Application Number: 15
INITIATIVE: What is the title of your initiative?
Little Burgundy Narratives (LBN) / Histoires de la Petite-Bourgogne (HPB)
RATIONALE: Why was this initiative developed? Briefly describe your vision for this initiative: what changes would you like to see in your community, in the college/university, and for the student experience?
Little Burgundy Narratives (LBN) intends to harness the power of new digital media techniques to tell the stories of an inner-city community in Montreal, one that has persevered in its identity despite numerous challenges and has played a unique role in our culture. LBN will be developed by the Facility for Architectural Research in Media and Mediation (FARMM, McGill) in partnership with the Topological Media lab (TML, Concordia) and with the collaboration and support of ImagineMyCity (Toronto; nonprofit) and Le Salon 1861 (Montreal; social enterprise). Adopting the approach of the city-as-living-lab, LBN will unite the efforts of the partners and collaborators with local residents and students to co-produce works of art based around collective urban memory. In the process, the residents of Little Burgundy will forge better connections to local universities and to Le Salon 1861, a community co-working space and a key new piece of the neighbourhood commons. By telling local stories to neighbourhood, citywide, and national audiences, LBN seeks to reinforce the civic intelligence of the community, bolster a common sense of place-based identity, and enhance Little Burgundy’s cultural resilience. Although Little Burgundy has played host to a diversity of ethnic communities, it is perhaps best known as the historical heart of the Afro-Canadian community in Montreal, the birthplace of jazz musicians Oliver Jones and Oscar Peterson, and the home of the Union United Church and the former Negro Community Centre (NCC). Today, Little Burgundy is home to large numbers of low-income citizens, visible minorities, and an above-average concentration of residents living in publicly-subsidized housing, in addition to a more recently-arrived population of homeowners and professionals. As increasing public and private investments have engendered wide-scale neighbourhood change, now is a critical time to engage community residents. This is particularly evident in the intensity of development occurring in Griffintown, the area adjacent to Little Burgundy. Additionally, the area is considered the “Innovation Quarter” by the City of Montreal, which formally involves McGill, Concordia, and the École de technologie supérieure (ETS). In this context of transformation, FARMM and TML have a unique opportunity to offer the community a platform to tell their stories that will be translated through digitally-mediated technologies in the design of experiences within and around Le Salon 1861. Harnessing Samsung’s virtual-reality (VR) platform and TML’s expertise in immersive light, video, and sound installations, the partner labs will simultaneously transform the physical spaces of the church into an interactive repository of local community narratives while creating a virtual-reality gallery of memories. The gallery of memories will be accessible on-site with five pairs of VR goggles, and accessible from home using a smartphone and a Google Cardboard viewer.
GOVERNANCE AND PARTNERSHIPS: Who will oversee and manage the initiative? How does it connect with other local, regional, or national projects or networks?
The governance of the partnership will be overseen jointly by TML and FARMM, both of which have an extensive track record of managing large and complex funded research-creation initiatives, as well as a history of collaboration on installation-based and experience design projects. The partner labs, in conjunction with a team of public and private sector partners, recently submitted a Letter of Intent to SSHRC for a Partnership Grant, “Practices of Urban Resilience Project: Between Citying and Citymaking” (PURcity) to the value of over $6M, dedicated to a transdisciplinary investigation of the relationship between culture and urban resilience. There is obvious potential for LBN to be leveraged through the network already assembled for the submission of the LOI, and for LBN to enrich and inform the activities of PURcity’s partnership network. Meanwhile, there is interest on the part of ImagineMyCity (IMC) in scaling-up their work in harnessing virtual-reality technology for community visioning, reflection, and debate, as evidenced in September 2015 with IMC’s Toronto City Hall 50th Anniversary Project, which allowed citizens to see and react to future urban development as never before. With IMC’s cooperation and support, LBN would build on IMC’s existing VR technology while focusing on the living history of a neighbourhood. IMC has also expressed interest in forming a national-scale social enterprise dedicated to civic-intelligence building CityVR, subsequent to completion of the LBN project.
OVERVIEW OF ACTIVITIES: Briefly describe the activities of the initiative: when did it start, what organizations and departments are participating? Give a few examples of what participants will be doing.
LBN will involve students, researchers, community members, university faculty, social entrepreneurs and artists in a grand effort to make neighbourhood stories in Little Burgundy known and accessible to a public audience. Leveraging sensor, projection, and sound technology recently installed by FARMM and TML, the LBN stories will be experienced by the public through a site-specific installation in and around Le Salon 1861. The stones of the Salon 1861 will literally and metaphorically speak, amplifying the voices of the citizens who live around it, and binding together the disparate elements that constitute Little Burgundy as both space and place. The initiative will commence in Spring 2016 with a collection phase, offering local residents both an online portal and several dates at which events will be held in the basement/coworking area of Le Salon 1861 to collect and record their stories. This phase will be carried out by FARMM and TML, possibly in consultation with the Centre for Oral History and Storytelling (Concordia University), and will necessarily be conducted with sensitivity toward the diversity of backgrounds, languages, and incomes of Little Burgundy residents. The creation phase in Autumn 2016 and Winter 2017 will involve all partners and collaborators in a multidisciplinary engagement with the collected narratives to co-produce both (1) a virtual-reality environment based on Little Burgundy’s history and containing some of the collected narratives, and (2) a site-specific interactive media installation that will dynamically recount the stories at Le Salon 1861. Both (1) and (2) will be available to both community residents and the general public. Furthermore, it is critical that community residents remain engaged throughout the creation phase and continue to influence the production process. Finally, the delivery of the projects will be announced with a public event in Spring or Summer 2017 in the main hall of Le Salon 1861, along with a 1-day conference to initiate a national conversation on urban visioning and digital media with interested organizations, artists, and researchers. Project 1 will be on view at several stations equipped with Google Cardboard headsets to be installed in the basement of Le Salon 1861, while Project 2 will be viewable at its location in or around the building. Project 1 will also be available as a free, downloadable VR smartphone app, enabling national and worldwide digital distribution, while Project 2 will also be documented in film and images online.
STRATEGIC LEARNING: What will success look like both in the short-term and the long-term? How are you assessing results? What will you do with this information, and with whom are you sharing lessons?
LBN’s success will be defined by (1) having played a positive role in the community and having reinforced neighbourhood ties and civic intelligence; (2) having successfully brought students out of the university and into the city, furnishing them with an entirely unique educational experience (experiential learning); and (3) by having fostered wider awareness of the power of digital media to bring to light heretofore under-explored aspects of the urban experience. By hosting a one-day conference at the conclusion of the project, we hope to share our experience with community organizations from across Canada as well as with private and university partners, leading toward a scaling-up of our methodology.
Would you consider your initiative to be a social enterprise?
Does the proposed initiative have potential to be applied elsewhere in Canada? If yes, please explain.
Yes. Already, this initiative builds on ImagineMyCity’s work with the City Hall Project. The partner labs and IMC are interested in prototyping new forms of digital media and virtual-reality storytelling for urban communities with the precise intention of scaling up the initiative to neighbourhoods in other Canadian cities in future.
1. APPROACH: Which departments are involved in this initiative? How will they work with community organizations, social enterprise, local government and within post-secondary institutions (i.e. with professors, administration and students)?
TML and FARMM will cooperate on both the virtual-reality and the responsive media installation projects. Each research lab is leveraging ongoing and related work and personnel that is funded through Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council projects (Art and Ideas in Motion [FARMM] and InTime [TML] projects). Le Salon 1861 will host both deliverables, as well as community meetings and work sessions of the partner labs, and a one-day ending conference of community organizations, academics, and others. ImagineMyCity (IMC) will provide partial funding for an experienced CityVR consultant, as well as program code, software, and equipment to help record the stories and design the audiovisual experience that will animate them. Other possible partners include community organizations Tyndale St. Georges, Le Centre Culturel Georges-Vanier, La Ruche d’Art St.-Henri, and the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling (Concordia).
2. INFLUENCING POST-SECONDARY INSTITUTIONS: Will research or teaching within the post secondary institution you are a part of or working with be changed as a result of this initiative? How will the administration staff, faculty, and students be involved and recognized for their accomplishments within the college/ university?
Both FARMM and TML have proven success in engaging the city as a living lab where learning takes place as a necessarily collective and transdisciplinary effort involving a wide variety of actors working together toward a common goal. The pedagogical goal of LBN, therefore, is twofold: bringing students and researchers out of the university and into an urban community, and engaging them with cutting-edge technologies in a real-world, human context that requires cooperation across knowledge disciplines and with non-academic partners.
IMPACT: What will you be able to accomplish now that you could not before the collaboration? In what way will your organization work differently as a result of this initiative?
Le Salon 1861 is a social enterprise dedicated to fostering innovative collaboration between stakeholders across all sectors of society–citizens, universities, businesses, and nonprofit organizations–in pursuit of a better neighbourhood, city, and society at large. For this reason, we have and will continue to support collaboration with TML and FARMM as key university partners. We see the Little Burgundy Narratives project as an excellent opportunity to bring citizens and the researchers, architects, and artists of our university partners to engage in a unique community-building initiative. For our young organization, this is a chance to forge better connections with our neighbours and to bring the public into our space. As an engagement strategy for Le Salon 1861, LBN will allow us to cooperate more closely with the community and its residents on future projects, creating an ongoing dialogue about what they want to see at Le Salon 1861, while informing them of our capacities as a key civic asset in the community. While we are currently actively seeking to foster this dialogue, LBN will undoubtedly increase our capacities in this regard. Finally, by using cutting-edge technology embedded in the coworking space of Le Salon 1861, LBN will forge new connections and raise our profile as an organization that hosts and supports the development of virtual reality and other emerging forms of digital media. As we are intent on our role as an alternative disseminator of knowledge, Le Salon 1861 will seek to offer our user groups as well as other organizations and communities the chance to learn from the experience of the LBN project. In this sense, we will be fulfilling our core mandate to unite various sectors of society on a highly innovative, broadly participatory project.
Mr. Michael Jemtrud
Phone Number: 514 398 1619
Ms Natalie Voland
Phone Number: 514 765 0425
Mr Ben Wareing
Mr Michael Montanaro
Other relevant information/comments
Collaborator (ImagineMyCity) Ramtin Attar 416 874 8519 email@example.com