Toronto teen uses app to give visually-impaired a new look at the world | Toronto Star

Mass Media technology creates opportunities and can fill social needs  when appropriate problem solving is applied to daily living conditions to the whole  range of society.

Anmol Tukrel, a 17-year-old grade 12 student at Holy Trinity School in Richmond Hill, has created an app that helps visually impaired people identify objects and text. Tukrel’s free iPhone app, iDentifi, allows users to take a photo of virtually any object, and then describes that item in great detail back to the user. People can also take photos of text and have it read back to them, in one of 27 languages. Tukrel hopes it makes every day tasks — like picking out the can of pop you want — easier for people who are visually impaired.

Source: Toronto teen uses app to give visually-impaired a new look at the world | Toronto Star

Photographing the Self in Herself

The Toronto photographer Jennifer Toole has come a long way since teaching herself photography using YouTube tutorials. With her background in creative arts, studying musical theatre at Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts in Scarborough and a degree in creative writing from Montreal’s Concordia University, she progressed through a a series of professional photography jobs, including house photographer for Toronto’s Northbound Leather, and later Soho House. Eventually four of Toole’s images were published by Vogue Italia.

                                                                                                                         Photograph by Jennifer Toole

 

As you can see, Jennifer Toole’s work does not conform to the stereotypical manufactured images of the female form. It is naturalistic and uncompromising in capturing real beauty. It is therefore no wonder that she, in collaboration with Australian actress Caitlin Stasey, co-founded the website Herself.com , which showcases nude portraits of Ontario women photographed in natural light.

“Herself is a gesture to women for women by women; a chance to witness the female form in all its honesty without the burden of the male gaze, without the burden of appealing to anyone. These women are simply & courageously existing, immortalized within these photos. Within their words, their experiences and stories are offered on Herself in the hopes of encouraging solidarity – that maybe we as women will take comfort in the triumphs of others rather than revelling in each other’s defeats. Let us reclaim our bodies. Let us take them back from those who seek to profit from our insecurity.” -Caitlin Stasey

 

“I feel weird and abnormal for having hair, for having zits, for having to reapply deodorant, for having to pee… Women are not real on TV and in ads they are just an image.” -Chelsea Photo by Jennifer Toole

 

This site, and the work done here, breaks the confines of contemporary cultural views of the female body. It humanizes the models with personal interviews and images that are not restricted to commercial body images that re-enforce a set of values, beliefs and ideology designed to sell products based on the aspirations of manufactured beauty.

Post-natal yoga – become the woman you never were ! Did this model even give birth ? Yes,  this is a real ad, that is as close as it gets to reality.

 

The battle for a healthy realistic expectation of the human body of all genders is ongoing. The business of fashion and “beauty” products drives Mass Media in numerous forms, from advertising to entertainment. Breaking through this heavily financed culture and the constructed reality that supports it is no easy task and Jennifer Toole’s work must be both recognized and commended. Besides links provided in the post, you can see more of her work on her blog, dailytoole.

 

 

Jennifer Toole by D. Gillespie

 

 

 

 

 

Toronto is One Big Lazy Susan: Advice & Tips for Refugees

Vinay Menone, Toronto Star arts and life columnist & feature writer, offers observations on adapting to Canadian society and the specific advantages offered in Toronto.

This is a world-class city with great prospects. All you need to do is work hard and follow the rules. Don’t worry, you will — nothing elevates a human more than a second chance at life, especially when the first one was snatched away rather than squandered. When you gaze up at the CN Tower, think of it as pointing at the cosmos and the infinite possibilities now within your reach.

 

He points out the  range of food  as an example of how cultural touchstones are always near.

 

The good news: not much needs to change with your diet. Toronto is one big Lazy Susan, upon which all of the world’s spices and regional dishes are just a few twirls away. Kibbeh, tabbouleh, shawarma, mujaddara, you name it and someone is selling it. Or they are preparing it in restaurants such as Byblos, Tabule and Takht-e Tavoos. 

 

It is his observations on mass media popular culture that are of  particular interest. Menon provides the insight on how to navigate the flood of Mass Media influences and recognizes that it has value , while also being a continuum of styles, content and messages, “I’m not suggesting Star Wars or Miley Cyrus are equivalent to Shakespeare or Mozart” . He identifies the wide range of possibilities available to widening and sharing in community experience. from opera and live theatre to the the AGO, ROM, Science Centre, Ripley’s Aquarium and Toronto Zoo.

If you have children, don’t be alarmed by how popular culture shapes their interests. Music, movies, fashion, games, TV, books, these diversions only thrive in places of imagination and harmony. This is why religious extremists, like the ones you are fleeing, are so eager to impose barbaric laws that govern daily life.

“Art is a path to enlightenment.

It is the enemy of totalitarianism.”

 Vinay Menone, Toronto Star

 

 

 

Ontario Sex-ed: Mass Media Conveys Values, Beliefs & Ideologies

Though I have been retired from teaching for a few years now, I can clearly remember in my first couple of years of teaching when  one  young fellows ( Grd. 10-11)  was in the English Department Office . While there,  getting some information on an assignment, he casually asked one of the teachers some advice on dating/asking out a girl.  A short while later he was walking hand in with a young lady.

 

He was a thin pale gawky kid of bookish demeanor ,while the young lady in question was a lovely girl with dark tresses and eyes that spoke of her African heritage.  Even now I smile at the thought that no one batted an eye at this  inter-racial couple. It didn’t matter – I thought we were on our way to a better society.

By the time I was approaching retirement,  we had  a school support group for gay students . Students were feeling more comfortable self-identifying and non-gay students were supportive of them. There were still some issues, but again I thought we were on our way to a better society.

The Ontario Sex-ed curriculum has been updated (from 1998) to acknowledge changes in science, medicine, social norms and the impact of social media and media devices on society. 

 

The new curriculum mandates that students in Grade 4 be taught the risks associated with communications technology, including sharing sexual photos or personal information and cyber-bullying, and strategies to use the technologies safely.

Grade 5 students get a bit more in-depth on what’s appropriate in relationships. “Sharing private sexual photos or posting sexual comments online is unacceptable and also illegal,” the curriculum says.

There has been push-back from various groups in society, some of which has been generated by intentional misinformation by politically/ideologically motivated groups or individuals.

There was a trap set by easy news shorthand – most news gathering organizations went for the “colourful exotic” image of protestors, with the implied message that most protestors were of Arabic and Asian (India/Pakistan) background .

Saying No to Sex-Ed in OntarioIn reality the groups protesting are more diverse, but many hold common beliefs about  family role in education, sexual orientation and strong to moderate  importance placed on cultural and religious background. Not all are newcomers, non-European or belong to religions other than Christianity. 

The equal diversity in those supporting the new Sex-Ed mandate has only recently hit the news gathering institutions – Muslim, newcomer groups join coalition supporting sex-ed

 This  arises from an online petition defending the New Ontario Curriculum .  The video at the top of the post is also by this group.  As you can see there is an attempt to balance out, not just the negative atmosphere surrounding the revised educational resources, but also emphasis on a negative portrayal of newcomers to Canada and non-Christian groups.

There is much work to be done in this area.  I suspect that the underlying concern is with cultural attitudes towards gender roles and sexual orientation.  We as a society have only recently moved forward in acceptance of differences in sexual orientation. Not all are accepting of this change in attitude and behaviour.  The education system will be one of the places where the lines of discomfort will come to the attention of the public in a very emotional manner.  Mass Media will play a significant role in how smoothly society navigates this issue.