The Visualizing Aamjiwnaang project brings together members of the Public Visualization Lab team with Anishinaabe historian and author David D Plain as he explains the oral history of the waterways of Southwestern Ontario.
Captured in 360 degrees and by drone near the international Blue Water Bridge, in Chemical Valley near Sarnia, and in a canoe on the Old Ausable channel, this experimental documentary allows viewers to listen in on stories of how Indigenous peoples’ use of the waterways changed with the cycle of the seasons. The film examines the impacts of colonization on the landscape, and on the people who depended on it for their existence.
Filming for this project occurred in July 2018. The film is currently in post-production, and once completed and re-named it will be available for viewing online, as well as through VR headsets and Google Cardboard.
Status: Post-production; Funding: Public Visualization Lab
Before it became a real digital prototype with an accompanying 115-page written thesis document, The Ipperwash Beach Walk was a simple collection of ideas and aspirations. This Master’s thesis began with a review of Indigenous Methodologies as a way to begin to decolonize what had previously been a very colonized approach to research. From there, the co-design method was chosen as a way to work with the Chief & Council of the Kettle & Stony Point First Nation to ensure the project benefitted the community and reflected its values.
The research began with an hour-long focus group session with Chief & Council where the group reviewed a mass of photographic content collected for Monica’s previous film projects. The photos were attached to a 10-foot long map of Ipperwash Beach, organized along a timeline in chronological order.
A second hour-long focus group session with Chief & Council reviewed the timeline of photos and identified areas where there was a gap in the story. For instance, Councilor Pete Cloud noted that species at risk and invasive species should be added as an important topic to address. This suggestion and others were added on Post-It Notes before the entire timeline was photographed and shared with the band administration for dispersal to the entire membership.
This focus group content became the basis for a GPS-guided story for mobile devices which could be accessed during a real beach walk along an historical trail between the Kettle Point Reserve and the Stony Point Reserve. The next steps involved forming the focus group content into a story, and using locative technology to deliver the content to audiences.
The Ipperwash Beach Walk uses a storytelling platform built for mobile to explain how Ipperwash became a vacation destination. Using GPS, the platform delivers documentary media and interactive visualizations to smartphones during a real walk across Ipperwash Beach.
As participants cross a series of GPS points during the 2.7-kilometre walk they learn how the area was colonized by settlers. The experience is a form of counter-mapping, using “before and after” photos and interactive maps to discuss topics such as treaties, the Indian Act, and the environmental impacts of colonization.
The Storytelling Platform
Created through the Public Visualization Lab at OCAD University, In-Situ Data Stories is a digital platform designed to deliver multimedia content to mobile devices as users travel across a terrain.
Using locative technology, the platform launches video, interactive visualizations and audio as users cross through pre-set zones. The content builds to tell a story that unfolds during an embodied walk across a landscape.
The In-Situ Data Stories platform is intended to be open-source and free to use. It can be used in any location to tell site-specific stories.
As of April 2016, the platform was functional and could be accessed by anyone with a smartphone or tablet and access to The Ipperwash Beach Walk through a web browser. While the content available through the platform was bare-bones, the project was awarded the Medal for the Digital Futures program at the 2016 GradEx Graduate Exhibition.
Status: Completed (storytelling platform) + Unfinished (content) Funding: Public Visualization Lab (storytelling platform) + Self-Funded (thesis document + content); Future funding ideas: Canada Council for the Arts’ Digital Strategy Fund
Phase 2: Huron Tract Treaty Map
Interactive Map (2017)
Approved by Chief & Council in March 2017, this project was pitched as an interactive map that would become the first scene within The Ipperwash Beach Walk. The interactive map would work on smartphones and was to contain a timeline that could be swiped with a finger, causing a map of the Huron Tract to morph as negotiations for the land cession progressed from 1818 and 1827.
Two focus group sessions were held at the Kettle Point Elder’s Lodge in April and October of 2017, open to the entire Kettle & Stony Point community. Both were underattended, for a variety of reasons. During the first session, some community members requested handouts from the researchers (versus them sharing their own knowledge, as was advertised) and they departed when handouts were not provided. Those who did attend were not able to share any knowledge about the treaty negotiations.
It became clear the historical knowledge being sought through the focus group attendees was too obscure, and was not easily accessible to the average person. With further archival research, Monica also concluded that Joan Holmes’ work for the Ipperwash Inquiry barely scratched the surface of the Huron Tract story. After re-assessing the project, she spent her remaining contract hours on further archival research to ensure the final interactive map would be legally and factually accurate. Monica soon turned to her Treaty Workshop partner David D Plain from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, and to Janet MacBeth from the Bkejwanong Heritage Centre. While both researchers are extremely knowledgeable about the Huron Tract, the boundaries of the treaty area continued to remain elusive.
At present this project remains half-finished, requiring further archival research to “crack the case,” as well as coding to create the interactivity of the map.
Status: Unfinished; Requires further research + coding; Funding: Public Visualization Lab; Future funding ideas: Business development grants + Canada Council for the Arts’ Digital Strategy Fund