Studies in Sound and Vibration

David Bobier, Director/Curator, VibraFusionLab

VibraFusionLab: an innovative centre for arts-based vibrotactile research and creative practice.

VibraFusionLab is a media arts centre based in London, Ontario that provides opportunities for the creation and presentation of multi-sensory artistic practice, partnering with other arts and technology-related organizations in order to achieve this. As an interactive creative media studio VibraFusionLab promotes and encourages the creation of new accessible art forms, including the vibrotactile, and focuses on inclusive technologies that have the potential of expanding art-making practices in the deaf, blind, disabled and hearing communities, and for creating more inclusive experiences for deaf, blind, disabled and hearing audiences.

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essays

Expanding The Artistic Experience

David Bobier

VibraFusionLab: Bridging Practices in Accessibility, Art and Communication

Curatorial Essay by David Bobier

VibraFusionLab (VFL) and I are pretty much synonymous and for the most part inseparable. That’s not to say I don’t do work on my own, I do, but much of my own creative practice is influenced by the goals of VibraFusionLab and much of the activities and projects out of VibraFusionLab mirror my own personal reflection and focus on accessibility in and for the arts.

I launched VibraFusionLab programming in early 2013 with the support of a 3-year Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Creation grant under the coordination and in partnership with Dr. Deb Fels, Director of Inclusive Media and Design Centre (IMDC), Ryerson University. This followed a couple of years working on contract with IMDC, offering vibrotactile workshops in Toronto and London and drawing in a diversity of artists – deaf, hearing, disabled and non-disabled. My conviction, and with the enthusiastic support of Dr. Fels, was to transport some of their inclusive research technologies out of the academic setting and into a public creative arts setting as the first step in providing an accessible art making facility.

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Vibrotactile technology expands the dimension of touch.

Dr. Evan Hibbard

All my life, I’ve lived in a world contained by four senses as a Deaf individual. Sound was abstract, strange and existed within a dimension that I could not touch, see, smell, taste, or hear. I could see people responding and acting on phenomena, sound that I could not decipher. My earliest memory of being aware of this phenomenon was as a small child of four years old, sitting around restaurant table, watching my family open and close their mouths at each other. I mimicked them as I puzzled at how they did not use their eyes except for brief glances at faces. I struggled with finding right questions to ask to understand this social behavior. I was on the hunt to explore this phenomenon. I collected clues as a researcher collects data.

Few years later, my speech therapist pushed a button on a old tape player a recording of a firetruck siren while showing my classmates a photo of firetruck. My classmates smiled and said, “high sound” while I felt like a failure because I could not detect the sound. I strained my ears as fiddled with my awkward chunky hearing aid strapped around my torso. I swallowed my tears and used my eyes to follow the lively discussion about firetruck siren. When the lesson was over and their attention was diverted elsewhere, I poked at the tape player. I was puzzled how a siren could come from a tape player.

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