Communication - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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Chinese art worlds in China and abroad: Art Collectors, institutions and cultural identity

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-01-07
Abstract: 

Over the past decades, Chinese art collectors have drawn worldwide attention to their active acquisitions of artworks in both domestic and international art markets. On the one hand, the development of Chinese modern art and contemporary art has been accompanied by anxiety and uncertainty since the beginning of China’s search for modernity. On the other hand, with China’s reopening to the outside world, particularly concerning its economy, the rapid development of China’s art market and involvement in the international art market have brought China to the spotlight of the international art world. Hence, the impacts of the dynamic art market driven by Chinese art collectors in China on shaping the development of contemporary Chinese art and the perceptions of contemporary Chinese art domestically and internationally is worth exploring.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Jan Marontate
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

The Medicine Wheel and the transference of Indigenous knowledge from grandmother to granddaughter - AND - The power of words and Medicine Wheel teachings as a tool for decolonization

Date created: 
2018-11-28
Abstract: 

Essay 1: For four decades, Marjorie Mackie facilitated a Medicine Wheel workshop that she, herself developed for therapeutic purposes in the treatment of alcohol and drug addiction amongst Indigenous peoples. The research for this paper was done in an interview format between Marjorie, my grandmother, and I. This paper reflects a co-creation process resulting in my grandmother passing her knowledge of the Medicine Wheel on to me. This paper demonstrates several things: 1. The relationship between my grandmother and I; 2. The responsibility I have shown as the researcher to honour my grandmother and her teachings; 3. The passing of knowledge from an elder to the next generation; 4. The Medicine Wheel teachings themselves, which serve as a moral guide to a well-lived life; and 5. My grandmother’s work with the Medicine Wheel as intellectual labour. Essay 2: It is vital to explore not only the history of words and their effects, but to also explore how an understanding of words can be used to decolonize language. This paper examines some of the ideas found within the Medicine Wheel. These ideas are not meant to be kept in the abstract, but to be applied to one’s own life in order to achieve wholeness and peace of mind, body and spirit. As an Indigenous woman working with her Grandmother in order to learn and to explore Medicine Wheel teachings, understanding the power of words and their impacts is essential because it prevents the projection of false beliefs and myths onto the teachings. My exploration of language and the Medicine Wheel is accomplished through both a westernized lens and through an Indigenous lens. I consider and use western academic discussions of discourse, structuralism and myth in combination with affirming the historical trauma associated with being Indigenous, as well as Indigenous storytelling, spirituality and community. The process of deconstructing language and myth in my own life is a journey of both frustration and healing. The discovery of the ways in which false belief systems have impacted my life and my understanding of the Medicine Wheel has left me with an acceptance of personal responsibility in knowing that I alone, choose what to allow into my consciousness and that which I choose to release. This Essay is a journey of healing and of understanding. It is a journey of self-acceptance and personal responsibility. To decolonize language is to decolonize one’s own heart and in doing so the journey continues.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Alison Beale
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Extended Essays) M.A.

Utopian visions of small city transformation: The challenge and potential of enacting small city cultural sustainability agendas in an age of globalization, and against the backdrop of the creative cities phenomenon.

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-12-12
Abstract: 

Amidst a rising tide of awareness surrounding the unsustainable futures facing cities large and small, theorists and practitioners alike are turning to culture as a way to understand and foster new possibilities surrounding sustainable development. Small cities are seen by some to cultivate, by nature of their size and the kinds of connectivity they engender, unique understandings of the value of culture. While not all small cities offer progressive understandings of cultural sustainability, many are working with these concepts in progressive and innovative ways. This dissertation seeks to unpack the phenomenon of cultural sustainability – examining its relationship with the creative cities phenomenon of the 1990’s/2000’s, and with the over-arching logics posed by the larger forces of neoliberal globalization. It looks at the ways in which cultural sustainability agendas are being implemented by governments within municipal small city contexts – the empirical portion of this study conducting case studies analysis, including documentary research, interviews and critical analysis, of the British Columbian (Canadian) small cities of Prince George, Kelowna and Kamloops. Through this research I explore a potential paradigmatic shift – from Creative Cities to Sustainable Creative Cities. I probe at the differences between these two world-views, and ask how leaders intent on activating new holistic and future-conscious forms of development might conceptualize culture’s sustainable development role. Within this journey, I recognize a unique potential within small cities, in particular, for the formation of new approaches to sustainable cultural development – acknowledging their place on the margins of dominant municipal leadership practice and their subsequent potential capacity for innovation and change. Here I uncover significant challenges, as well as ‘glimmers of hope’, as these cities struggle to actualize culture’s sustainable development potential.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Stuart Poyntz
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Empire and dispossession: Coal, communication, and the labour process at the origins of capitalism in British Columbia, 1849 – 1903

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-12-10
Abstract: 

Coal mining on Vancouver Island was a conjunctural point for two complementary systems of dispossession: capitalism and colonialism. Soon after London granted the island and its minerals to the Hudson’s Bay Company in January 1849, industrial mining began to replace the previously non-capitalist organization of the coalfield. The island shifted into industrialization in part through its entanglement in Pacific markets hungry for coal. The tools and capital that returned on homeward voyages hastened mining’s development, while transoceanic maritime networks provided inflows of labour power. As energy capital developed internally, strategies to displace Indigenous organization of the land were matched by efforts to alienate miners from acting as a class in their own interests. Through analysis of archival evidence, this project demonstrates that Vancouver Island mining before 1903 proceeded through a series of compounding deprivations, generally beneficial to islanders occupying dominant economic positions. Toward unpacking this history, “Empire and Dispossession” asks three questions: how did the coal industry support the development of capitalist social relations in the Pacific, north of parallel forty-nine; how did transportation systems sustain the expansion of empires operating on the island; and what social, political, and economic relationships conditioned technical change in the mines? Taken together, the answers to these questions root the development of capitalism in active power relationships of class and race. This project’s original contributions to communication studies include a historical narrative of Western Canadian capitalism, otherwise absent in the field; the development of a transportation-focused approach to communication, rooted in the work of Karl Marx; a history of Indigenous transportation and communication labour at the origins of capitalism on Vancouver Island; and a reinterpretation and application of labour-process theory to the mutually constitutive development of coal-mining machinery, social class, and race in the island’s mines.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Andrew Feenberg
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Does social media make our understanding of community more individualistic?

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-12-06
Abstract: 

Given the ubiquity of social media today, it is important to consider how their use might affect our communication and relationships. This study explores the question of whether social media, given their self-focus, lead us to define community in more individualistic terms. A literature review provides a starting point for addressing this question, touching on themes such as the ubiquity of individuation within modernity, traditional and modern communities, changes in North American communities over the last several decades, characteristics of social media, and cases for and against technological determinism. Building on this review, interviews with 10 subjects help explore the question in a more focused way. Findings suggest a positive correlation between substantial social media use and a largely individualistic understanding of community. I then discuss the implications of this relationship, as well as the roles of education and public policy in facilitating understanding of the potential of social media.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Alison Beale
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Databases of dignity: the politics of open data in post revolutionary Ukraine

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-09-21
Abstract: 

In 2014, Ukraine experienced its most violent and dramatic event since the 1991 independence. The Revolution of Dignity resulted in the removal of a pro-Russian president from power and marked the country’s geopolitical shift towards a closer association with the West. Among reforms introduced was the Open Data Law, which requires all government entities to publish public information in an open data format. The law led to the formation of innovative collaborations based on the development of open data tools and services. The goal was to address corruption, increase citizens’ participation in political processes, and enhance electronic public services. Since the open data movement is still nascent, there is almost no academic literature examining its impact. At the same time, dominant discourses present open data either as a neutral and universally applicable tool or inherently ‘good’ technology in and of itself. These discourses neglect the embeddedness of open data in the broader socio-political structures and the role of individual actors in shaping its potentialities and limitations. I refer to critical scholarship in communication and technology and the field of STS to offer a more nuanced framework for examining the movement. I conceptualize open data as a space of convergence between social and technical domains. This space mediates the existing (geo)political tensions and, simultaneously, offers new forms of political agency characterized by democratic interventions into processes of the technological design. To examine these aspects, I conducted semi-structured interviews with members of the Ukrainian open data community, including representatives from government, civil society, and the startup community. The results demonstrated the presence of impactful civil-led initiatives, while also highlighting their complex interactions with post-Soviet institutional arrangements and Ukraine’s geopolitical realities.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Peter Chow-White
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Evolved human cognition as risk mitigation: Toward a theoretical innovation in risk communication; Lessons for risk communication learned through the Kahneman-Gigerenzer debate

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-09-25
Abstract: 

Essay 1: The foundational premise of this paper is that influencing an organism’s action depends upon intervention into its psychological processes. Risk communication is not merely about the transfer of information regarding the risk. While information transfer is valuable, if that information fails to avert or at least minimize deleterious outcomes from the threat, this is a sterile exercise. Risk communication is designed not only to inform, but also to motivate relevant individuals to take the appropriate actions to avoid or overcome the greatest risks posed by a circumstance. Achieving such risk reduction outcomes requires not only effective communication technique, but an understanding of evolved human cognition. The paper examines three cases of human evolved adaptations with an eye to how evolution has structured risk mitigation into the evolved cognitive apparatus. These are 1) the unique human version of predator detection mechanisms; 2) the evolution of language; and 3) the role of health symptoms as alarm warnings. In all three of these cases, risk mitigation turns out to be a central feature of natural selection. If risk communication practitioners do indeed need to leverage human psychology for effective interventions that reduce risky behaviour, learning more about evolved human psychology and cognition would seem to provide valuable means for accomplishing those ends. In the end, the paper acknowledges, that while natural selection tends toward risk mitigation, sexual selection can move in the opposite direction, actually increasing the likelihood of risk seeking. For an effective psychology of risk communication, much benefit comes from a deep understanding of what these schools of evolutionary scholarship offer. Essay 2: This paper looks more deeply at the role of both mismatch and sexual selection, in the process of exploring one of the most famous debates in psychology, between Daniel Kahneman’s heuristics and biases school and Gerd Gigerenzer’s fast and frugal school. Kahneman’s school emphasizes the heuristic and bias characteristics of those mental modules illustrated by the study of evolutionary psychology and evolved human cognition, while the Gigerenzer school emphasizes the fast and frugal economy of problem solving made possible by those modules, which if anything can be hindered by increased awareness or information. Kahneman characterizes the dynamics to which he points as irrational, while Gigerenzer insists upon a deeper rationality – an ecological rationality. This is a rationality molded by evolutionary pressures. The lesson for a risk communications practice that wanted to learn from the Kahneman-Gigerenzer debate is not to parse out who is right and who is wrong, but rather to recognize the lesson that comes from seeing how little they actually disagree. A risk communication practice that assumed Kahneman’s scepticism was the expected norm would be incapable of taking advantage of all those situations in which natural selection has properly primed humans for effective risk mitigation behaviour and the specific kinds of risk tolerance generated by sexual selection. On the other hand, a risk communication practice that assumed Gigerenzer’s optimism was the expected norm would not be well prepared to recognize and respond to those situations in which mismatch generated abnormal outcomes from otherwise perfectly sensibly, evolutionarily generated, risk responses. There are several ways in which evolved psychology can play into risk related behaviours in the modern world. In some cases, risk communication practice has to get out of the way; in some cases, that practice needs to know how to leverage those evolved dispositions; and, in some cases, it requires a sophisticated understanding of how and why such evolved risk mitigation dispositions may misfire and go astray.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Shane Gunster
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Extended Essays) M.A.

共同生活 (kyōdōseikatsu): In the shadows of witnessing

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-08-28
Abstract: 

Following up on the thousands of pages collected from testimonies by residential school survivors and former employees between 2010 and 2015, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRCC) presented 94 recommendations to Canadian society, effectively making a call for systemic changes across all forms of governance and organization. Their expressed concern was that Euro-colonial practices continued to systemically discriminate against and cause grievous harm to Indigenous people within the Canadian nation-state. The purpose of this thesis is to answer to their call, specifically, to examine both from within a post-secondary academic institution and beyond its epistemological parameters, how one might attempt to reshape one’s approaches to knowledge formation in trying to build more respectful relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Taking to heart Indigenous scholarship prioritizing relationships over object-centric pursuits of knowledge, the author draws upon her linguistic, cultural and political upbringing as a member of a Japanese and multi-Asian diasporic community to reach toward Indigenous artists, whose works compel their audiences to be widely socially inclusive, to remember Canada’s colonial past in addressing the colonial present, and to respect one’s elders and ancestors. Distinct relationships are established between the author and Cree multi-media artist, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Siksika interdisciplinary artist, Adrian Stimson, and Tahltan performance artist and object maker, Peter Morin. Rather than adhering to a pre-set methodology, a mentoring connection with L’Hirondelle, a role model relation with Stimson, and a best friendship with Morin guide the author’s processes of coming to know. Witnessing their practices, the author explores becoming sonorous, performative, and tactile shadows to L’Hirondelle, Stimson, and Morin, respectively. Consequently, the narrative and epistemic organization of the author’s personal experiences and institutionalized learning scatter and are drawn upon so far as they contribute to the relationship at hand. Throughout the dissertation, critical questions are raised and performatively considered to: challenge settler-Indigenous binaries of knowledge formation; investigate the limits of the known and knowable; and, include unexpected others. The dissertation concludes with the suggestion that reconciliation and witnessing are practice-based, and that collective responsibility is an intersubjective regard for that which has been experientially gathered along the way.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Zoë Druick
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Freelance journalists and interns: Responses to precarity and reconfigurations of the journalistic ethos

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-07-31
Abstract: 

This dissertation explores the connection between neoliberalism and journalism. It thus contributes to our understanding of ‘neoliberalized media regimes’, as recently examined by Sean Phelan, Nick Couldry and other critical scholars. More specifically, I use theories of neoliberalism to conceptualize how atypically employed journalists navigate a media landscape said to be ‘in crisis’. The subjective experiences of such journalists were explored in qualitative interviews conducted with 25 freelancers and interns in Canada and Germany. Their narrations of contingent journalistic labour capture the financial, ethical, and professional conundrums flowing from the global devaluation of news labour. I argue that these narratives of journalistic labour can be situated in a nexus of neoliberalism on three levels. The first level maps the role of journalists as workers in a neoliberal labour regime, which illuminates how notions of flexibility associated with freelancing resonate with neoliberal logics. The second level maps the role of journalists as citizens, with neoliberalism as a version of government policy-making shaping journalistic labour, that is uneven and nationally specific. The third level maps governmentality in the narratives of freelance and intern labour, understood as subject-constitution and self-governance in neoliberalism. It maps journalists’ professional subjectivity as it oscillates between an “entrepreneurial self” aligning with neoliberal logics and an “ethical self” resisting these. The dissertation illuminates the tenacity as well as the hybridization of journalistic professional identity in a changing labour market. Journalism today is often a part-time job that requires subsidizing work in public relations and similar domains. On the one hand, their journalistic ethos entices journalists to deflect neoliberal logics by upholding a public service dedication, even as it is privatized and corporatized. On the other hand, the journalistic ethos, based on individualized notions of autonomy and independence rather than structural support or cooperative modes of production, both mediates and entrenches working conditions in journalism. Thus, the dissertation complicates political economy accounts that see freelance journalists mostly as exploited workers and neoliberalism as continuing a project of class domination.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Robert Hackett
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Building birch bark canoes: oral histories, colonial archives, and stories of survivance

Date created: 
2018-07-13
Abstract: 

Colonial archival practices have promoted the absence of Indigenous knowledge as part of broader attempts at cultural assimilation and erasure. 20th century anthropology’s ‘salvage ethnographies’ reduced cultures to their material objects, largely muting the complex social and linguistic forms to which those objects belong. I examine one such object, the birch bark canoe, in two related archives: documentary films produced predominantly by the National Film Board of Canada between the 1920s and 70s; and the canoe researches of American artist, journalist and ethnographer E. Tappan Adney (1868-1950). Archival agendas and conventions give way to what Anishinaabe writer Gerald Vizenor has named practices of survivance, aesthetic expressions which challenge “isolated and stoical” portraits of Indigeneity. Canoe building, a practice that invariably belongs to scenes of everyday life – to people in particular places, and to local languages – enlivens each archives with “motion, presence, and survivance”, telling stories of cultural resilience and humanity.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Stuart Poyntz
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.