FIMS, Music and Law join to show importance of sharing research across faculties

The inaugural FIMULAW Research Day last month, which brought together graduate students from the faculties of Music, Information and Media Studies (FIMS) and Law, was a resounding success. Through three panel presentations, lightning talks and poster presentations, students were able to showcase their research and provide a forum for interesting discussions involving many different viewpoints.

Panel discussions addressed topics such as Contemporary Culture and Conflict, Understandings of Data, and Information Ownership, which were all chosen with the goal of bringing together members from each faculty to present their own interpretation of each topic and what it means to them. I was involved with the Understandings of Data panel along with two students from Health and Information Sciences and Law. The three of us discussed what role data plays in our own research.


I am a first-year PhD student from the Don Wright Faculty of Music, in Composition, and my research involves taking real-time data from Twitter and repurposing it as musical data, which can then control different parametres in any musical software program, thus creating music. The system I’ve created allows the user to select any specific search term, typically a trending topic, and then to hear the resulting music it creates as tweets are posted to Twitter.

The result is a complex rhythmic structure that reflects ‘the rhythm of the world’ during any trending topic or event, as different pitches sound only when a tweet is sent and the volume of each pitch is determined by the character count of the individual tweet.

Within the context of the panel, the purpose of my talk was to explain the transformation of digital data from Twitter into music, using Java coding – a process that allows a connection of two seemingly very different data-types with the end result being a demonstration that such a transformation is not only feasible, but can yield a compelling product.

One of the most beneficial aspects of the FIMULAW Research Day was the discussions/questions that followed the talks. While it is always helpful to hear the thoughts of those in your own faculty, having members from other faculties asking questions from different viewpoints raises new thoughts and ideas that might never have emerged otherwise. For example, some members from FIMS were interested in talking about how I could better integrate the text from each tweet in my program.

Originally, the text itself never struck me as the most intriguing aspect of the tweet, but rather it was how the timing between tweets could be used to create different rhythms I found the most interesting. Questions from FIMS faculty members, however, pointed me in the interesting direction of considering some relevant research in their field using newer text analysis techniques that could potentially give me other avenues for turning data into sound. I plan to explore a number of these new ideas over the summer as I continue to develop my program.

Interdisciplinary research days, such as these, are an important way for graduate students to collaborate and learn from each other’s research programs. Mixing different fields, and their approaches to research, will often produce very intriguing discussions and lead researchers to approach their questions from viewpoints they had not thought of previously. I would encourage graduate students to become involved in any interdisciplinary research days or workshops they can, since, from my own experience, it is a wonderful and productive practice.

I joined the organizing committee for the research day and found the experience to be immensely beneficial and informative, as I had no prior experience in organizing research days or conferences. My involvement in the panel discussions was equally rewarding, particularly due to the wide range of questions and comments from people in different faculties that will surely benefit further development of my research.

This research day would not have been possible without funding from the Vice President of Research, John Capone, and the three faculties involved. I want to thank Don Wright Faculty of Music Dean Betty Anne Younker, and the Music Building staff for providing the space for the research day. I am grateful to all the presenters, performers and the closing speaker, Western’s Associate Vice-President (Research) Mark Daley. The organizing committee is certainly grateful for the guidance received from faculty members Cathy Benedict, Jacquie Burkell and Valerie Oosterveld.  Finally, a special thank you must go out to the other student organizing committee members Kelly Bylica, Christina Catenacci, Kaitlyn Clifford, Melanie McPhail, Victoria O’Meara, Kirstyn Seanor, Darinka Tomic and Shamiram Zendo, whose tireless efforts made this day possible.

Jeff Lupker is a PhD student in the Don Wright Faculty of Music.