The Value of Storytelling
Over the course of two semesters, fourth-year Ryerson University Professional Communication students design and carry out major research projects. The projects build on previous course work in terms of theoretical perspectives and identification of issues related to the field of professional communication. The program concludes with students presenting the results of their research to the School of Professional Communication and to industry partners at a showcase event called Signify.
In the last week of August of both 2018 and 2019, a small group of Ryerson students who had previously participated in Thriving in Action, a resilience and study skills program, embarked on a four-night guided canoe trip (Portage) in Algonquin Provincial Park. Most of the participants had little or no camping or portaging experience, and many did not know each other prior to their trips. During these trips, intense bonds formed between the paddlers as they challenged themselves mentally and physically, worked together to manage camp, and slept in intimate proximity to one another. Following Portage, the paddlers participated in a group storytelling exercise facilitated by Student Affairs staff. This research explored the processes and effects of storytelling following those shared experiences.
I conducted an arts-based phenomenological study of four subjects who had both participated in the 2018 and 2019 Portage excursions and completed a storytelling project. Having paddled in 2018, I was effectively a fifth subject. As it was to the original Portage storytelling process, creating an artifact was important to my research. In a series of qualitative interviews we created a mobile, a communal artifact, while we discussed the subjects' original storytelling projects and experience.
Social Media for Social Good
I presented this poster at the 2019 Ryerson Learning and Teaching Conference, an annual conference to share practices, experiences, and insights about learning and teaching. The 2019 conference was themed around connections between technology and communication. Typically only open to Ryerson faculty, staff, and graduate students, I was invited to present in my third year of undergrad.
The shift from Web 1.0 to today's social media landscape has arguably brought more harm to society than the promised good. In addition to increasing political polarization linked to filter bubbles and the spread of misinformation, research also shows a correlation between the passive use of social media and depression. This poster reviews early 1990s notions of the "Internet Utopia", in which internet communication is emancipatory and freed people from isolation by allowing them to form strong tertiary relations with strangers online, in order to argue that social media platforms can be co-opted in pursuit of that early ideal. The social media are typically portrayed in a technologically deterministic fashion, as autonomous forces that humans are powerless to control. They are, however, completely reliant on humans to produce their content. Drawing on the work of scholars such as danah boyd and Henry Jenkins, as well as my own social media experiments building @RUMoodRoutes and @friendsofcedarvale, I propose that if there is a will, the tools of social media and participatory culture can, in fact, be used to repair community both on and offline.