Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Carolyn Kane

Faculty Spotlight_Dr Carolyn KaneDr. Carolyn Kane joins ProCom, and brings with her a love for colour and new media.

By: Jacky Au Duong, MPC 2015

Come Fall 2015, Dr. Carolyn Kane will be teaching two undergraduate courses in ProCom. Before the hustle and bustle that is the start of a new semester, we sat down to chat theory and practice, as well as her route to the study of communication. Our main focus was colour – Dr. Kane’s area of research – and why it plays such an important role in professional communication.

Thank you for joining me today. Can you start by telling me a bit about yourself?

I was born and raised in Toronto, and I actually went to art school in image arts here! This was where I was first introduced to the idea of combining theory and practice. I developed a strong love of using media, ranging from digital media, photography, and cinema. From there, I continued my work in media studies at New York University, this time focusing on my personal interest in electronic colour.

How long did it take to complete your PhD?

I took about six years to complete my PhD in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. I stayed in New York a lot longer, however. After my PhD, I worked for three years as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Film and Media at Hunter College. I then completed a Post-Doc in Aesthetics at Brown University.

I also published a book while I was in New York: Chromatic Algorithms: Synthetic Color, Computer Art, and Aesthetics After Code. The book actually won a distinction from the American Association of University Presses for its design, layout and typography, which was garnered by designer Mia Wright. I picked all 140 images within the book! The book was reviewed in a number of places including Theory, Culture & Society, and New Media & Society. I also did a number of radio interviews.

How neat! What is your book about?

Chromatic Algorithms looks at the role of electronic colour in computer art after the 1960’s. This was a time when artists, engineers, and computer scientists used post-war computer technology to produce and experiment with art. They experimented in the late 60’s and 70’s, and as a result, we had interesting and unique forms of computer art.

Was writing the book a lengthy process?

The book took about five to six years to write.

I don’t want you to give away too much, but what are some of the highlights readers can look forward to?

I think there are many highlights depending on where you are coming from. For example, Emilio Pucci designed a uniform for British Airways’ airplane crew, which used unique patterns and colours. Another example is how day-glo – a set of fluorescent colours that both generate and reflect light – was used in an underwear collection by Maiden Form in 1968. We know that some of the brightest colours of the 20th century are also some of the darkest from an ecological point of view.

How does the study of colour relate to the field of communication – for example marketing, advertising, public relations, or design?

I think people can really benefit from paying attention to colour. Most of the time, we are unaware of the subtle differences of colour nuances and their contexts. Having an awareness and understanding of colour – principles, history and theory – can increase our appreciation of visual phenomena.

If you had one (colourful!) takeaway for communication professionals, what would it be?

Money is colour. Actually…I think it should be colour is money!


  1. iPhone, Android or Windows?


  1. Facebook or Twitter?


  1. Starbucks or Tim Hortons?

Neither – I used to buy coffee from a place called Porto Rico, in New York, and I’m struggling to find something similar here.

  1. New York or Toronto?

I’d have to say no comment…