September 24, 2011

On Leaving NYU/NYC for Montreal/McGill

Category: Academic — Biella @ 1:15 pm


Despite being on sabbatical last academic year, life was hectic and chaotic leaving me with next to no time to write entries here. Anonymous, which I had worked on for a few years, exploded. I was excommunicated from my house (due to a flood/something likely mold making be very sick) and had to commute to Princeton from the far reaches of Manhattan where I crashed at a friends house for 5 months, while fighting my landlords. I then decided to go on a job hunt primarily as I did not know what would happen with my housing situation in NYC but I was also pursuing some interesting opportunities. Though the housing issue was eventually resolved, in May a rare and enticing opportunity arose. Come January 2012 I will be joining the Art History and Communication Department at McGill University as the Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy.

The decision to leave MCC NYU was torturous. The faculty is stellar. The graduate students are top notch and cream of the crop. And the digital media faculty is a force of nature, perhaps one of the deepest and most dynamic departments when it comes to the study of digital media. They also know how to treat their junior faculty right, which made it a place I respected and am deeply indebted to.

But this type of opportunity is rare and it helped that NYC as wonderful as it is, is not my cup of tea. I wanted to eventually settle in one of the large Canadian cities, and Montreal was on the top of my list. I get to join one of the best universities in the world and a department whose work on digital media, STS, and politics converges with much of my own.

The position provides resources, time, and room to cultivate scholarly work, help build a program of some sort in Science Technology Studies at McGill, and also engage with the public about the ethics and politics of science and technology. I will be teaching a class to joint BA/BS majors on scientific and technological controversies, a topic close to my heart. I also hope to create an open courseware website for my hacker course, which I will teach sometime in the 2012-2013 academic year.

It is all that I can ask for, well, except for the weather. I would be lying if I did not admit that the winter scares the heck out of me… I know some days I will feel just like this….



  1. Welcome to Montréal! It’s a great place really, with great food, lots of music, Summer festivals, history, culture, etc. Low cost of living too, which helps make up for the high taxes. The Winter here is much easier than that in Alberta, so don’t worry too much.

    Comment by M. Grégoire — September 24, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

  2. Hey Biella,

    Enjoy your new adventure! I’ve been eyeing Montreal myself for various reasons, though other options exist and I haven’t pulled triggers yet. Montreal is supposed to be even better than NYC for dining options and to have a nice European flair.

    They also have the hacker space Foulab, an impressive level of government support for cooperatives that could be applied to hacker-related activities, and generally seem a good fit for your efforts.

    Comment by Jimmy Kaplowitz — September 24, 2011 @ 2:10 pm

  3. Hey Biella,

    You’ll be as stellar as you’ve ever been: inspiring students, doing good stuff and generally being grand.

    Have fun :)

    Comment by Andy Cater — September 24, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

  4. Congrats Biella !!!

    Hope to see you in Montreal when I head up for Mutek next year

    Best of luck on your move & next adventures ;)

    Comment by nano — September 24, 2011 @ 4:03 pm

  5. Are you going to learn french ? :)

    Comment by Sylvestre Ledru — September 25, 2011 @ 6:06 am

  6. Welcome to Quebec! I’ve been living in Sherbrooke (about 2 hours from Montreal) for the last 16 months, hope you enjoy it!

    Comment by Jonathan Carter — September 26, 2011 @ 5:36 am

  7. Thanks everyone! Super excited. Yes I hope to learn french and thankfully I don’t teach my first semester which will give me some more time for my lessons which have came to a screeching halt with the start of my very busy semester.

    Comment by Biella — September 26, 2011 @ 6:26 am

  8. I did my undergrad in McGill. Lived four years in Mtl. I may head back soon if all goes to plan. Bienvenue à Mtl!

    Do make a conscious effort to learn French. You’ll miss out on half the town until you do. I learned this the hard way myself. ;-)

    Comment by Jordi Gutiérrez Hermoso — September 26, 2011 @ 7:40 am

  9. Congratulations! Awesome opportunity and super well-deserved :)

    Comment by Rachel Chalmers — September 27, 2011 @ 10:55 am

  10. Sorry to see you go Biella. But its a great opportunity, and I can’t wait to hear about the great things you’ll be doing up there.

    Comment by Fred — September 27, 2011 @ 10:55 am

  11. I’ll miss you, and I won’t be alone, but I hope you will thrive and that Montreal will appreciate you thoroughly.

    Comment by Sumana Harihareswara — September 27, 2011 @ 11:21 am

  12. Congratulations, bien sur! Montreal is a lovely city. Be sure to eat at La Chronique on a special occasion; one of the best meals of my life.

    But we will miss you down here!

    Comment by David Auerbach — September 27, 2011 @ 11:46 am

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