Monday, 11 April 2016

Module 11: Endings

One thing I think has changed or expanded for me since taking this course is the telling of fictional stories. I think I see more stories now or look for more stories. When looking for a story before, I'd crack open a book or select a story on my e-reader. Then, of course, there was video games, television, and movies. The two things that really stick out in my mind is Twitter Fiction, and the Inanimate Alice project.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Module 11: Some takeaways, suggestions and Jack Kerouac

The presence, production and power of “narratives” as the main discursive mode used online has been explored in different modules of our seminar. We covered topics such as who controls and develops these narratives and how their impact on individuals and society as a whole is measured. The short answer to the question of who is in control is “everyone”. The selfie assignment, in my opinion, was the best example of that.

Peter Morin’s open letter on the use of the word “curator” hit close to home, since I was already aware of the issue professionally and the underlying frustration he was raising, but I had never come across anyone who attempted to openly describe it in words online.

An anecdote: I borrowed Sven Birkerts’ The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age at the library to avoid photocopying the assigned chapters, and ended up almost finishing it in one sitting! I enjoyed the unpretentious way in which Birkerts described how books shape our lives in the most intimate way and how the first encounters with certain authors and their ideas have the potential not only to radically shift our outlook on the world and on our relationships but significantly influence our trajectories. I particularly enjoyed the Chapter where he describes his discovery of Jack Kerouac. I tweeted a quote: @JessL #NMN #kerouac #books “My contact with On the Road shook me awake. The title alone got me excited.” – S. Birkerts

I think that this seminar would benefit from addressing a number of questions related to online access and the larger issues linked to the concept of the Digital Divide. If everyone is expected to engage critically with the various narratives online that define who we are as individuals and communities, which ultimately have real world impact; i.e., If they gunned me down, which pictures would they use? Then how does someone who does not have online access or lack computer literacy do this? Readings on topics related to access could be added to the current reading list, and some of the MACT faculty could provide guidance on topics such as online connectivity in Canada’s First Nation’s reserves (Dr. McMahon) or IT stewardship programs in the Third World (Dr. Gow).

This being said Kerouac once said “Don't use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.” I think the same goes for the Internet.

Final Reflection, or, Musings on Sensemaking and the New Media

As I look back over the scope of the course, I recall beginning the process feeling that we would cover an enormous amount of territory -- and we did!

Friday, 8 April 2016

The End

image by Speg of the Pigs, used under Creative Commons license

The assignments are in, the modules complete, and (par for the course) I’m rushing towards deadline; the final deadline in which I pause and reflect about my COMM 555 experience.

So what did I learn?

Reflecting on NMN: Module 11

While I try to be introspective, reflecting on this class is difficult: it all happened so quickly!

Due to our projects on the topic, I have a larger appreciation of the selfie and its importance in identity formation. Instead of instantly decrying selfies as narcissism, I can now appreciate them as passing representations of selfhood. While I don't totally agree, I do see merit in Brian Droitcour's argument: "the real narcissists are the ones who never take selfies. They imagine their self as autonomous, hermetic—too precious to be shared" (2013).

I'm reassured that communication on micro-blogs can hold intrinsic social value. As people become increasing separated by technology, geography etc. some parts of our lizard brain still crave human connection. In the study Major Memory for Microblogs, the researchers found that "Facebook posts naturally producing deep social encoding" (Mickes, L. et al, 2013, p. 488). While Facebook and its competitors can't replace in-person social interaction, social media sites can be an adequate --albeit awkward-- substitute.

Also, from this study, it was gleaned that Facebook users were more likely to retain information that was "written casually by lay people, without professional [sic], or perhaps any, editing" (Mickes, L. et al, 2013, p. 488). Going forward, I think I can employ this knowledge in my journalism practice.

On a personal note, this Twitter conversation with Dr. Laccetti was significant for me. As it relates to our reading from Nathan Jurgenson (2012), I have reconciled myself with the idea of an "authentic" online persona, that rejects "the cultural norm that expects perfection, normalization, and unchanging behavior".

I'm still staunch in my dislike for online petitions. However, it's indisputable that online activism can create some positive outcomes. Many of our NMN readings support this assertion, but Henrik Serup Christensen perhaps puts it most concisely: "the Internet has a positive impact on off-line mobilization... it is a worst harmless fun and can at best help invigorate citizens" (2011).

I have immensely enjoyed the creative nature of this course. Making podcasts, videos and multi-modal blogs have been such a treat. As an open studies student there was a learning curve. Thanks for your patience, fellow students and Dr. Laccetti.

A photo posted by Gwyneth Dunsford (@gwynduns) on


Christensen, H.S. (2011). Political Activities on the Internet: Slacktivism or Political Participation by Other Means?. First Monday,, doi:10.5210/fm.v16i2.3336.

Droitcour, B. (26 April, 2013). Selfies and Selfiehood [blog]. Retrieved February 24, 2016, from

Jurgenson, N. (26 November, 2012). “Glad I Didn’t Have Facebook in Highschool,” Cyborgology,

Mickes, L., Darby, R., Hwe, V., Bajic, D., Warker, J., Harris, C., & Christenfeld, N. (2013). Major memory for microblogs. Memory & Cognition, 41(4), 481-489. doi:10.3758/s13421-012-0281-6.

Thomas, E. F., McGarty, C., Lala, G., Stuart, A., Hall, L. J., & Goddard, A. (2015). Whatever happened to Kony2012? Understanding a global Internet phenomenon as an emergent social identity. European Journal Of Social Psychology, 45(3), 356-367 12p. DOI:10.1002/ejsp.2094.

An initial taxonomy for my Kickstarter experience

I did some Kickstarter surfing, which I typically have not done even though I have supported several Kickstarters, Indiegogos, and Kiva campaigns before. But the concept of looking for projects to support or browse for interest were never part of my naturally-occurring Kickstarter encounters.

I tried to select three that I think were representative of the broader patterns I was seeing in my searches, but also informed by my memories of prior exposure. The three projects are a performance art piece, a watchmaker, and a Lao coffee import.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Module 10: Alberta Kickstarter

Kickstarted Projects in Alberta

While sorting through the Kickstarter projects in Alberta, I chose to look at the Top 3 most funded campagins.  All three of these campagins were located in Calgary, with two of them already being closed and successfully funded, moving toward production/delivary.  Two of the projects were  games, and one was a Microhabitat.  The one campaign still open has already raised above and beyond their goal, and still has 21 days to go to receive funding.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Module 10. Exploring Three Albertan Kickstarter Campaigns

On their site, Kickstarter allows us to browse through 1,056 crowdfunding projects initiated in Alberta. Based on a brief overview of projects originated in the province’s six largest cities (searched by location and sorted by “most funded”), here are some approximate yet telling numbers. Roughly 30% of the Calgary projects succeeded and 80% of Edmonton campaigns flopped. Ten of 12 projects from Medicine Hat failed and 3 of 10 projects in Lethbridge flourished. All 26 projects launched from Red Deer were unsuccessful and all 10 projects from Fort McMurray bombed. In short, projects launched in major urban areas have been more successful. It would be interesting to gather and analyse similar data from popular crowdfunding platforms such as GoFundMe or Indigogo and see if they are consistent. That being said, here are the three successful Albertan projects that caught my attention. 

Chartier, opening an authentic French-Canadian restaurant in the French-Canadian hometown of Beaumont, Alberta

On their Kickstarter page, Darren and Sylvia Cheverie write: “In 1895, when Beaumont was nothing more than a small French colony, Father Morin travelled to Ottawa to petition for a post office. With this petition, he presented a list of suggested names to give to the community. These were: Beaumont, Bellevue and Chartier. Beaumont was selected by Jean Royer for the town and Bellevue was later used for our elementary school, but Chartier remained unused...Until now”.  This description, and the pitch that follows, both text and video, fit the requirement of telling a story of origin that is helpful for newcomers to an online audience and to ensure they understand fully the values that are at stake (Howard, 2010, p. 131-134). The campaign’s creators openly share their personal story, the story of their town, and the story behind the future restaurant they would like you to support. They even take the time to explain how Kickstarter works for those who are unfamiliar with crowdfunding.  Openness and transparency constitute the strength of this campaign, which received a special “Kickstarter Staff Pick” label and “Project We Love” mention.

While the Chartier project is very clear about its origins, location and other site-specific information, that is not necessarily the case for other successful projects.


Another “Kickstarter Staff Pick” campaign is a project proposing crate-like frames that can properly display and hold up to 15 vinyl records at a time. VINYLFRAMETM is described as “a partnership between close friends who have always loved music, creativity, and woodworking”. Other than that the frames are “hand crafted in Canada from solid wood”, the description provided on Kickstarter does not specify where these “friends” are from, where they are located, where the frames are made or the provenance of the materials used. All we know is that the creator of the campaign, Matthew Ivan Knezevich, has launched it from Edmonton. We also learn in a message posted on November 17, 2015 that Edmonton backers can arrange for local pick-up of the product free of shipping charges. We can only assume that they are then made in and shipped from Edmonton. A short video showcases the product rather than the creators, their origin or place of business, and this could well explain the global diversity of the campaign backers (LA, Montreal, Singapore, Australia, etc.). After all, records are universal. Some users may wonder whether the VINYLFRAMETM are fair-trade wood products.


Speaking of fair-trade materials, a company called Original Canadian Beaver Clothing Co. (OCBCC) ran a campaign for the SHOODIE, a hoodie “made ethically in Canada” with “premium […] eco-friendly fabrics.”  OCBCC emphasizes that it is a Canadian company but does not specify where it operates from or in which Canadian city the hoodies it makes come from, other than that they are made in Canada. Again, potential customers might wish that the people behind this venture were more forthcoming about where they are located and operating from. A quick Internet search on OCBCC was not helpful in the least in delivering that information, since their Facebook page is as cryptic as their Kickstarter campaign. All we really learn from the bio of Jason Holt, the campaign creator, is that he is a successful entrepreneur who has launched several successful clothing design and merchandising projects. All we know is that campaign was launched in Calgary and the Calgary Herald published a photo in May 2014 of models wearing “shoodies” in an online photo gallery called “Calgary's Kickstarter successes”.


Howard, T.W. (2010). Design to thrive: Creating social networks and online communities that last. Burlington, MA: Morgan Kaufmann