Technical Difficulties

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By Sue Carr

Ryerson students fall behind the tech revolution.

The musty smell of Ryerson’s archives enstills memories of grandma’s basement, a tomb for hidden treasures and historical wonders.

Among its artifacts sit the tools of students past, who learned their trades using typewriters, survey instruments, and tungsten lamps. The room if full of machines rendered obsolete as technology sped forward.

“It documents the changes, how much we’ve progressed,” says Ryerson archivist Claude Doucet. “It’s important to have examples of what used to be, so that we can appreciate the changes.”

Doucet agrees with many faculty members who believe students should learn the basics before mastering current technology. But students are sometimes surprised by old equipment used to train the in professions leading the charge for technological evolution. Journalism students splice tape with razor blades before learning the art of digital editing. Fashion students manually cut and paste their designs before using Photoshop and other current technology.

But Ryerson does have current technology. In fact, according to Dr. Said Easa, chair of civil engineering, Ryerson’s technological equipment is far ahead of the times. The civil engineering department works with SuperPave, an asphalt material unavailable in the rest of Ontario.

“We’re keeping up with what’s coming,” says Easa. “We always look at manuals of new technologies. The benefit is that our students will get trained in this equipment and when they graduate, they’ll put it to work.”

But before embracing top-of-the-line equipment Easa says students must appreciate the basics.

While most people can appreciate this concept, some students are startled by the primal equipment introduced to them at Ryerson.

“We use old cameras from World War II,” says first-year image arts student Daniel Grant.

The times, they aren’t challenging for some faculties, and some students are concerned with repercussions of using outdated equipment.

Robin Sala, a fourth-year technical theatre production student, worked full-time for a sound production company this summer, and spent most of the time learning on state-of-the-art equipment he misses at Ryerson.

He’s so concerned about the school’s technology lag that he’s writing this thesis on the theatre school’s need for better sound equipment.

“The equipment we have now is outdated, lacking, and obsolete,” he says.

Sala’s classmate Tracy Andronek, head of sound for Mass Exodus this year, agrees.

“We just don’t have the equipment we need, or the money to get that equipment,” she says.

She’s worried that using out-of-date equipment will leave her unprepared for a technical world.

“I don’t have enough knowledge or training on new technology to make it out there,” she says. “It will be just like starting over unless I work at a lower-rate theatre.”

Wayne Duncan, the theatre school’s professor of audio, said via email that the school is working towards improving its technology.

“The quality of sound equipment at Ryerson is not state of the art, but has greatly improved in the five years I’ve been here,” he said. “We’re improving our software this year.”

Duncan works on the musical Mamma Mia, and brings his students to the Royal Alex theatre to see “the top equipment in the world.” But they can only look, not touch.

In a time where technology is constantly evolving, this hands-off approach to technical advances could be debilitating.

Ryerson’s stress on “Wisdom applied” seems to include only the application of certain technologies, bad news for students whose future endeavors revolve around their grasp of cutting-edge equipment. Hopefully the archive will soon get some new additions.


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