SSHRC Storytellers: Videos by UVic students tell the story

Human and Social Development

- Tara Sharpe

Four UVic teams are among 25 winners of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) video contest Research for a Better Life: The Storytellers involving universities across Canada. Here is their story.

Alison James-Lomax, MA graduate

Dept. of Political Science

Alison James-Lomax is graduating this June. She saw the storytelling competition as an opportunity to spread the word: with this "unique project, I wanted to show how SSHRC grants are helping community partnerships."

Her video -- a collection of still photos with her voiceover -- is on the response of international development organizations in East and South Africa to funding challenges. It is specifically about the SSHRC-funded project run by UVic women’s studies professor and political scientist Dr. Laura Parisi, in partnership with the Victoria International Development Education Association (VIDEA). The project questions how new funding models are affecting programs, specifically for women in Uganda, Zambia and Tanzania.

James-Lomax used photos by VIDEA Executive Director Lynn Thornton and Project Officer Rohan Stritch from their travels in Zambia and Uganda. (Parisi and Thornton are both in Africa this spring connecting with key southern African stakeholders.)

She adds, "This project is exactly the kind of thing that I think academia should do more of: it is a partnership between university and community that tackles urgent, on-the-ground problems. The project brings together collaborators from Canada, the UK, Zambia, Tanzania, and Uganda in order to learn from one another and identify and share strategies and solutions to funding cuts in international development.

"There is a wide range of expertise involved here…The impact of this project on people's daily lives will hopefully be significant. Funding cuts in international development are having a devastating effect…and facilitating the sharing of solutions is an important way to mitigate some of the impacts of the cuts. I think video can be a useful storytelling tool…

"I thought it was a powerful technique to use photography from the region: seeing the people that this project impacts and that this project works in collaboration with can make it seem less distant."

Anita Girvan, PhD candidate

Dept. of English

Inter-disciplinary in Dept. of Political Science

Anita Girvan is a PhD candidate within the Faculty of Humanities with an inter-disciplinary focus in the Faculty of Social Sciences (Cultural, Social and Political Thought). Her video explores the promises and risks of the carbon footprint as metaphor. Still images play across the screen; hers is the singing voice.

She wrote the song in Fall 2012, just before the call for the SSHRC video submissions. "I heard the bass first," she recalls, then the lyrics "appeared in my head." She did it all on her iPad, picking out the melody on the software application GarageBand, with musical assistance from her partner and UVic alumnus Robert Randall.

She thinks videography "allows for lively interaction: there's a joy to be had in thinking of metaphor and it can include a larger-than-human consideration if we allow it."

Girvan is currently a fellow in UVic's Centre for Global Studies as she completes her thesis. The first step in her research was to collect what she calls a footprint inventory, an analysis and curation of how the idea and use of 'carbon footprint' have appeared in texts and some online sources including web news. Her research "brings into view a possible political course of action. It measures different footprints between different countries. We can ask, where is it exposing inequalities?"

She also thinks it's not completely "doom-and-gloom for climate change."

She feels some hope, not least of all because "we are story-making creatures."

Jana Millar-Usiskin, MA graduate

Dept. of English

With fellow graduate students Adele Barclay, Alex Christie, Arthur Hain,

Katie Tanigawa, Mikka Jacobsen, Nina Belojevic and Shaun MacPherson

The eight-member team, part of digital humanities at UVic and members of The Maker Lab in the Humanities within the English department, created a video which focuses on early 20th-century Vancouver Island poet Audrey Alexandra Brown.

Jana Millar-Usiskin submitted their contest application and says, "I became interested in the topic of Canadian women writers during a course I took at the University of Winnipeg on Canadian writing. Reading through the archives in Manitoba I came across mention of Audrey Alexandra Brown in an interview with poet Dorothy Livesay."

As part of her graduate work, she worked on Brown's archives and also took a course in the English department's well-regarded digital humanities program with assistant professor Dr. Jentery Sayers.

"Reading Brown's private letters has been a truly memorable experience," says Millar-Usiskin. "There is such a strange feeling of both intimacy and frustration. [American poet] Adrienne Rich describes this feeling as being like an insect hovering at the glass. You are so close, almost invisibly present, yet always somehow removed from true understanding.

"Every day, the public encounters a barrage of information, and they don't have enough time to fully appreciate the research that is being done in Canada. Through our team efforts on the SSHRC-Storytellers video, we have had the chance to bring some of that research to a wider public."

She adds that it also allows "people to question grand historical narratives. I hope it makes people want to explore the less celebrated aspects of literary history, and to encounter the historical figures who aren't as well known, but who have had an impact in our understanding of national identity."

Stuart McAlister with Cassandra Paterson and Yianni Pappas-Acreman

Juris Doctor candidates for 2014

Faculty of Law

The video created by this team—UVic Law Juris Doctor candidates for 2014—explains law professor Jeremy Webber's research on parallel legal systems. The animated video depicts two characters who speak different languages and appear to be in competition. They quickly find common ground and start working together.

“We’re trying to illustrate how forces that appear to be antagonistic, if seen through a different lens, might then appear to be working in parallel or even in concert,” McAlister says. “Our goal was to distill and explain Professor Webber’s research in an accessible and creative format.”

“We just wanted to try our hand at something different and this seemed like an exciting opportunity,” says McAlister, adding that the experience has helped in their communication and scholarly activities.

“It brings a context of relevance to the work you’re doing, especially as law students—we’re often told the real jobs and real world are nothing like what you’re studying. There is a need to distill information and academic work into an accessible medium and allow it to percolate in to different aspects of society.

SSHRC Storytellers at Congress 2013

The videos were unveiled in a cascade from coast to coast starting April 2, 2013 in Newfoundland and ending May 21, 2013 with the four UVic videos ahead of Congress 2013 here at UVic from June 1 to 8.  SSHRC Videos

UVic announced its four winners on May 21, 2013#SSHRCStorytellers


In this story

Keywords: contest, research, doctoral research

People: Alison James-Lomax, Anita Girvan, Jana Millar-Usiskin, Stuart McAlister, Cassandra Paterson, Yianni Pappas-Acreman

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