MSc Thesis Defence – Oliver Cook

I am happy to announce that Oliver Cook, MSc Candidate, will defend his thesis on March 15 at 10 am in Rozanski Hall room 106.

Oliver, a Guelph Mercury 40 Under 40 recipient, and University of Guelph Student Life’s Be The Change award winner, has spent the last two years exploring participatory software design methods in the Inuit community of Rigolet, Nunatsiavut. Oliver joined the community-led eNuk research program in 2016 as the lead developer of the prototype eNuk health and environment monitoring mobile application. Since then, he has spent several weeks in Rigolet working with the community to co-create the eNuk tools.

His thesis, “Don’t fuck it up, Oliver!” Creating the eNuk software: a case study of community-based participatory design with Inuit in Rigolet, Canada, represents the culmination of his work.

For those who might be wondering about the title, I believe that Oliver explained it best:

In light of the information presented thus far, this brings us to the title of this thesis dissertation and what it represents to the eNuk project team. ‘‘Don’t Fuck it up Oliver!’’, is a quote spoken by one of our community partners, and one that stuck firmly with the design team. This was a comment made during an especially energetic discussion about the future and progress of the app; as such, we found it succinctly encapsulates and emphasizes many of our experiences working with the community, the design process, and the eNuk app as a whole. It speaks to the passion and urgency felt by the community as they face challenges of climate change threatening their way of life. It speaks to the trusting and familiar relationships we strove to cultivate between our design team and our community-partners to ensure that our influence was seen as not just another research project, but as a meaningful and desired part of community life. It speaks to the community-led essence of the process, regarding the community not as a research subject or solely recipients of the design, but as essential drivers of the app’s co-creation. While this document presents much of what went into the eNuk app, it was the community through the many conversations and actions we shared that made the project and this research what it is. ‘‘Don’t fuck it up, Oliver!’’ wasnt made as simply a suggestion. It was an emphatic statement by the community in the face of a problem that holds immediate importance. Climate change is not a far off threat, it is a pressing and continuous experience in our community-partners’ lives. Effective and appropriate responses to this problem are not a luxury, optional or a convenience, but a necessity for sustaining life for Inuit. The repercussions for failing in this task fall far beyond the interests of academic research and have very real direct implications for the people of Rigolet with very limited room for second chances.


The eNuk project is an interdisciplinary project that is working with the Inuit community of Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, Canada to better understand the relationships between the environment, health, and climate change. As a component of this project, software tools are being produced by and for the community to facilitate the collection, interpretation, and dissemination of information useful for monitoring and engaging with the ongoing changes they experience.

Inuit across Northern Canada are experiencing shifts in health and lifestyle due to the effects of climate change on the Arctic and Subarctic. These regions are some of the fastest warming in the world and are showing dramatic changes in ecosystem as a result. Inuit predominantly live in remote communities across the North and share a long-standing relationship with the land that is deeply integrated into life and culture. This close proximity and relationship to a region that is rapidly changing have resulted in circumstances that are undesirable and averse to Inuit living in the North. Adapting to these changes has become a necessary reality for many to sustain their quality and way of life. Working in partnerships with Inuit and Inuit communities to research, mitigate, and adapt to climate change is beneficial and necessary towards producing results that are meaningful, effective and appropriate for their lives.

In developing the eNuk software, participatory approaches to software development are being explored to co-create software that best fits the needs of community-members as they desire it. This thesis presents the results of designing a functional prototype of this software together with the community over three research trips to Rigolet. We document and reflect on the process and activities used to engage with the community in design, the resulting prototype that emerged, and factors and local phenomena that informed the prototype’s purpose and function. Through this case study, a community-based participatory software development approach is demonstrated that we propose is valuable to pursue in creating future software with Inuit and for climate change adaptation. Additionally, the eNuk software prototype is currently in use by community-members and ongoing iterative development, evaluation, and integration with other communities is planned.

Examination Committee:

Chair: Joe Sawada
Advisor: Daniel Gillis
Advisory Committee Member: Blair Nonnecke
Non-Advisory Committee Member: Michael Wirth




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