Author: cathpoi

Blog Post 3 – Virtual Relationships

By Catherine Poitras Auger

What does it means to have a long-distance relationship, in 2015? It often means long phone calls, Skype calls, SMS and Facebook messages, and emails. To what extend does online platforms can change what we call a relationship? I believe that platforms such as Skype and Facebook are allowing certain types of relationship to exist and thrive, and that it is challenging the idea of what it means to be in a relationship. I believe that my experiences in long-distance relationships (or LDR, as they are called on forums online) go against the social norms of what a relationship ought to be by removing the presence of a partner’s body out of the equation.

What I find the hardest in an LDR is when I have to tell other people about what I am experiencing, because I fear to be judged. I sometimes have a hard time assuming that I am living a fulfilling, authentic experience with another person because it is all happening online, in a non-physical universe driven by codes and translated by machines. Talking on Skype means, from time to time, to hear a feedback, an echo of our own voice. That echo makes me sad because it breaks the magic of the Skype conversation: it reminds me of my fear that all of the relationship is happening in my mind only, since the body of my partner is not physically in the same material space than mine.

For Jason Farman, the virtual world and the material world are not two separate universes, and they cannot be defined as true or false. The author gives the example of people whose faith lead them to think that the metaphysical world is more real than the physical world. Farman also brings forward the idea that the virtual world is not new, since it has always existed through arts – in architecture and theater, for example. In a similar way, the fact is that all relationships are based on things that can be, on projections, and not only on concrete, daily physical interactions with the other. We all end up creating our own little bubble of things that could be – therefore, long-distance relationships are not that different to ”normal” ones.

In a way, long-distance relationships share a similarity with open relationships. They reconfigure what we consider as a couple by sending the message that to have physical proximity with another’s body does not define a relationship. A relationship is whatever feels right, as long as it is consensual and reciprocated. Under this definition, two people on the opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean can maintain a relationship as valuable as two people who live in the same apartment. They put communication in the foreground, and exchanges on online platforms such as Facebook, Gmail, and most especially, Skype, become our walk to the park, our ride of rollercoaster, our movie theater. We just watched a film together last night.

Farman, Jason (2012). Mobile Interface Theory Ch. 2 “Mapping and Representations of Space” (35-55) London: Routledge.


MARCH 25TH, 2015, WEEK 12


On Jonathan Sterne, Quebec’s #casseroles: on participation, percussion and protest :

Stern mainly focuses on the interaction of sound within Quebec 2012 student protest series. The author brings up a 700-year-old Francophone tradition called Charivari. The tradition of Charivari is basically when young men would disguise themselves and would all meet during the late night to bang on pots and pans outside of an offender’s home. Stern focuses on the fact that the casseroles protest must be paid attention too because they are an embodied act of a traditional movement. They are performed loudly for a reason, because they are forming a political volume movement within its rhythm that creates itself naturally.

Stern uses another example from writer Christopher Small, who coined the term “musicking” describing music not as a collection or rarefied texts performed by experts and professionals, but rather as a field of social action that includes all participants, from musicians to the people cleaning up after the event.

Both terms, Musicking and Charivari are brought together within the action of playing on the casseroles within the Quebec student protest; the noise created is both an act of Charivari by being an affective power of noise making to protest and demonstrate, and it’s a movement of Musicking because the music becomes a social action that includes all participants to take part in.

Sterne, Jonathan. (2012). Quebec’s #casseroles: on participation, percussion and protest. Theory & Event 15(3), The Johns Hopkins University Press. 4pgs.


On Jonathan Sterne, Bodies-Streets :

In this text, Sterne writes about how a city connects various bodies together, and how the urban space defines social behaviours. The way Law 78 brought together various groups of citizens that would have otherwise remained unconnected is an example of how articulations work, and the protest becomes a place where social imagination can thrive.

The Law 78 is viewed as an attempt at restraining the social imagination. It criminalizes bodies because they block a flow in the city, economically and physically. The law is applied unequally: political noise is not acceptable. The movement against Law 78 is made of articulations, which means of various groups who otherwise do not necessarily connect politically.

The movement in a city is political, and cars monopolize the space. The access to transportation is political – it represents the social organization of a city. When reclaiming the space taken by cars, pedestrians can feel that another world is possible. Interactions in a protest connect minds and bodies together.

Sterne, Jonathan. (2012). Bodies-Streets. Wi: journal of mobile media 6(2). 4pgs.


On Darin Barney, The Truth of le printemps erable :

According to Darin Barney, the basic character of a truth is that it is exceptional, not normative, and the truth is not simply what is, the truth is what happens. Barney introduces “the manifs casseroles” as an unexpected occasion for political engagement and resistance by everyday people. Barney argues that they were the kind of popular movement that was necessary for the student strikers in order to have any chance of success.

The manifs casserole are “noisy” because of the fact that what they are saying or doing cannot be acknowledged by those who get to decide what counts as an intelligible claim. What makes the student strikers politically exceptional is their refusal to negotiate. The strikers refuse to accept the government’s proposal is a refusal to concede post-secondary education to the logic and priorities of neoliberal capitalism. Darin Barney concludes that the strike’s claims are unintelligible under the terms and conditions of reasonable discourse in a prosperous liberal democracy as Quebec, but on the other hand, part of the claims also sounds true, which is the reason why the student strikers refuse to give up.

Barney, Darin. (2012). The truth of le printemps érables. Theory & Event 15(3), The Johns Hopkins University Press. 4pgs.



In Jonathan Sterne’s text, “Quebec’s #casseroles: on participation, percussion and protest”, we see the comparison between the historical tradition of Charivari being compared to the 2012 Quebec student protest. Can we agree that the practice of this historical tradition had an influence during the student protest as an alternative to eliminating violence and to getting a message across to the government?

In Sterne’s Bodies-Streets, various political groups (such as anarchists, student activists, union workers, etc.) act as articulations, and connect to create a temporary whole (here: against Law 78). To what extent can these articulations be considered as a whole?


It’s Spring Again : Concordia on Strike

Blog post 2: Re-Orientation

By Catherine Poitras Auger

In my previous post, I choose to write about the Concordia Green House, located in the Hall building downtown. I will attempt at critically describing the space using some of the concepts we discussed in class, namely the binary of private VS public spaces, and the concept of détournement.

In the same way that Gill Valentine does not want to talk in terms of public VS private space because public spaces are often regulated and privately owned, the Green House exists thanks to the CSU, the Concordia Student Union, who finances and partially manages the space. The Green House funding is dependent upon the union, and it has happened in the past that it was at risk of being removed. The last time this happened was only a year ago. The Green House and other student groups had to hold a joined campaign against a referendum question that was asked by a group of students of the John Molson School of Business. If students were to answer yes to the referendum question, it would have meant for the Green House to have to either find other sources of revenues in a very short amount of time, or to close doors, which would have been the most likely outcome. I recall this from personal memory since I participated in the joined solidarity effort for supporting our student groups. This economic dependency of the Green House on an entity that might one day remove its funding is a downside of the space. It is not fully an independent, self-managed entity.

The Green House is located inside a building that belongs to Concordia University. In order to get there, a person has to navigate all the way to the 12th floor, and then take the stairs to get to the 13th floor of the building. If the person is not a student at the university, she/he might be asked to leave the premises by a security guard before she/he can get to the 13th floor. This issue is a major one in terms of accessibility. However, since not everybody is legally allowed to walk in the university, the Green House can also be seen as a tentative to subvert these rules, and to rethink the university’s space. It allows for non-student to re-appropriate an urban space that has been rendered private, and it provides a setting that encourages independent, self-learning projects for both students and non-students. The idea of re-appropriating a space, also called détournement, was exploited by the Situationists, who were a group of anti-capitalist artists and intellectuals. The Green House claims to be an anti-capitalist space, and it fuels projects that encourage people to become gardeners themselves and to re-appropriate the city space, such as the ongoing DIY Balcony Garden Project.


greenhousesubvertedPhotoshop work by Catherine Poitras Auger, 2015



Mis-guide: An Imprinter’s Map to Concordia University’s Hall Building

By Gabrielle Allain and Catherine Poitras Auger

Imprinter [Im-print-ter]~
~to create a mark by pressing against a surface
~to cause (something) to stay in your mind or memory
(Merriam-Webster dictionary)

A picture, a reflection in a mirror, a print: All of these are representations, and interpretations of reality. When gathering the textures, the imprinter is invited to interpret the environment. The resulting patterns cannot be the same: Different factors such as pressure of the hand, the exact place where the texture will be imprinted, and the movements of the graphite will produce a different outcome. With the exact same guidelines, an Imprinter’s Map will always end up being a unique collection of patterns and textures.

The same directions would have a slightly different outcome from person to another, since the imprinter will accidentally leave his or her fingerprints across the booklet’s pages. Like an IP address for a computer, a trace of the imprinter will be left while he or she is navigating the space in search for the right textures. Human beings are made of texture, just as the environment, and an Imprinter’s Map shows the continuity between bodies and space. This idea goes back to Henri Lefebvre, for whom bodies cannot be completely separated from the space. Jason Farman summarizes in these words: “Instead, space is constructed simultaneously with our sense of embodiment. The two are indelibly linked, never to be separated’’ (Farman, 2012, p.18). One might feel like a drop of water in an ocean, and experience humility in the process.
The imprinter gathers information about the material world, with the help of a rudimentary technology. In our digital world, one can gather information with a touch of finger. Our map is digital in a more rudimentary way, with a chalk and paper. Farman’s definition of “virtual’’ has to do with simulation in a non-physical or disconnected space. The prehistoric cave paintings of buffalos and other animals were simulations of reality for human beings 40,000 years ago. Can we call these paintings virtual animals? If we say so, then the imprinter is also creating a virtual Hall building, on paper, using the digital medium of chalk and paper.

While gathering the texture, the imprinter might experience the feeling that what she or he is doing is an act unfamiliar and strange. The objects out there in the world were not conceived for being imprinted, although some textures are deliberately designed in a certain way. The kitchen table example for Ahmed is a symbol for queer phenomenology. It is a space that is associated with cooking, but it can also be used for other purposes (for example, writing philosophy). However, spaces shape bodies through habits (Sarah Ahmed, 2006, p.14). While gathering the textures, an imprinter might encounter obstacles such as suspicious gazes of security guards, and confused witnesses. It is a social experience to follow the instructions, because they use the space in a different way than what is commonly accepted. It may be a conversation starter. It is, in itself, a phenomenological experience.

The act of imprinting also allows the imprinter eternalized impressions of places they have been, a tool to recall the sensory memories of details that construe spaces. While a building’s urban life span might end in demolishment, a person can keep a booklet of imprints and use it to revisit the memory of the building as long as they live. Artist Sophie Calle speaks of an unconventional form of art appreciation she calls “disparition,” which requires the absence of the art in it’s physical form. Calle’s method involves the actual theft or vandalism of certain artworks in order for them to disappear or die, representing the search for parallels in life, environment and memory: “Instead of just setting up contrasts between life and death, art and life, and memory and forgetting, Disparitions manages to overcome them, demonstrating the vivid conjunction of ideas, details, tastes, spaces, and emotions provoked by the works and maintained in memories of them […]In their absence, the works’ spaces are reconfigured and saved from stasis by the memories of them.” (Nigel Saint, pg. 135, 2011). The same way that Calle might take away a piece of art from a museum, the imprinter may take away an impression of an tangible space they go to. To Calle, the memory of a space holds the most weighted and mysterious value. An imprint captures this essence in a physical form and provides a sensory memory tool for the imprinter.

Of the five sense, our sense of touch may be the one we use least when experiencing the environment around us. It is fair to say that the average student who visits Concordia on a daily basis probably has never touched more than a handful of surfaces they see everyday, such as the escalator railing and bathroom door perhaps. Most people rely on visual and audio sensory information and memory to direct them where they are going; If one is lost trying to find something, one might refer to a map, a sign, or ask a personnel at the security desk. However, what were a student to do if she or he were blind? Granted, Concordia has braille numbering in the elevators, how would one find their way from place to place without visual stimuli? Most maps and signs do not have braille or audio guides. An imprinter’s map is designed indeed for a person with a visual impairment. It is a way by which a person who cannot use visual cues to follow directions, can use physical sensations to guide their paths and keep track of the places they have been. All that is needed is a pencil and a travel sized booklet, and one can forever encompass the places they have visited in a meaningful way. Imprints are both visual and physical (you can see the textures as well as touch them), and they do not require auditory information, so they can serve all people. Imprinting is more than experiencing a space: It is allowing the body to blend and fuse with it’s surroundings on a tangible, yet continuous proportion.

Anonymous. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Accessed on February 9th, 2015.

Ahmed, Sara. (2006) Queer Phenomenology Ch. 1: Orientations Towards Objects, section “Inhabiting Spaces” (51-63). Durham: Duke University Press.

Farman, Jason (2012). Mobile Interface Theory Ch. 2 “Mapping and Representations of Space” (35-55) London: Routledge.
Farman, Jason. Accessed on February 9th, 2015.

Saint, Nigel. (2011). Space and Absence in Sophie Calle’s Suite vénitienne and Disparitions. L’Esprit Créateur, 51(1): 125-138



Post 1 – Introduction

My name is Catherine Poitras. I am from Montreal, and currently living in Hochelaga – which I like to call the Far East of Montreal, or Hoch’lag’, as we say in French. My political views revolve around feminism and anarchism. In the past, I worked as an outreach worker in a community organization, and was a committed volunteer and member of the board of directors at Concordia University Television (CUTV). In 2012, I completed a minor in linguistics. I am co-director of a short documentary called L’Homo Cultivus (2014) on urban agriculture (available on youtube). Nostalgia is my middle name: I study in the film stream of communication studies.


Photo by Laura Kneale

These days, the editing of a music video for N0rth ( and a sketchbook for The Sketchbook Project ( keep me busy outside of school. I spend a lot of my waking time online reading newsworthy articles, from both the mainstream and alternative press.

I would like this class to give me tools that I can use in order to advocate for the rights of women, the queer community and LGBT, people in a situation of poverty, differently abled people, native people, etc. After reading the syllabus, I have a feeling that I am registered in the right class!

My favorite space is the Green House, on the 12th floor of Concordia’s Hall building. The Green House exists thanks to the Concordia Student Union, and it is an entity that hosts many urban agriculture projects. There are many rooms filled with plants, tables and chairs on the west side, and an office space on the east side. I like it because I do not have to pay in order to be allowed inside, contrary to cafés – it is an anti-capitalist space full of sun, plants, and zines. Over there, I feel accepted as I am, and encouraged to express myself. The space is open to the public. To get there, one has to climb the stairs from the 11th floor: the elevator does not go all the way to the 12th floor. The space is therefore inaccessible for a person on a wheelchair. There are not many indications about how to get to the Green House, and it is hard to find. For more information:


 Photo by Catherine Poitras

My thumbs down for the faculty: 1) there are no windows in the COMS building’s classrooms, 2) it is hard to access the classes that we want, and there are not enough space in the 400-level classes for 3rd or 4th year students, 3) the air feels cold in the building: I sometimes wear a scarf and a tuque in class, 4) the main auditorium has the most uncomfortable chairs in the world, 5) the communication department wants to close the film stream: there is a ‘feeling of doom’ in Film II.

My thumbs up for the faculty: 1) easy access to computers and printers, 2) the faculty has good professors, 3) the atrium is a fun place to sit and chat, 4) there are charming old shop signs on the walls and plants in the building, 5) the possibility of gathering both concrete and abstract knowledge in COMS.