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

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Toward a Copernican Revolution: Flanerie, Critique and Capitalist Modernity in Walter Benjamin

Date created: 
2014-04-15
Abstract: 

Walter Benjamin refers to the commodified dream world of nineteenth century Paris as a ‘little universe’, in which the Parisian Arcades first form a modern cosmos of intoxicating ‘phantasmagoria’ that blunts the human capacity to perceive things as they ‘truly are’. Benjamin’s proposed methodology for the ‘dialectical image’ describes a potentially explosive force that would serve to disrupt the centrifugal balance of the historicism of this phantasmagoric universe. Benjamin hoped that his Passagen-Werk would spark a ‘Copernican turn of remembrance’ to generate a revolutionary awakening in his own time. Key to these ambitions is the figure of the flaneur who first found his entrepreneurial niche strolling the glass and iron corridors of the Parisian Arcades, and who became progressively alienated from both the city as well as his social class in the years that followed 1848. This thesis demonstrates how the intersection of the flaneur with Walter Benjamin’s work enriches our understanding of both in turn. By engaging with the notion of the flaneur/flanerie as it specifically applies to Benjamin’s work, as well as with how Benjamin’s work is enriched through a broader, deeper historical understanding of the flaneur, I argue that the flaneur becomes a multifaceted and in-depth means of theorizing capitalist/urban experience. The redeeming potential that can be found in the expressions of those who have been most marginalized in society exists as an important theme to Benjamin’s concept of historical awakening and the dialectical image, particularly as it pertains to the work of Charles Baudelaire. From this context, I explore the relationship of Benjamin’s work on the flaneur to his own vantage point at the dawn of the Second World War. The tragic fate of the flaneur foreshadows the political nihilism and, ultimately, self-destructive impulses of inter-war Europe. Yet the redeeming hope and value that Benjamin finds in fragments of poetry and prose left behind by Baudelaire’s alienated flaneur lies in its revolutionary potential as a source of dialectical images.

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

Strengthening university and community capacities: models for engagement and education

Author: 
Date created: 
2014-01-17
Abstract: 

This thesis examines ways in which low literacy and essential skill levels, and access to education, have profound implications for community health and are inextricably linked to other social determinants of health. It explores possibilities for forging new and innovative ways for excluded individuals and communities to participate meaningfully in university-based education, specifically with respect to Simon Fraser University and Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. The thesis examines a number of theoretical and methodological approaches from various disciplines, including public health, public policy, adult education, critical and indigenous pedagogies, and communication for social change; gives an overview of relevant examples of university-community engagement activities; extracts key lessons learned from a case study of community engaged programming that occurred at Simon Fraser University in 2011/2012; and concludes by making recommendations for strengthened efforts on the part of the university to sustain collaboratively developed community-engaged programming.

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

New Media and the Turn to Experience in Environmental Communication

Author: 
Date created: 
2013-10-04
Abstract: 

This dissertation explores the design of new media technologies for engaging the public on the political aspects of urban sustainability. Focusing on new media’s “responsive aesthetics”, it asks, how are interactive experiences designed to mediate the underlying political culture of sustainability? In order to provide initial answers to this question, this dissertation draws on phenomenological approaches to the philosophy of technology, critical theory and contemporary work in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), to develop a framework for considering the politicizing aspects of interactive experiences. At its centre is a conception of interactivity as a form of world disclosure that mediates being, perception, action and meaning. The validity and utility of the conceptual framework is demonstrated with a variety of case studies that include Mash Notes, a public interactive installation; MetroQuest, a sustainability decision support tool; public engagement processes facilitated by UBC’s Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning (CALP); and several “serious” games. The design of interactive experiences is discussed on the background of what is identified here as an incipient turn to experience in environmental communication. Perceived as a response to the decline of the dominant science communication paradigm, known as the information deficit model, the turn to experience is explained as an appeal to resonant, felt, meaningful aspects of the public’s perception of, and engagement with, environmental issues. It is illustrated by two communicative strategies: the first aims to evoke resonant experiences with politicizing effects, while the second aims to create consonance between the public’s everyday experiences and the issues underpinning political decision-making. The dissertation’s critical analysis of the relations between politics and design aims to provide environmental communicators with a better understanding of the potentials and limitations of designing interactive experiences to engage the public on sustainability, and provide technology designers with a more comprehensive and nuanced conception of the political significance of their creations.

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

Gender and the Games Industry: The Experiences of Female Game Workers

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013-02-08
Abstract: 

In the digital games industry women are statistical and cultural outliers. Using a cultural studies lens, this thesis examines the experiences of women game-makers in order to more deeply understand the attitudes of female game-workers, and to ascertain whether work in the male dominated gamed industry can be ‘good work’ for women. When compared to other cultural sectors, female game workers face unique barriers to sustaining careers in this high status industry. Gender stereotypes keep many women from fully participating in games industry culture which in turn discriminates against any worker who does not fit in to the ‘might is right’ mindset. Female game workers are getting mixed signals from an industry that appears to desire gender diversity in order to attract the growing ranks of female gamers, but is resistant to change sexist and discriminatory work practices that continue to alienate women.

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

An inquiry into animal rights vegan activists' perception and practice of persuasion

Date created: 
2012-06-28
Abstract: 

This thesis interrogates the persuasive practices of Animal Rights Vegan Activists (ARVAs) in order to determine why and how ARVAs fail to convince people to become and stay veg*n, and what they might do to succeed. While ARVAs and ARVAism are the focus of this inquiry, the approaches, concepts and theories used are broadly applicable and therefore this investigation is potentially useful for any activist or group of activists wishing to interrogate and improve their persuasive practices.

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

Listening to a Sense of Place: Acoustic Ethnography with Billy Proctor in the Broughton Archipelago, British Columbia

Author: 
Date created: 
2013-04-15
Abstract: 

The thesis explores soundwalking, memory and aural history through participatory exploration. My ethnographic work involves extensive documentation of a private museum in Echo Bay, a remote fishing and logging community in the Broughton Archipelago, BC. This museum houses artifacts, many of which have acoustic components. The proprietor and elder, Billy Proctor, has many stories to tell about his collection and how it reflects the history and ecology of the area. My work aims to show how approaching history and memory through listening and soundmaking constitutes a unique experiential methodology, different from visual methods of observation. This qualitative study explores the embodied, sensuous, performative, narrative and dialectic aspects of the documentation, recording, and listening process and practice. In addition, the technique of “memory soundwalks” is added to the lexicon of soundscape and memory studies. The utilization of such creative soundscape methodologies and epistemologies enables this ethnographic work to extend into the public sphere via multiple modes, media, and formats for the general public, for example, as an audio-tourism project for the Billy Proctor Museum, and as multi-media documentations and art presentations, such as the award-winning short film, “Listening to a Sense of Place” (2012) co-created with Greg Crompton.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
etd7795_JSchine_supp_001.mp4
Senior supervisor: 
Barry Truax
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Digital self-determination: Aboriginal peoples and the network society in Canada

Author: 
Date created: 
2013-05-31
Abstract: 

Digital self-determination elaborates the links between networked digital infrastructure development and the autonomy and agency of indigenous peoples. It foregrounds how indigenous peoples are involved in the diffusion, construction, governance, and use of networked digital infrastructures. Importantly, it considers how these infrastructures are not only tools of emancipation, but can increase the surveillance and control of indigenous peoples by state and corporate interests. They can also extend the historic and ongoing reality of the ‘offline’ economic, social, political, and cultural marginalization of indigenous peoples. However, to accept such negative effects at face value is to fall into the trap of the teleological fallacies of social and technical determinism. Instead, in this dissertation I argue that indigenous peoples can shape and use networked digital infrastructures to support their self-determination. These processes are often guided by a recognition of self-determination that is grounded in and emergent from diverse indigenous laws, customs, and institutions. This frames digital self-determination with reference to the long-term and ongoing work of indigenous peoples to shape their own community-based media organizations and endogenous development projects. My dissertation considers these issues as they articulate with several facets of digital self-determination. I ground my argument in empirical research on the Northern Indigenous Community Satellite Network (NICSN), a cooperative socio-technical network spanning the northern regions of three Canadian provinces: Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba. The NICSN partners collaborated to build and manage regional infrastructure in ways that reflect the needs of their constituent communities. Moving beyond considerations of access, I frame these infrastructures as socially shaped platforms of agency that are the result of dynamic negotiations and struggles between political actors seeking to advance normative agendas. These activities play out in the formation of frameworks of subsidies and regulatory conditions that reflect attempts to decolonize state-based policies and institutions. Finally, I end with a discussion of how indigenous peoples and governments are shaping online applications into spaces of convergence that reflect their goals of self-determination. Throughout this dissertation, I situate my observations in broader political, economic, and cultural contexts to elaborate both the promise and the challenge of digital self-determination.

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

Diasporic media in multicultural cities: a comparative study on Korean media in Vancouver and Los Angeles

Author: 
Date created: 
2012-04-18
Abstract: 

In multicultural cities, what are the opportunities and challenges for creating an interculturally inclusive media system, as a means of enhancing multicultural citizenship and cultural literacy among all members of society? This study explores the rapidly growing, yet understudied, Korean media sector in Vancouver and Los Angeles. The passage of Korea’s new election law in 2009, which extends voting rights to overseas Koreans, is likely to intensify the connection between the home country and one of the most monolingual and first-generation-dominant diaspora in Canada and the U.S. This dissertation advances the field of diasporic media by taking an interdisciplinary approach across the fields of multiculturalism and media. By synthesizing Will Kymlicka’s theory of multicultural citizenship and institutional integration for social inclusion, and Sandra Ball-Rokeach’s theory of urban communication infrastructure as a storytelling system, this study offers a critical analysis of multiculturalism as theory, policy, and practice, tracing its influence on diasporic communication infrastructure. Offering the largest media analysis yet assembled, this dissertation maps the social structure, media organizations, media content, and social interaction of diasporic Korean actors. By using Peter Dahlgren’s four-fold typology of the public sphere, structural and institutional conditions are identified as well as city-specific and ethnicity-specific factors in the production and distribution of diasporic media in general, and diasporic Korean storytelling in particular. Consistent with Kymlicka’s proposition that liberal multicultural citizenship must integrate diasporic identities in the public sphere, this study concludes that the Korean media in both cities contribute to creating a vital local public sphere. Nevertheless, regardless of the different official status of multiculturalism and regulatory contexts, Korean media have been constructed largely in the commercial sector, in which prevalent in-language marketing combined with the lack of policy supports results in the underutilization of Korean media as a means of enhancing cultural literacy for all members of society. Such a shortcoming requires more critical multiculturalism and communication theories and policies, in order to re-examine the existing conception of diasporic inclusion in mainstream institutions, to extend the benefits of diasporic media beyond diasporic communities, and establish an interculturally inclusive media system.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Catherine Murray
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis/Dissertation) Ph.D.

Re-collections: auratic encounters with database and archival artworks

Date created: 
2013-04-05
Abstract: 

This study considers Walter Benjamin’s concept of aura in the context of new media. Drawing from Benjamin’s writings as well as scholarly interpretations of his work, I argue that aura has not been eradicated despite technological advancements that have vastly increased the accessibility and mobility of images and image making. Following from interpretations of Benjamin that link the phenomenon of aura to an intrinsic human longing for transcendent fullness of (auratic) presence that can never be realized but persists in a partial state, I develop a general aesthetics of aura that centres on manifestations and representations of trace. I then modify my aesthetics of aura to account for dematerialization and other challenges of new media. My research methodology is phenomenological: I utilize autophenomenographic methods, iteratively documenting and reflecting upon my own embodied perceptions of auratic encounters with new media art. I compare my various observations in the context of the aesthetic criteria of aura previously identified, re-evaluating my original theoretical positions. I eventually confront the issue of aura’s potential instrumentalization, concluding that my accidental and chance encounters with aura, often the result of a design or programming oversight, ultimately cannot be reproduced and instrumentalized at will. I determine that in new media artworks, aura fundamentally lingers within these accidental ruptures that prevent immersive experience.

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

Resisting Hollywood? A comparative study of British colonial screen policies in the interwar Pacific: Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand.

Date created: 
2013-04-10
Abstract: 

Set against a background of imperialism, this study uses a comparative approach to investigate government policies toward, and interventions in, the motion picture industry prior to 1942 in three former British territories — Hong Kong, Singapore (Straits Settlements) and New Zealand. This study is broadly situated within new cinema history and is based on government and industry documents preserved in archives spanning several countries. Drawing upon political economy and media policy to inform the underlying narrative and analysis, the focus is explicitly on the development of the political and regulatory system governing the motion picture history in each polity. These developments defined the operational context and boundaries of the motion picture industry as a commercial and cultural institution, ultimately shaping the audience experience in each locality. The underlying political narrative in each locality is different. In Hong Kong, there was the lost opportunity of utilising local-language production to meet Imperial quota goals. Singapore presents the story of censorship and early attempts at multi-culturalism through social control. New Zealand events reveal a government attempting to use the motion picture industry for social control and to maintain a thoroughly British identity. What links the three cases together is the local governments’ struggle to balance satisfying the requirements of the Imperial government in London, and meeting the demands of both local audiences and of theatre owners dependent on Hollywood product. Each of these cases show the role which governments played in shaping the viewing experience for audiences, through explicit regulation such as censorship and cinema operating hours, and more hidden areas such as fire regulations, as well as the production and distribution of certain forms of motion picture. The study concludes that three broad policy imperatives explain the actions of governments in the motion picture industry: safety, both moral and physical; social control and development; and economic factors. The focus on the social-cultural context of the audience experience of cinema inherent in new cinema history is seen to provide an important dimension missing from political economy and its focus on structure and agency.

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