Brian Alexander

Bridging Sonification

Life has a sound track, but we only perceive a fraction of what’s at play. Our understanding of the world goes largely unquestioned as we are collectively limited by our own human bandwidth. This talk covers two projects which highlight the pursuit of art and technology leveraged in everyday life to expand our awareness of each other and the immense depth and complexity of world we live in.

Brian Alexander is a transdisciplinary experience designer and artist who strives for the realization of clarity and the full potential of artistic expression in all individuals. His works are specifically focused on the unseen, unheard, and underserved life forms among us with a persistently human-centric approach to both product and process in an array of technical and artistic disciplines. His 34-year professional career continues with an increased emphasis on systemics and emergent behavior. He currently holds 26 patents as well as permanent works in MOMA NY, Cooper Hewitt, and Smithsonian. In 2011 he established Trace Bloom as a blanket field of exploration for all forms auditory, immersive, and unfiltered. Distilled as definition, Trace Bloom is; to loosely outline perceived phenomena, to develop the tools and conditions for emergent expression, and to allow that expression to grow unencumbered to a point of perceived resolution or shared understanding.

Dr. Tiara Moore

Building Black in Marine Science (BIMS)

Black in Marine Science is a premier nonprofit organization aimed to celebrate Black marine scientists, spread environmental awareness, and inspire the next generation of scientific thought leaders. Tired of being the only Black person in the room, Dr. Tiara Moore founded BIMS in order to build a community and network of diverse marine scientists across the globe. A story of racism, trauma, hope and fortitude, “Building BIMS” will entail the journey of a Black woman marine scientist’s quest to dismantle the toxic culture of science. 

Originally from Greenwood, South Carolina, Dr. Tiara Moore completed her B.S. in Biology in 2011 at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, where she developed an interest in marine science during a research trip in Costa Rica. She received her M.S. in Biology with a concentration in Environmental Science in 2013 from Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, where she conducted research on the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay linking sediment oxygen demand and nutrient cycling to the eutrophication of the Bay.

After completing her M.S., she spent 2 months in Bali, Indonesia identifying the diversity and abundance of meiofauna in marine sediments across the coral triangle. Dr. Moore earned her PhD in Biology from UCLA, where she conducted research in Mo’orea, French Polynesia, Carpinteria Salt Marsh, and Upper Newport Bay. In Mo’orea, she observed the effects sedimentation and nutrient pollution have on the proliferation of coral reef macroalgae. In Carpinteria and Newport, she explored the effects of macroalgal decomposition on sediment biogeochemistry and the microbial community using environmental DNA (eDNA) to assess the biodiversity of entire ecosystems with only a soil sample. Dr. Moore is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Washington and The Nature Conservancy using soil eDNA to develop a biodiversity census of Ellsworth Forest to compare species diversity across management treatments over the past 10 years.

Inside and outside of the lab, Dr. Moore hopes her research in biodiversity will translate to increasing the overall diversity in science. She dedicates her time to mentoring minority women in the lab and in after school programs. Founder of A WOC SPACE and Black In Marine Science, Dr. Moore aspires to make a safe and inclusive workplace for all Black people and women of color (WOC) through WOCShops, individual personal trainings, and community outreach. To round things off Dr. Moore combines her experiences as a WOC Scientist with her upbeat personality in her Academic Standup Shows, both communicating science and the struggles of being a minority in STEM.

William Swanson

Building Suspense: A Conversation with My Alter Ego

Author William Swanson will lead a spirited, if somewhat unorthodox, discussion about the design and construction of suspense fiction with W.A. Winter, the crime novelist who lives and works in Swanson’s head. Their focus will be Winter’s most recent book, The Secret Lives of Dentists, but will likely include references to and comparisons with Swanson’s true-crime books, Winter’s other fiction, favorite authors and sundry influences, plus lessons learned while writing for a living during the past half-century.

William Swanson is a Minneapolis journalist who writes suspense fiction under the name W.A. Winter. Born and raised in Minneapolis, Bill attended the city’s public schools, graduated from the University of Minnesota, served with the 4th Armored Division in Europe, and, over a 50-year career, worked for newspapers, wire services, and magazines in Germany, Mexico, and the U.S. He has written three true-crime books, three “Midwest noir” e-books, and, most recently, The Secret Lives of Dentists, a novel inspired by a sensational 1955 Minneapolis murder case. His next novel, My Name Is Joe LaVoie, also inspired by actual events, will be published in 2022. He and his wife, Libby, live in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis.

Katie Swenson

Design with Love: At Home in America

The question of the architect’s role within the community has continued to grow and change in recent years. How do we look beyond not only designing projects, but delivering on a mission to research, build, and advocate for architecture that promotes justice and human dignity? This presentation explores the notion that the best results for all stakeholders occur when a project is conceived and built with purpose. A purpose-built approach begins with immersion, a deep engagement with all partners and project stakeholders that allows us to collectively identify the specific mission of a project and its intended outcomes, and ends with impact.

A nationally recognized design leader, researcher, writer, and educator, Katie Swenson has served  as a senior principal of MASS Design Group since 2020. Katie’s work explores how critical design practice can, and should, promote economic and social equity, environmental sustainability, and healthy communities. Katie has over 20 years of experience in the theoretical and practical application of design thinking and is a talented global public speaker and thought leader. A prolific writer, she authored Design with Love: At Home in America, and In Bohemia: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Kindness, both published in August 2020.  She co-authored Growing Urban Habitats: Seeking a Housing Development Model with William Morrish and Susanne Schindler. She is a contributing author to Activist Architecture: Philosophy and Practice of Community Design and Expanding Architecture: Design as Activism. Katie was awarded the AIA Award for Excellence in Public Architecture in 2021. Prior to joining MASS, Katie was the vice president of Design & Sustainability at Enterprise Community Partners. An alumni of the Enterprise Rose Fellowship’s second class, Swenson was tapped to lead and grow the program in 2007. Katie also helped found the Charlottesville Community Design Center in 2004.

Cole Wehrle

How Crowdfunding Changed the Tabletop Publishing Game

Over the past decade, the publication of tabletop games has been radically transformed by crowdfunding. In the past, tabletop publishing followed the business model established by commercial book publishing. Crowdfunding offered new possibilities for design, production, and distribution. These opportunities have allowed publishers such as St. Paul-based Leder Games to pursue new, more collectivist approaches to company organization and game design. In this talk, Cole Wehrle, the creative director of Leder Games, describes the creation, development, and reception of his recent game, Oath, over the last two tumultuous years. Oath is a game about history. But, rather than collapsing history into a single session, Oath tells its stories on a generational scale. The game remembers how it is played, and each game of Oath begins where the previous one ends. In doing this, the game engages seriously with questions of politics, power, and practice of writing history itself. Since its release in spring of 2021, the game has received critical accolades and commercial success. Yet, it is precisely the sort of game that could only be produced with the help of crowdfunding.

Cole Wehrle is an ex-academic who decided to abandon the lucrative field of Victorian studies in favor of game publishing. He is the creative director at Leder Games in St. Paul. He is best known for the award-winning game Root, which uses a children’s book aesthetic to explore the politics of police states and insurgency. Root and its expansions have sold hundreds of thousands of copies and have been translated into nearly 20 languages. He is also the cofounder of Wehrlegig Games with his brother Drew Wehrle, which handles the publication of his historical games which cover subjects related to his academic work including state formation in 19th century Afghanistan (Pax Pamir) and the rise and collapse of the British East India Company (John Company). 

Check out past Lake Superior Design Retreat speakers here.