Meet the newest members of the Transgender Media Lab Tech Team
Contributor Experience Designer Kit Chokly, Undergraduate Research Assistant Maddie Murakami & Undergraduate Research Assistant Morgan Echard
Let’s start with the basics. What is your name, and what are your pronouns? What is your role on the Transgender Media Portal, and what has brought you here? And what is your go-to snack?
KIT: My name is Kit Chokly, my pronouns are they/them/theirs, and I’m a second-year MA student in Communication at Carleton University. My role on the Transgender Media Portal is as a Research Assistant and Contributor Experience Designer, which blends my backgrounds in graphic design, communication and media studies, and transgender studies. I helped work on the TMP 1.0, and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to continue this work on 2.0! And fueling my work is an endless amount of sour jujubes.
MADDIE: My name is Maddie Murakami, and I use he/him pronouns. I’m a third-year student at Carleton and second-year student in the Computer Science program. My previous program was Interactive Multimedia Design, so I consider myself something along the lines of a design-oriented programmer. I’m a Research Assistant, and I’m part of the tech team on the Transgender Media Portal. I’m new, and I’m excited to be working on something that will allow me to put my skills into a project centered around transgender experiences, as there are unfortunately few opportunities for this, generally speaking. My go-to snack is cereal, and I have a preference for very “boring” ones like shreddies.
MORGAN: My name is Morgan Echard, and I am currently using they/them pronouns. Right now, I am entering my fifth year at Carleton University in pursuit of a Bachelor of Computer Science in the Game Development stream, with a minor in Film Studies. I am also working as a Research Assistant on the Transgender Medial Portal, primarily on the technical side of things. I am tremendously excited to be helping out with this exciting endeavour, which combines my love of IMDb and film culture, my skill for programming, and my passion for trans issues and activism. In terms of a go-to snack, I will eat chips, popcorn, cookies, candy, beef jerky, trail mix, pickles, dry cereal, or pretty much anything else that deigns to lie around the house. Occasionally I try to force myself into snacking exclusively on fruit, but this usually proves to be a fruitless endeavour.
How do you spend your time off (do you have any cool hobbies)?
KIT: Now that we can leave the house again, I’ve started rock climbing. I’m not very good (and am more afraid of heights than I thought I was!), but it’s a tonne of fun and definitely helps me decompress after a long day at my desk.
MADDIE: I’m an artist. I’ve been drawing for 4 or 5 years now, and I draw digitally. I also play video games, and I’m the proud owner of three fish tanks. My long-time interest lies in history, specifically the Age of Sail and life aboard sailing ships.
MORGAN: One thing I do in my spare time is contribute data to IMDb. I have racked up more than 75,000 contributions over the last four or five years, and I was listed among IMDb’s annual top 250 contributors the last three years running. One of the things that excites me the most about the Transgender Media Portal is the idea of creating an IMDb-esque resource specifically for trans creators.
What have you done that you are most proud of?
KIT: This is such a good question! I think one of the things I’m most proud of having done is returning to school as an adult. It took me three tries, but I finally got my Bachelor’s degree last year and am now really enjoying grad school. I’m also incredibly proud of my two siblings – my sister moved to Australia and started her career there as a carpenter from scratch, and my brother volunteers as a white hat hacker to find web vulnerabilities for charitable organizations. I’m very proud of them.
MADDIE: I’m proud of how far I’ve come since just three or four years ago. I was at my lowest point but I was able to power through it, and now I’m in my third year of university with my grades going up. I’m happy with how much I’ve learned in that time, both in programming and computer science, and in art, and being able to be someone who appreciates and practices both science and art is something I’m proud of, too.
MORGAN: In general, I feel that all my greatest accomplishments are things that I’ve written. My greatest passion is storytelling, and I have created a number of short stories, short plays, video games and interactive Minecraft maps. If I were to pick the one that I am most proud of, it would definitely be my current project; an 8-episode playable Minecraft adventure map intended to serve as a revival and conclusion of the infamously abandoned webseries Shadow of Israphel (2010-2012). I’m essentially writing, directing, producing and coding an entire video game and/or season of television on my own. It’s still a long way off from being finished – I’ve been at it for a year, and have only completed two of the eight episodes – but so far, it’s the most exciting and artistically fulfilling project I’ve ever undertaken.
How has COVID-19 changed your plans for the next year?
KIT: Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I’m applying for PhD programs this winter. Hopefully COVID won’t get in the way of in-person classes, although I hope that international events and conferences will continue to be accessible online.
MADDIE: I’m lucky to say not much has changed for me. However, COVID and switching to online classes was what made me realize I wasn’t satisfied or happy with my previous degree program and led to me switching. So in a way, that’s changed my future because I now see myself working in a different field (computer programming rather than graphic design) than I did before.
MORGAN: Perhaps it’s an indictment of my lifestyle, but COVID-19 hasn’t really changed anything too drastically for me. Some things have become more convenient, while others have become less so. In general, however, most everything I do can be done from home. I do miss going to the movie theatre, though. And hanging out with friends.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
KIT: Hopefully defending my dissertation ;)
MADDIE: Genuinely, I can’t wait to graduate. I think a lot about the future, the people I want to spend my time with, and the people I want to pay back, as I get older, in return for all of the support they’ve given me through my schooling.
MORGAN: Alive, hopefully. Beyond that, I’m just taking it one day at a time!