Matthew Wells, Postdoctoral Fellow, Ryerson University

Presenting at Congress in Victoria, June 2013

I am Matthew Wells, a SSHRC-funded postdoctoral fellow at Ryerson University, working within the Master of Digital Media program. I successfully defended my PhD dissertation in March 2017 (Faculty of Information, University of Toronto) and am looking forward to continuing my academic career.

My research interests lie in the realm of digital games, and in particular games as expressive media in both social and cultural contexts.  I intend for my work to show that games often provide more honest reflections of the functionality of computers and related technologies as compared to other digital media.  The history of digital games is also linked inextricably with the history of time-sharing networks that would give rise to the Internet, as well as “interactive programming systems” that afforded users significant control over digital development environments.

I tend, therefore, to dig into archival materials from the early years of digital computing, which I analyze using critical sociological methodologies. I am also interested in developing new prototype programming systems that would leverage the best elements of the historical systems I have studied. For this work I lean towards using Javascript with a node.js base, using Jison as a means to develop domain-specific languages for given systems. You can go to my Github page, if you wish, to have a look at my early efforts.

My academic background is varied.  In 2000 I earned a B.Sc. in Computer Science from McGill University, which capped a lifelong hobbyist interest in computer programming.  In 2005 I decided to try something new and pursued a degree in the field of history, something I had grown interested in after my years at McGill.  I earned a B.A. in History from Carleton University in 2008, and an M.A. in Medieval Studies from the University of Toronto in 2009.

Instead of going the PhD route in the humanities, I enrolled in a Master’s program at the Faculty of Information, where I rediscovered my earlier passion for digital technologies.  In the spring of 2012 I graduated with an MI degree, and began the PhD program in the fall of that year, earning my doctoral degree in spring 2017.  With the help of extremely supportive faculty members, I managed to develop a framework for my research that combines elements of my work from every phase of my academic career.  I would like to say that this was all planned in advance, but of course timing, luck, and improvisation  – not to mention the support, advice, and encouragement of faculty and fellow students – have largely conspired to bring me where I am today.