Category: ‘Stuff’

Open Letter Re: Policy on Sexual Assault on Campus

October 20, 2016 Posted by Milena D

*** Sent to the account towards consultation on policy re: sexual violence on campus***

To Whom it May Concern,

first off I’d like to commend the university on embarking on this consultation process to update and form much needed policy regarding the wide gamut of potential sexual misconduct and violence on campus. It has for a long time been unclear what regulations there are, who might one turn to and what they can expect; who has what power to help effect a situation and what responsibility different university structures have to both survivors and accused. I’d like to share a few thoughts and raise a few issues.

First off, as the steps read right now in terms of ‘what can you do right now’ following an episode of sexual violence, they read completely inadequate to me. There is an implication that a complete and immediate rape has happened, the police will neatly collect evidence and the case is clear cut, the ‘perfect rape’; alternatively the procedure on sending someone to SFU counselling implies that they have experienced a mild emotional disturbance and it is up to them to solve it with the help of a counsellor (a perpetrator-less crime). Neither of these situations read as particularly relevant and in fact I imagine that in 95% of the cases, the situation would be one of the following:

  • a student is sexually harassed or assaulted by another student in various ways that may or may not have direct ‘evidence’ (e.g. inappropriate language and touching, stalking, or violence and force) in which case a student might confide in a staff member or teacher, or even initially just to a friend. Currently there are NO clear steps as to what staff or faculty can do besides brush it off to another department. The problem is students are coming to us as trusted allies and confidants and we re-victimize them by not being able to take any measures or make anything happen logistically in our respective departments.
  • same is true for graduate students being assaulted by another graduate student. because of unclear policy the department and student’s advisor can do NOTHING to mitigate the fact that a victim might have to continuously encounter her (or his) abuser on a daily basis. This is NOT acceptable. It completely undermines the educational experience and the student’s sense of self, and in many cases has cost people their academic standing and future careers.
  • a student might experience sexual harassment from someone in a position of power to them – teacher, staff, administrator, employer – right now the policy stipulates nothing as to how that will be dealt with from a workplace perspective at the first line of complaint, or ongoingly.
  • a staff or faculty may experience sexual harassment by someone in a position of power – again, the same situation; very unclear in some cases whose responsibility is to deal with the situation and how.

The question ultimately is not one of how to deal with ‘reported’ incidents – we need to care about all the many assaults and microaggressions that happen on campus that will never get reported – we need to target rape culture directly and foster a different kind of social and educational environment for students on campus!

Now the important parts of this discussion that need to change – institutionally, and in terms of campus culture – are the issue of consent, the burden of evidence and the placement of responsibility. We need to foster, via education and initiatives, a culture of consent. We need to understand that 1) most forms of assault, violence and coercion might not leave convenient physical evidence – we need to believe victims first, no exceptions! that does not mean convicting anyone, that means just what it means, believe victims; 2) there are a huge variety of reasons women (or men) won’t come forward right away after an incident – they are in shock, they are in a vulnerable position of power, they are ashamed, they are scared, someone is coercing or advising them not to – failure to come forward immediately is NOT a reason to doubt or disbelieve a victim. There needs to be very concrete immediate steps fitting the situation (for the cases described above) that someone in specific positions can take, and assume responsibility. Sending folks to Health and Counselling services is utterly inadequate and only communicates to victims that no one can do anything for them and they need to solve their problem on their own.

Ultimately what I’d like to see is not only policy and procedures for how to deal with reported incidents of sexual violence, but initiatives for education and prevention including standardized training, at undergraduate and graduate and faculty and staff orientations. Proper conduct needs to be clearly defined and frequently communicated at all levels. Right now all of these steps and policies are fuzzy and unclear. There has to be a clear entity in each case that takes responsibility and clear next steps to alleviate the situation of people who have been victimized. The consequences for such misconduct have to be serious and seriously taken, again at every level.

I am concerned. I am concerned because in the “What we’ve heard so far” section I see much of the familiar refrain of ‘what if women are making this up’, ‘let’s not jump to conclusions’, ‘where’s the evidence’. I am writing and urging others to write because I want to see these antiquated, privileged and frankly misogynist sentiments gone from SFU’s culture and governance. I don’t want to read more media stories about how SFU has actively swept sexual assault allegations under the rug and left the slow functioning of institutional process cost young people their emotional sanity and academic futures.

The Sound of Bubbles

December 13, 2015 Posted by Milena D

In my overall focus on everyday soundscapes (and by ‘focus’ I mean purist preoccupation) I do tend to overlook the vast and exciting domain of auditory sensory training in the food and beverage industries, something that has not escaped the watchful eye of @multisensorymel. While it seems that taste and smell are more prevalent as ‘constructed’ sensory competencies in areas such as perfumery and wine sommelier training, I suspect there are ‘folk’ ways of using the sonic characteristics of food and beverages as ways of evaluating their quality and comment of their characteristics. Mel McBride’s work focuses precisely on critiquing the received wisdoms of smell-based training in such industries as techniques that are needlessly constructed, culturally-defined and prohibitive of lay entry as ways of differentiating professional from everyday sensing. Something that Bourdieu critiques in terms of distinctions between low, high and middle-brow art. I’m even more interested in the ways that the emergent genre of the ‘hipster foodie’ and celebrity chef television references, in mostly sidebar manner, the sound of cooking food as a form of auditory culinary expertise. I’m sure those of us who cook can come up with at least several unique examples of using sound as a guiding mechanism in cooking: sizzling oil at the right temperature, the pop of opening something sealed to evaluate its freshness, crushing bits of food to gauge their freshness or cooked-ness, etc. Here’s a research idea: interview practicing chefs about how they utilize sound awareness in cooking, consciously or subconsciously; hand in hand with, code instances where the sound of cooking is explicitly referenced on cooking shows on television.

With this long preamble, my fun introduction into this area was Mel’s spread of bubbly drinks (along with goats cheese, baguettes and olive oils) for our Making Sense, Sensing Place workshop at RE/Lab. I recorded the sound of four different types of drinks being poured: two kinds of sparkling wine (not champagne), perrier soda water and a can of san pelegrino orange soda. The two examples below are the Crement and Brut. While the Crement has a pretty consistent high-frequency fizz throughout, the Brut has a more dynamic fizz that intensifies as poured and goes into lower registers as it generates more froth before it fizzes out. It almost sounds like a low-pass filter, almost melodic in its short lifespan. Interesting to note the fizz-out for sparkling wine is much much longer in both cases than soda/pop, perhaps due to the different fermentation processes?

Between sparkling water and orange soda, what’s interesting to observe is how soda water starts out with a really thin, sharp carbon evaporation and pours in wet-sounding bubbles, fizzing out pretty quickly after. Orange soda on the other hand goes into deeper registers while pouring suggesting greater frothing – perhaps due to the orange flavoring? Or the tin can storage? The sound itself begs questions of chemical composition, material interaction and manners of preservation – to me the beauty of a ‘sound-based’ inquiry!

“Science has given us music for cats”

November 23, 2015 Posted by Milena D

 Oh lord, I think I may be a cat – I love this! Been thinking lately about art and humans and non-humans, and whether art is this elitist thing that belongs to humans only, and generally what is the role of art in human civilization, in society, where does it fit amongst other, seemingly more pressing matters. I don’t know what’s changed for me but I feel like I see clearly for the first time in a long time – I see art as just as urgent part of culture as education, economics, human rights, etc. It’s not about ‘making space’ for art by taking away time from more important life-and-death matters, it’s about art working alongside other activities, initiatives, phenomena. And also – art as an act of generosity and communion, sharing art with the non-humans that live in our environments. E.g. recently I watched a viral YouTube video where brass band musicians started playing on the side of the road for a herd of cows. As the cows came closer, seemingly enjoying the musical interlude more musicians joined and the thing that was really beautiful to see for me was humans labouring for the enjoyment of cows – when the reality of the situation is that 99% of the time cows labour and in fact, die, for our enjoyment. And now, I give you music for cats.
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Science Has Given Us Music For CatsFinally: Someone is making a music album specifically for cats.

Posted by Vocativ on Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sensory Postcard: Five Elements

September 6, 2014 Posted by Milena D

Just another observation of the clash of visual and sonic contexts that makes me realize how much I (we) am driven by the visual atmosphere of specific environments and that actually clashes with the holistic sensory experience of being there. I went to this favourite Vietnamese joint intending to chill, have lunch and do some writing in the (what I thought would be) relaxing atmosphere of weekday mellowness. The building, which for years used to be Tony’s – an italian deli – has high ceilings and being on the corner, is airy and spacious. A bit of a departure from typical Vietnamese restaurants, which are the opposite of airy and spacious – crammed, stuffy, richly odorous and loud. So because of the other sensory factors – air, space, visual minimalism, lack of crowdedness, I sort of assumed also a relaxing and quiet place to work. As soon as I actually pulled out my computer, my auditory sense sort of awakened and I realized it was SO far from quiet there! In addition to noisy construction jackhammer happening right on the opposite corner of this place, they had an industrial fan running by the back door, a few tables away from me, and the refrigerator housing a selection of gelato was whirring on the other side. The result was a kind of white noise droning cacophony completely not conducive to working. So there we go, it’s like sometimes some of our sense hoodwink the others and only when/if we come up to the necessity of particular environment, do we come into fuller awareness.

My Dissertation in Wordle

August 7, 2014 Posted by Milena D

And this is it – my dissertation in oh, about a 100 words or less. It is for the most part predictable, but I like the little details – pesky words like “rather” actually made it on the list, and so did “Sterne” because apparently I use him that much. Fun!
Screenshot 2014-08-07 12.18.14



Are smart phones ruining the world?

December 11, 2013 Posted by Milena D

Convergence_device1There is a lot of buzz of recently about the nature of presence in public spaces, including inter-personal communication (or lack thereof) and individual behaviour. Countless pieces have surfaced on the microblog universe and become ‘viral’ across different ‘virtual’ venues and online participants. WIth over 5 million views there is the interview with comedian CK Lewis talking about how we use our smart phones to avoid loneliness because we’re too scared to experience being alone (“Why I won’t let my daughter use a cell phone”). The recently popular youtube video “I forgot my phone” offers a poetic warning for how devices disconnect us from the present, from ‘authentic interaction’ is going strong with over 32 million views. In the TED-universe Sherry Turkle’s talk “Connected but alone?” predates the more recent pop culture contributions with a more well-rounded discussion of how the presence of ubiquitous technology is re-shaping the relationships we have with ourselves, with each other and with technology itself. In addition to numerous  articles on the bloggo-sphere organized around the theme of ‘how the iphone is ruining the world’, the presence of this critical mass of cultural resistance points to some important collective fears we have with regard to presence, communication and relationships.

When I say ‘we’ I really think digital immigrants fit this condition most accurately for a number of important and unique reasons. As occupants of a truly transitional world between print/old and new/digital media we inernalize the angst and moral panic of a technological culture that is rapidly surpassing our ability to adapt; we are naturally mired in nostalgia over the very different nature of our childhoods that were built on face-to-face interaction, yet we cannot get on the exclusive “text is best” horse our parents and grandparents seem to be riding. Meanwhile, what is probably more accurate of the present day is a gradual shift towards withdrawal from the public sphere, retreat into our silos of family and close friends, particularly in urban centres that have overtime become concrete jungles filled with strangers and institutions. De-personalization of the public sphere in this sense way predates the emergence of the mobile phone – it is more appropriate to see it as a symptom of an already shifting social and inter-personal relations and an evolving nature of presence.

Coming at it from the old paradigm of defining communication technologies by their sensory affordances – yes, it seems as if we bury ourselves in the screen, privileging a visual, virtual field; however, if we let go of this type of conceptualization of communication technology, we can see mobile smart devices as micro-worlds that are receptory as much as they are participatory for activities we control (see pic above) – so we are in fact burying ourselves primarily into a world we control, full of connections, sounds, images, gestures and haptic interactions. I’m not saying that smart phones aren’t changing the world; but I have to reflect on my own pre-conceived notions – both theoretical and personal – before I aim to point out exactly how, or why. As McLuhan said, rear-view mirror vision is 20-20, and we often discover that the changes we ascribe to technologies were in fact at play long before technology arrived to the stage of social action and cultural practice – particular technologies such as in our case the “smart phone” simply captured and promoted those changes especially well.

Some fun blog posts on this:

Word on The Street Soundwalk series

September 24, 2012 Posted by Milena D

Just a couple of exerpts from a lovely opportunity to do on-the-hour 20-minute soundwalks as part of the Vancouver Word on The Street project in 2012…it allowed us to just about circle the perimeter of Vancouver Public Library, but what a richness of different soundscapes – here is one exploration of a more typical ‘urban’ soundscape, and one more focussed on water and the water features in the area, concluding in the very quiet CBC building.

There was one other impactful moment I had, that I wasn’t able to record – walking by the CBC shop at street level – stopped my group to enjoy the interplay of traffic and the radio broadcast out of the shop. It was a Sunday, and the excerpt we heard was just so rich and meaningful – struck me as a real CBC moment. Reminded me of the power of radio. One moment you’re waiting to cross the street in the hustle and bustle of downtown, the next minute you’ve lost yourself listening to the interviewee talk about spirituality and religion and philosophy and the human condition.

Not that anyone reads this blog but…

June 27, 2012 Posted by Milena D

I had to clean-reinstall WordPress and lost my image paths, so please bear with me as I go through and update them! Thank you 🙂