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Faculty of Information Newsletter
Winter 2020 Edition

Year-end message from the Dean

Everyone reading this knows the story of 2020 all too well. So instead of recounting – or even summarizing – it once again, I will skip straight to what I want to say about how our Faculty of Information community dealt with the year’s unique challenges. What has struck me above all else, and repeatedly, has been the resilience and compassion of our community here at the Faculty of Information.

Whether putting together a team to produce emergency supplies of PPE (how many of us knew what those initials stood for before this year?), reaching out to help an isolated friend, or organizing an online party to provide some much needed fun, our students, staff and faculty members have repeatedly demonstrated their kindness and sense of community throughout 2020.

Our journey through the pandemic, the end of which is now finally in sight, has also been marked by genuine academic achievements. You will read about some of these accomplishments in this issue of the Informed newsletter with still more to come in Informed magazine, which will tell the full story of this extraordinary year. 

As 2020 draws to a close, I would also like to wish you and your families the very best for the holidays. I hope you are able to relax and recharge for the year to come.  I look forward not only to hearing from you in 2021 but to seeing you as well.

News Briefs

Bridging Toronto Community Housing’s Digital Divide

As a result of COVID-19, Michel Mersereau has found a lot more people suddenly interested in his doctoral research into the digital divide and how precarious internet access hurts low-income communities. Mersereau, who was awarded his PhD in Information earlier this month, has been appointed an official advisor to city councillors and staff looking to ensure that residents of Toronto Community Housing will have enough bandwidth to make it through the pandemic and beyond. Read more

Prof explores how YouTube recommends vaccine videos

With vaccines and vaccine hesitancy all over the news, Assistant Professor Deena Abul-Fottouh’s co-authored paper, Examining algorithmic biases in YouTube’s recommendations of vaccine videos, makes for timely reading. The paper, which was published in August of 2020, concluded that YouTube’s policy of demonetizing “harmful content”, along with other changes to its recommender algorithm may have reduced the visibility of anti-vaccine videos. Read more

Advocating for a National Day of Truth and Reconciliation

Assistant Professor (Teaching Stream) Stacy Allison-Cassin, who is a member of the Métis Nation of Ontario, recently appeared before a Parliamentary Committee to express her support for a National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

To ensure that Canadians understand the truth about their country’s past means “learning facts, hearing stories and understanding the ongoing impacts of colonization, which will ultimately lead to reconciliation,” said Allison-Cassin, who was speaking on behalf of the Canadian Federation of Library Associations, where she chairs the Indigenous Matters committee. “As a librarian and educator, I recognize the importance of access to materials as well as the importance of infrastructure in the delivery of such materials.” Read more

Gaming for everyone: Making video games more accessible

To create more accessible video games, researchers at the University of Toronto are partnering with major studios, non-profit organizations and influential gamers with disabilities through U of T’s new Accessibility Arcade – as well as an inclusive online gaming hub.

The Accessibility Arcade, part of the Faculty's  Knowledge Media and Design Institute (KMDI), provides a space for designers, developers, researchers and gamers to put their heads together to design more inclusive games. It’s based in the KMDI Makerspace located in the Inforum, an area where students are encouraged to get creative with technology ranging from sewing machines and 3D printers to Arduinos and Raspberry Pis. Read more

In Memoriam

It is with deep regret that we inform you of the death of the Faculty's oldest alumna, Marjorie Douglas. Mrs. Douglas (Class of 1932) had just celebrated her 110th birthday in September. An article about the momentous occasion had generated tremendous interest in her life and professional accomplishments. "We will always be proud to claim Marjorie Douglas as one of our alumni," said Dean Wendy Duff.

Uncovering Union

Four stations. One city.

For the Museum Studies Class of 2020, exhibition season had just gotten under way when Toronto suddenly went into lockdown. Many of the exhibitions planned for venues across the GTA had to move online including Uncovering Union, which explores the social history of Toronto’s Union Station through nine stories and was reviewed in the Globe and Mail.

Small portraits, big impact

This fall, Mary Wrinch: Painted From Life — curated by Erin Stodola, opened in the McLaughlin Gallery at the AGO and online. It looks at the artist's miniature portraits (including the one on the left) and landscape prints and their importance to Canadian art history

You can browse all the different 2020 exhibitions here

How museums will remember the pandemic

Back in the summer, Irina Mihalache, the director of the Master of Museum Studies program, talked to the Toronto Star about how future exhibits on the pandemic should reflect the social inequalities revealed by Covid-19 including how it was intertwined with the protest movement surrounding anti-Black racism.

From what she has seen, museums seem to be taking that direction. “Hopefully, 10 years from now,” she said, an exhibit will show “how things have changed based on those realizations. That’s my hope that I have for museums.” Read more


The Faculty of Information awarded a grand total of 10 doctorates in 2020. You can find out more our new PhDs and their dissertations here.

We also had 56 Master of Information and five Master of Museum Studies students graduate in November. One of the grads was MD Nafizuzzaman (shown below with his wife), who explains in this story how he managed to land a new full-time job in the middle of a pandemic.


New Media

Catch the Critical Technology podcast

If the constant stream of headlines and scandals exposing the dark side of digital technology are making you uneasy, you may want to listen to Critical Technology, a brand new podcast hosted by Associate Professor Sara Grimes

It was prompted, Grimes says in the podcast’s trailer, by the “sudden and massive shift to online everything following the arrival of Covid-19." The podcast is an opportunity for her to interview scholars and colleagues whose work she views as “game changing for understanding the culture and politics of digital technologies.”

On the first episode, she talks with Assistant Professor David Nieborg, who recently co-edited two special issues on platforms and cultural production for the open access journal, Social Media + Society. The first covered Platform Practices in the Cultural Industries: Creativity, Labor, and Citizenship while the second issue was titled Studying Platforms and Cultural Production: Methods, Institutions, and Practices.

Pandemic messaging needs to follow the audience

The Toronto Star spoke to experts, including Associate Professor Nadia Caidi, about how to combat multilingual misinformation about the pandemic spreading on WhatsApp, Telegram and TikTok channels around the world and in Canada.

“Public health officials need to be working with different stakeholders to monitor and counter any erroneous information, and to develop a clear messaging strategy that speaks to the fears and the questions that people have,” said Caidi, who is researching the impacts of the pandemic on personal support workers and exploring their role in acquiring and propagating accurate health information in their own communities as one way to address information gaps. Read more 

It's raining awards and appointments

The Association for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) named Nadia Caidi 2020 recipient of the Watson Davis Award for Service. The award recognizes a member who has shown continuous dedicated leadership in and service to ASIS&T.

UXD students Janice Cheung and Jenny Xue won first place in the Adobe Creative Jam design competition, with their project Amplify, beating out student teams from across the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Sara Grimes was made an Affiliate of Data and Society and has joined the organization's Research Advisory Group and the Health and Data Advisory Group. Data & Society is an independent nonprofit research organization based in the US.

2020 MI grad Sandra Janjicek won the Canadian Croatian Chamber of Commerce’s scholarship/bursary award

Selin Kahramanoglu, who graduated this spring with Master’s degrees in both Information and Museum Studies, has won the inaugural Ontario Museum Association and Master of Museum Studies Award for Excellence in Emerging Museum Practice.

Kelly Lyons was elected to the Board of Informs Service Science section and also to the Board of CS-Can/Info-Can

Rhonda McEwen, Director of the Sensory Information Processing Lab, has been appointed Special Advisor on Anti-Racism and Equity to UTM Vice President and Principal Alexandra Gillespie.

Michelle Murphy has been appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Professor Murphy is co-director of the Technoscience Research Unit, which is located at the Faculty of Information.

Victoria Owen will chair a joint Task Force on Marrakesh Treaty Implementation. The task force will identify and recommend the resources needed to implement the terms of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled

This year's Digital Curation Institute Fellowship was awarded to Victoria Palacin, a computer scientist who researches human-computer interactions. Her work focuses on co-creating technologies and physical data experiences with and for communities.

Matt Ratto has been awarded Minister of Colleges and Universities’ Award of Excellence for his research and leadership of the Toronto Emergency Device Accelerator (TEDA) initiative.

Alumna Moska Rokay has been awarded the Dodds Prize for 2020 for her article Ethnography as an Archival Tool: A Case Study of the Afghan-Canadian Diaspora, based on her Master’s thesis.


Thanks to Kristine Wook on Unsplash for the vaccination.

If you have news you would like to see featured in the Informed newsletter please let us know at
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