UCN professor headed to Central Europe to deliver lecture at academic conference

Dr. Gilbert McInnis is currently preparing for the biggest lecture of his academic career.

On April 26, the English professor from the University College of the North (UCN) will be speaking at an International Journal of Arts & Sciences conference in Prague, an event that is set to attract academics from across the world.

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While McInnis has presented his work in front of big crowds before, this time it will be a little bit different, since his lecture must be delivered in a TED Talk format.

This brand of short video lectures has spiked in popularity over the past decade, largely through its organizers’ use of strong visuals and free online distribution through sites like YouTube.

McInnis admitted that the largest hurdle he’ll have to overcome for this speech is condensing his essay “The Mythical Character of Machine Language and Code” into a 15-minute speech accessible to the broader audiences that TED Talks usually attract.

“It has to be very visual rather than textual-based and that is the difficult part of this presentation,” he said. “I’ve never presented something with so much visuals, so it will be interesting to see how I’m going to pull it off.”

The subject matter of McInnis’s lecture also doesn’t exactly lend itself to such a short run-time, since it’s all about analysing computer language and how it has the power to transform human minds and behaviours. 

“This is really 11 years of my research,” he said. “The reason it’s taken me so long is it’s a very complex topic. Understanding machine language and code is not easy for an academic in the humanities.”

Even though McInnis earned his PhD in English literature, he’s dipped his toes into the hard sciences as well, with a background in both evolutionary biology and physics.

Because of this dual expertise, a lot of McInnis’s published work has straddled the line between these two disciplines, including his essay on “The Posthuman Vision of Philip K. Dick.”

Even his teaching duties at UCN’s Thompson campus cover a broad spectrum of topics.  

“I teach a course on research and writing, and I also do a course called ‘Composition and Creativity,’ it’s a creative fiction course,” he said. “At this moment I’m also teaching a literature course to nursing students because of my science background. So I’m introducing them to mostly science literature.”

In terms of his trip to the Czech Republic capital, McInnis is also hoping to be a good representative for UCN on an international stage, since the organization that is hosting his lecture, Sokol, is the fourth most populous civic association in the country. 

“This is an organization where there’s nearly 190,000 members in the Czech Republic alone,” he said. “So if any of their newsletters carry our topics, hopefully that promotes UCN and Thompson at that level.”

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