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

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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): 
Supervisor(s): 
Stuart Poyntz
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

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): 
Supervisor(s): 
Robert Hackett
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Tracing broadcast diversity and its manifestations in the CRTC’s Let’s Talk TV proceedings

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-06-05
Abstract: 

Nurturing diversity is a key objective in Canadian public policy; however, “diversity” is polysemous, contested, flexible, and usually defined in an institutional context. The challenge of defining and ordering diversity objectives is particularly pronounced in broadcasting, wherein the CRTC is tasked with organizing a multitude of economic and social objectives put forward by a broad range of stakeholders. This dissertation unpacks the complex and contested notion of diversity, with a focus on the CRTC’s largest and most topically broad broadcast policy review of the decade: the 2013-2016 Let’s Talk TV (LTTV) proceedings. Chapters 3 and 4 historically trace and connect the dots between the development of the diversity principle in international and national policy debates. They investigate how “diversity” is understood as a Western value, how it has been used and contested in international (particularly UNESCO) policy, and how Canada has understood and instrumentalized it in pursuit of specific political and economic objectives. Chapter 5 draws from these insights to offer a nine-part analytical model delineating the ways diversity has been understood as a broadcasting policy objective. Chapters 6-8 employ this analytical model to assess the role of diversity objectives in the CRTC’s LTTV proceedings, with a focus on the way the federal regulator operated under Stephen Harper’s Conservative political regime. This dissertation finds that the absorption of “diversity” into Canada’s capitalist and nation-building projects risks purging it of its radical-democratic critique, leading to a politics of recognition that does not necessarily encompass claims for redistribution and hence provides limited latitude for promoting real social change. In broadcasting specifically, it demonstrates the politicized nature of the LTTV proceedings and the extent to which the CRTC under the Harper regime framed “diversity” objectives through the lens of consumer choice, often at the expense of social justice-oriented policy objectives. It concludes with a call for policymakers to realign Canadian broadcasting policy objectives to foreground the social good, and offers suggestions for future research providing practical ways to modify existing policy processes and deeply embedded values anchored in “consumerist” or “free-market” ideologies.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Alison Beale
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Cold War Legacies in Contemporary Institutionalized Thinking on Development Communication: A Case Study of Two UNDP and EP ICT4D Reports

Author: 
Date created: 
2017-08-31
Abstract: 

Although information and communications technologies for development (ICT4D) is situated in a globalized Information Age nominally marked by a shift away from the dominant paradigm of development, Cold War-era ideological fallout continue to linger in development communication literature describing ICT4D. A critical hermeneutic analysis of two ICT4D reports, one commissioned by the European Parliament (EP) and one by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), delineates the Cold War legacies in contemporary supranational organizations’ institutionalized thinking on development communication.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Yuezhi Zhao
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Extended Essay) M.A.

Challenging knowledge divides: Communicating and co-creating expertise in integrated knowledge translation

Date created: 
2017-07-19
Abstract: 

To solve complex problems, it makes sense to seek diverse perspectives to develop research-based solutions. In the Canadian health sector, this collaborative approach to research is often called integrated knowledge translation (IKT). This thesis is concerned with how boundaries are both essential and obstructive in IKT. While the goal of partnering is to leverage different expertise, diversity also presents some of the most significant challenges to success, creating barriers that block communication and constrain knowledge sharing. Using situational analysis to explore interview and case study data, I explore how knowledge boundaries are experienced within IKT projects. I outline four discursive positions that emerge, and argue that recognizing their distinct characteristics is important for progress in IKT. I also compare and contrast concepts of boundary work and boundary objects as theoretical lenses for IKT analyses, and argue that broadening our conceptual toolbox is beneficial for the study and practice of IKT.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Ellen Balka
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Virtual friction: Networking sexuality and HIV prevention in the digital age

Author: 
Date created: 
2017-12-06
Abstract: 

From advances in HIV prevention science bringing us pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to the proliferation of hook-up apps like Grindr, the late 20th/early 21st centuries have introduced intense socio-technical transformations in gay men’s intimate lives. In particular, the networked decentralization and privatization of sexuality has generated a corresponding set of discourses within gay men’s communities and in the social world of HIV prevention. Community narratives either construct the Internet as a virtual community where acceptance, solidarity, friendship, romance, and sex become easily accessible in a largely hetero-normative world, or a virtual bathhouse accelerating the depoliticization and commodification of gay life (Kapp, 2011; Ward & Arsenault, 2012). In public health, accounts oscillate between exploring the Internet’s potential to revitalize HIV prevention efforts (Chiasson et al., 2009; Rhodes et al., 2011; Rosser et al., 2010), and debating its possible role in facilitating HIV risk and transmission (Berry et al., 2008; Bull & McFarlane, 2000; Wohlfeiler & Potterat, 2005). Intersecting perspectives from communication, Internet studies, and public health, this dissertation traces the erotic and epidemiological contours of a “network society” (Castells, 1996) where the Internet plays an ambivalent role in social life. Based on archival research, personal experience, and 31 interviews with gay men, public health actors, and Internet entrepreneurs in San Francisco and Vancouver, this project uses the concept of virtual friction to think through the tensions, contradictions, and paradoxes that characterize the networking of sexuality and HIV prevention in the digital age. Broadly speaking, I ask whether and how the Internet has transformed sexuality and HIV prevention by examining the discourses, subjectivities, and practices that have emerged, as well as the subsequent set of opportunities and challenges they generate for the various social worlds involved (Strauss, 1978). I argue that virtual friction is not only an inevitable but necessary part of the process because it renders visible the limits of imagining social problems and solutions in purely technological terms. Friction challenges us to acknowledge the competing epistemologies, interests, and perspectives that underpin life in the digital age, taking us out of our comfort zones by asking how we know and believe what we do about science, technology and society.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Peter Chow-White
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

The pink tide: A survey of research on the rise of the left in Latin America

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-05-25
Abstract: 

The reframing of international relations over the past three decades, from the nation-state to regional blocs, such as NAFTA or the European Union, was an attempt by analysts to better understand the interconnected globalized world. However, more recently, there has been a notable upsurge in nativist feeling in many parts of the world, accompanied by a renewed sense of nationalism in many nation-states. Still, regional blocs continue to be important players on the world stage in respect to trade, defence alliances, and patterns of international investment. In this regard, the importance of the supranational region is far from eclipsed and becomes an ever more present feature in international configurations. The rise of Leftist governments in Latin America over the past 19 years has led to a wave of research, not only into the reasons why so many leftist parties have been successful in the region, but also how much such successes at the state level have translated into a relatively coherent bloc of leftist policies. Some have argued that a greater cohesiveness within Latin America has resulted in a comparatively new spatial layer where the whole is more significant than the sum of its parts. Notably, a leftist turn across much of Latin America since the late 1990s has been interpreted as the attempt to deviate from (neo)liberal tendencies of the late 20th century ‘Washington Consensus’ toward more socialist policies. This thesis examines 20 of the key studies on the rise of the Left in Latin America since 1998 and analyzes the reasons they posit as being the key causes of the shift to the Left across the region. This analytical breakdown then allows for an overview of the factors that social scientists have used to examine regional political shifts, and highlights what is missing.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Rick Gruneau
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

The critical construction of geolocational life

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-04-24
Abstract: 

This dissertation is an analysis of the widespread adoption of locative digital media in urban space. Building upon prior phenomenological theories of mobile interfaces and critical theories of technology, I provide an account of the micropolitics of locative media, using locational literacy as a key concept for articulating a renewed, and politically and ethically empowered understanding of how locative media play important roles in modern urban experiences. The thesis proceeds by first contextualizing the idea of locational literacy within locative media studies and mobilities research. I then elaborate the idea of locational literacy by synthesizing phenomenological and critical theories of technology, including Andrew Feenberg's critical constructivist approach (2002) in order to problematize geolocational media as a site of micropolitical struggle. Then I provide an account and analysis of field data collected through my ethnographic research. Here, I show how geolocational media users come to terms with and organize their values, attitudes, and identities through media technologies, and how both individual technical knowledge and institutional constraints influence their relative access to and effective use of geolocational media. Further on, I describe a user experience study involving mobile phone users, who were surveyed (a) before and (b) after using a geolocation tracking app for a two week period. In this discussion, I show how geolocational awareness is associated with attitudes, values, and opinions about urban life, sustainability and mobile locative devices. I conclude the dissertation with the claim that the potential for perceptual shifting enabled by geolocational media empowers individuals – albeit somewhat unevenly – in very particular ways. This perceptual shift and sense of empowerment, I argue, can lead to improved forms of community interaction and deliberation, which hinges on an express articulation and acknowledgement of locational media literacy in everyday experience. I also examine how the micropolitical struggles of users with geolocational media signify the potential for broader political change as these technologies become progressively more accurate and granular, and more surveillant and invasive.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Richard Smith
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

#Unions: Canadian unions and social media

Date created: 
2018-04-19
Abstract: 

By changing the connectivity between people across the globe, the rise of social media has shifted the resources and capacities of political activists, opening up new horizons for social movements. Many of the labour movement’s renewal goals—such as improving equity within unions, adopting more inclusive grassroots organizing, and reaching out to a precarious, fragmented workforce—seem to line up with this open potential of social media. However, existing research on unions’ use of social media suggests the goals and practice don’t align, arguing that unions tend to use social media in a unidirectional, centralized way. To explore this discord, this study investigates the use of social media by four of Canada’s largest labour organizations—the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW), Unifor Canada, and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). In comparing the strategies expressed in interviews with key communications staff and the practices evident in the unions’ social media output with the stated principles and goals of the organizations as a whole, a number of tensions between labour communications and social media platforms become evident. On the one hand, unions struggle in maintaining centrally controlled messaging in a context that favours open, pluralistic communications. On the other hand, while social media has become an essential arena for public discourse, it’s one where the connectivity it offers is manipulated by algorithms created in the interest of private profit. There is a clear and compelling need to strengthen Canadian unions in order to address growing economic inequality, and by filling gaps in the research of unions’ current communication strategies, this study can contribute to efforts to formulate some best practices for using social media as a democratic tool in the Canadian labour movement.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Enda Brophy
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Practicing precarity: The contested politics of work experience in cultural industries

Date created: 
2018-02-23
Abstract: 

Over the past decade in Canada, student work has become a topic of public criticism, legal action, academic research, and labour activism. Cultural industry employers’ use of unpaid, low-paid, and flexibilized labour in the form of internships and other kinds of ‘work experience’ raises questions about the future of work in already precarious fields such as news production, advertising, television, and film. Against the backdrop of neoliberal processes still shaping universities and labour markets, the student worker emerges as a strategic figure in the contested politics of cultural work. This thesis offers a theoretical and empirical investigation of the dominant discourse and counter-discourse through which work experience is constructed, legitimized, critiqued, and re-visioned. Drawing on autonomist Marxist theory, critical philosophies of education, and feminist political economy, I situate cultural work experience as a discursive site where struggles over knowledge production and labour rights become visible and urgent.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Enda Brophy
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.