I am thrilled that the first female recipient of the TMU Postdoctoral Fellowships for Black Scholars, Ashley Jane Lewis, has joined my lab at Toronto Metropolitan University, Creativity Everything, to pursue her incredible and groundbreaking research for two years, beginning 1 October 2023.
Ashley has been involved with The Creative School over many years, most recently as the inspiring leader of the Design Fabrication Zone. This Postdoctoral Fellowship recognizes her cutting-edge work is at the intersection of technology, creativity, nature, art and science. She is funded for two years to explore what human communities can learn from non-human organisms. Her work focuses on the ways in which multi-cellular networks — such as slime mold and mycelium — may offer a model to be adopted by Black communities to deepen relationships to mutual aid, networked information and distribution of resources.
Her work is enthusiastically supported by The Creative School’s Tier I Canada Research Chair, David Gauntlett – that’s me – and will be based in the Creativity Everything lab. The research will lead to both academic publications, exhibited artworks, and community events.
Ashley Lewis says: “Using coding and electronics I will explore what we can learn from non-human species that could strengthen or affirm our relationship to community and care, enhance our ability to preserve culture, pass on heritage from generation to generation and survive external stressors.
“I’m excited to embark on this opportunity, both because it makes space for me to pursue my new media arts practice full time but also for what it means for TMU. Over a decade ago, as an undergraduate student in the Creative School at TMU, I rarely met Black professors in my field. I rarely met Black TAs or Black guest speakers that reflected my existence in technology or art. Today these statistics have only marginally improved.
“This postdoctoral fellowship, and other incredible initiatives that are making space for Black and Indigenous scholars, shows a fresh sign of commitment to diversifying and redefining who gets to be a knowledge holder at TMU. Of course, this Postdoc is not the solution but rather a small part of an exciting movement towards inclusion at this university. I’m honoured to be a part of it and hope to see more women awarded this opportunity in the future”.
Professor David Gauntlett says: “I am so proud and delighted that Ashley persuaded the panel, in a very tough competition, to award her this opportunity to develop her incredible work. Ashley is an incredibly innovative scholar, drawing on a wide palette of artistic, technological, scientific, and philosophical domains to rethink social questions. She is widely seen as a rising star, and one of TMU’s most exciting researchers. I am sure she will make a huge impact with this project.”
A great introduction to Ashley’s work is this 4-minute video, ‘Black Women in Tech: Ashley Jane Lewis is using slime mold to drive conversations about equity’, which has received well over a million views and won a Webby Award: