Chronicling the vernacular and the middlebrow in post-digital culture.



April 28, 2020
Frederik Lesage
Photoshop Technical Communication

We are very happy to announce that the PHOTOSHOP INSCRIPTIONS PROJECT has a new and improved look!

Thanks to the wonderful work of Joey Takeda, Michael Joyce, and Rémi Castonguay at the Digital Humanities Innovation Lab, we were able to create a publicly accessible and more user-friendly version of the web application. We worked with a Joey, DHIL's UI/UX expert to design the means for anyone to access more information about the project and the data created for the project that now includes a public-facing design for the research platform. Anyone interested in learning more about the project can now go through the research platform with data collected and generated to create unique qualitative ‘genre profiles’ for more than 600 YouTube videos about Photoshop.


April 6, 2020
Frederik Lesage

Every once in a while I get an email from a sales rep from companies like Top Hat. These are invitations to sit through a sales pitch about their latest offer for their software to help improve my classroom teaching. Top Hat's features are supposed to allow me to make our students’ classroom experience more interactive by incorporating real-time digital quizzes into my lectures. These features sometimes pique my curiosity but they most often disappoint for a number of worrying reasons. The first is most often their business model. For example, Top Hat essentially works on a kind of course textbook model on steroids: the instructor can (at least initially) create the course using the Top Hat platform at no costs while the students are required to pay for an individual license to gain access to the instructor’s design. Much like a course textbook, students will have a hard time passing the course without paying for it and in this case there isn’t even the option to buy a used copy. Related to this worry is that, once I commit to the platform, there is the risk of it becoming an all-encompassing system for  me to teach my courses. It is in Top Hat’s interest to become my one-stop shop for everything I need to teach my courses once I start using it and, once I’ve committed myself and my students to using it, it makes little sense for me to use other platforms in addition to this one.

I thought of Top Hat the other day when I read an email exchange between some of my faculty colleagues in our department. They were debating what videoconferencing applications might be best suited for dealing with the current pandemic. From where we currently stand it’s increasingly looking like most — if not all— our teaching may soon take place online meaning we have to start seriously considering what platforms to use. Many of my colleagues expressed concern with our University’s preferred (or at least default) choice: the videoconferencing platform Zoom which has received a lot of attention for their loose approach to privacy and their recent security breaches. The goal then is to find a videoconferencing platform that is best suited to serving the specific pedagogical needs of our department.

Ensuring privacy and security for our students are obviously important concerns but I am also very concerned that in the rush to move our teaching online we are unintentionally moving closer to buying into a “complete instructional system”. This worry is not new. Paul Saettler raised the risk of private, for-profit, complete instructional systems in the late 1960s. Referring specifically to primary and secondary school education, he warned that:

“[…]a series of commercial mergers, principally involving electronics companies and publishing houses, for the purpose of designing complete instructional systems which provide for integrated materials and supporting equipment, for the training of teachers in their use, and for the testing of the learner. School districts purchasing such instructional systems or materials literally “buy” the educational objectives and instructional techniques built into them.” (Saettler 1968, p361)

We’re certainly not there yet; the current discussion is more focused on potential forms of online instruction then on finding content. But the quest for a more secure, integrated, and cost-effective system for online teaching is certainly something that has many potential downsides, not least of which is the kind of vertical integration Saettler warned us against nearly 50 years ago. Universities and governments should be willing to invest in developing their own instructional systems that could provide students with the level of security and privacy they need. In the meantime, the most dangerous decision I think we can make is to commit to any single or complete system for teaching and learning.

Reference: Saettler, L. P. (1968). A history of instructional technology. McGraw-Hill.


March 27, 2020
Frederik Lesage

We are pleased to announce that after a long process of humming and hawing about what we needed for this project website we were able to hire a team of crackerjack designers to initiate a process of exploration and development to create a newly designed website!

Thanks to the excellent work by Jordyn Taylor and Celia Pankhurst this new design was up and running in no time. Jordyn is a freelance communication designer working in Vancouver. You can find her website here: Celia is based out of Victoria and her website is here:

We are very lucky for all of their help with the shift to the new platform.

Stay tuned for more posts and updates about all of our ongoing projects.