid that gap.
Felicity: Yeah, so even if we did elongate the timeline that we were trying to encompass we would still never be able to fill that gap, which is also really interesting because, in programming this series, that was one of the things that we wrestled with continuously was if you want to talk about desire, what are people desiring from this series, right? Or what are people desiring from this data? The desire was communicated that “we want to have somebody, an Indigenous person, to come in and talk about this gap” [laughing], or not to talk about this gap, but to fill this gap. Find somebody who can come in and talk about what publishing was happening at that time, but it didn’t make sense ethically do that. And so, what we did was bring in an Indigenous person to talk about the absence, or to get us all to talk about the absence, which is really what we need to be doing because even if we did elongate that time we would still have those gaps continuously reproduced, and they happen after the nineties too. I’m sure there’s a surge and then there’s kind of a wane, and then there’s a surge again. And so, that’s why that concept of resurgence is so interesting.
Tomasz: Yeah, also, if I could say to Deanna’s point about affective labour, I thought that was really interesting. The fact that we are dealing with these colonized spaces, publication spaces for example, and sometimes I think about all these hours of work in order to really emphasize and bring attention to very imperfect, very filtered spaces like that. And so, yeah I guess it’s that sense of being sort of sure that what I’m doing is worthwhile is hard. It’s an ongoing doubt in a way that whether all this effort to try and understand something is worthwhile and, I guess for me, at least doing it, attempting to do it as accurately as possible—when I say accurate I mean just the mathematical or lack of obvious sort of errors and mistakes—but I feel like I’m sitting next to a river, but upstream of that river was not me. It’s what was recorded, the data that was collected, what wasn’t.
Deanna: What gets archived, what you preserved, what’s available.
Felicity: Yeah, so that kind of goes into this question of, you know, when most of the data sets that we’re working with, like getting back to the desired lines, what do we desire as lines in the data set, and how do we get those things in there? Or how do we acknowledge that the data is dirty? And what’s desired by the people named in the set is sometimes impossible to provide. This idea that when the material that we’re working with was published, it’s public information, it was published at a specific period of time to circulate and reach certain kinds of audiences, and it’s published under a print regime, so it’s also under copyright. And then it didn’t really get indexed, but it got collected. There’s lots of these magazines, or books, or activist pamphlets that are in both alternative organizations—at this point there’s like lots of material out there, it’s just not indexed consistently, or it wasn’t in copyright so it couldn’t get digitized. So, these projects are, taking material that was once public, and then was, hidden because of copyright and because of technical shifts in media, and then we’re making it public again. And there’s a great deal of affective responsibility and conundrum that comes with that.
Constance: We definitely have that concern of the LGLC like, we might be good guys, but we might also be bad guys and I think we need to be careful not to just shy away from that. And then one of the things that we’ve also been grappling with is our responsibility to the people who have worked on the project over the years, so to sort of speak to your point, Deanna., It’s important that there’d be no free labour, you know, on the project, but also that so many people have worked on the project over the years, and so we do feel a real responsibility to make sure that it stays up and available online for their safety and to have that sort of thing to be able to point to the fruits of their labour, and also because there is this lacuna when it comes to projects of this type from the nineties and early 2000s that are now missing from the web, and so, I’m kind of like the infrastructure guy, so it’s cool to be on this panel with an RDM specialist who knows what I’m doing. To be thinking about also one of the formats that we’re using to make sure that the labour that people put into building these things and surfacing these networks and reviving these voices and debates don’t just get lost 10 years in because, boy, print, that is a durable medium, and we have to think about the formats we use in the research structure.
Deanna: Yeah, thinking about the first iteration of the lost site which just sort of disappeared one day, we had none of the code left over and we had to rebuild the site without any access to that. So, yeah, that’s labour lost, on the one hand. But it would be interesting, even, to have some sort of social history of the archive, of the building of the archive, and I think that’s always been a really important facet of the story of this particular archive, it’s just like all the people who sort of built it along the way at various phases.
Constance: I must’ve been looking at your revitalized version of the site, and knowing that there are relationships all built in here, too, or that you have a relationship with the library who has agreed to preserve it which, like, a lot of projects don’t have access to that expertise, and so clearly you’ve also done a lot of the important relationship-building work that will ensure longevity. I am consulting on a project and we were on the fence about Drupal or not Drupal? You know, should we just be using flat files to make sure that this work can be easily archived? But then what kind of functionality do we also want to be responsive to a public user group? It’s a real challenge.
Tomasz: I think the other dimension of that that I really like about this series is that it is going back to the communities, and I’m so happy to have been a part of this, too, and so grateful to Felicity for organizing this, and precisely because there is this. In photography you have something similar—Gabor Szilasi was a Montreal photographer, whom I had the pleasure to hear speak a few years ago, who emphasized the importance of sharing his photography with his subjects. Combined with that need to archive the work is this really beautiful idea of actually having these discussions with some of the people who had those experiences.
Felicity: So, I just want to keep an eye on the time because we’re a little bit over time, and I like to keep things on time because everybody has lives [laughing] and it’s sunny. But I did want to say that one of the most difficult things I think about this kind of work is because the ethical imperative is: take it back to the community, right? This is what the critical data thinkers tell us to do. It’s what people who have done community work for decades in the arts have showed us how to do in many different ways, but it’s also one of the most difficult things to do because there are many different communities represented, and they don’t all have consensus, and they shouldn’t have to have consensus either, right? And so, I don’t think there is a definitive ethics…
I’ll ask all of you if you have last words and then I’ll do a little wrap up, and if you want to stay on the call feel free, but I’ll wrap in the next five minutes. Any last thoughts, anybody?
Deanna: Yeah, I think this idea of bringing it back to the community brings to mind the quotation from Jacques Lacan, “Love is giving something you don’t have to someone who doesn’t want it.” I don’t know, I really have no sense of like who the user community is for this site; or when we do visualize this data who that’s going to be important to? But it’s important to me, so I guess that’s the answer, so what I want, I don’t have, I give freely.
Felicity: Well, and I imagine, the way it’s presented and how it’s presented and how it frames the individuals within it, is probably important to them too [laughing]. Ryan, did you have something to say?
Ryan: No, but I mean it raises a lot of questions about access, right? Access is critical because we see so many academic projects being created under SHRCC which are untenable. Databases, everyone has a database project, but what does that database do, right? In terms of you need to know that it exists in order to access a title that’s not going to bring you anywhere near that document. And we have those experiences, like I had that experience when I first met you, Felicity, and Artexte has a bibliography, but I had to do the rabbit chasing to chase down those wherever they were because there was no consolidated—even though Artexte was doing that—there was still a deficit in terms of what was collected.
Felicity: Yes, absolutely.
Ryan: So the materials do exist somewhere, in someone’s house, under the bed, in their storage unit, in a file cabinet, but it’s a matter of having those conversations of memory. You know that the lived memory is so critical in terms of accessing this knowledge within a hundred year period. People have that memory and that memory is really important aside from a database.
So, that network and that conversation with community is critical to be able to locate what you need when you’re looking for it. And time, you know, time—you can’t expect things to be, you know, an Internet search, right? We’re all aware of that. So, those blips in that access are really important to considering the archive is really wide and it needs that that face-to-face relationship.
Felicity: Yes, absolutely, and I think that all of the projects that we’ve looked at here show that importance of doing the legwork even though it is not complete, right? You never interview everybody, and you get bits and pieces of stories from different people, and sometimes they fit together and sometimes they don’t, and then, in doing that work, you become kind of a knowledge holder [chuckles] and sometimes there’s knowledge that you have that can’t go public. You know, it’s all it’s all very complex, but it is also what takes those histories forward in time. So, thanks very much to everyone. I’m going to kind of wrap us up on that point because I think it’s a good place to end.
I want to thank all of our speakers and respondents who over time have generously contributed to the program. As we just spoke about, the program is really deeply indebted to the legacies of their practices, and also this idea that the archive has to be more than a database that points somewhere, so the inclusion of all of these video recordings. This is why we constructed the series the way that we did, where we record and we transcript, and then we go to deposit it in multiple different places so that was many points of access. So, the recordings of this series, the transcripts of the speakers’ voices, and commissioned responses by a younger generation of respondents will all be published online over the next few months, and there’ll be announcements in social media of over time, they’ll be put out there. We’re also working to actively archive the videos transcripts and files in multiple community access points to ensure their preservation, and so there’s a lot of labour that’s going into that access point. And if you haven’t seen it yet, there’s already an excellent piece by Klive Walker that’s reflecting on his experience writing for Fuse and other alternative news media, and the larger Black Press and Toronto as a whole. And also there’ll be a text from Luis Jacob that comes out in the next little while, published by Artexte that reflects on counter narratives of place that are sketched out by the speaker series. And Artexte in Montreal is one of the repositories where you know we’re doing that legwork that Ryan started to do, that Ryan and many others have done, and they’re doing that work because there’ll be another iteration of this Desire Lines series kind of in physical presence once the pandemic programming delay is resolved.
And, finally, I want to say thank you to Michael Maranda, who is in the background here and who introduced us, for believing in the potential of the series as, you know, in his words, “speculative promise to build the tools to tell our histories in a way that counters personality-driven charismatic histories.”
I think we can still kind of unpack that statement, but essentially thank you for bringing the support of the AGYU to the series.
And thanks to Faith Paré who’s been a SpokenWeb collaborator and a curator and editor of deep integrity all along the way. Thank you, everyone.
 T.L. Cowan, “Don’t you know that digitization is not enough? Digitization is not enough! Building accountable Archives and the Digital Dilemma of the Cabaret Commons” in Moving Archives, ed. Linda M. Morra (Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2020), 43-56.
 Wanda Nanibush, ed., Toronto: Tributes + Tributaries, 1971–1989 = Gchi-Oodenaang: Ezhi-Mina-Waajimong Eni-Naabiischigeng (Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 2018).
 Denise Bolduc, Mnawaate Gordon-Corbiere, Rebeka Tabobondung, and Brian Wright-McLeod, eds., Indigenous Toronto: Stories That Carry This Place (Toronto: Coach House Books, 2021).
 Jennifer Wemigwans, A Digital Bundle: Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge Online (Regina: University of Regina Press, 2018).
 Richard Hill, “9 Group Exhibitions that Defined Contemporary Indigenous Art,” Canadian Art Online (July 28, 2016). https://canadianart.ca/essays/9-group-exhibitions-that-defined-contemporary-indigenous-art
 Sherry Farrell Racette, “Tawow: Canadian Indian Cultural Magazine (1970–1981),” Journal of Canadian Art History / Annales d’histoire de l’art Canadien 36, no. 1 (2015): 53–75.
 Gemma Corradi Fiumara and Charles Lambert, The Other Side of Language: a Philosophy of Listening (New York: Routledge, 1990).
 Luis’ piece in English is located here: https://artexte.ca/en/articles/repeating-refrains-at-regent-park-lillian-allens-riddim-lines/ or https://osf.io/4nstp/. In French at https://artexte.ca/articles/refrains-recurrents-a-regent-park-les-vers-riddim-de-lillian-allen/ or https://osf.io/fn6u3/.