History master's student Jon Weller wins SSHRC video prize


- Tara Sharpe

2016 SSHRC Storytellers video



On April 4, SSHRC announced this year’s Top 25 finalists—including UVic’s Jon Weller (history)—in its annual “Storytellers” challenge, which seeks to recognize the best in research communication by post-secondary students. Finalists were selected from among nearly 200 entries. The contest was launched in 2013, with UVic students winning finalist spots in three of the four years.

The annual contest challenges students from across Canada to demonstrate—in three minutes or 300 words—how SSHRC-funded research is making a difference in the lives of Canadians.

In his own words

Weller’s video zooms in on the southern Gulf Islands. It particularly focuses on the influence of various viewpoints about the seemingly pastoral physical environment, as well as how the land use planning policies shaped by the Islands Trust (a planning commission established in 1974) left a mark on land use management practices.

“Planners helped influence the look of the islands, including roadway standards such as allowing more trees beside the road and more narrow grading allowances.”

“This unseen world of bylaws and government regulations reflects less conscious beliefs that get translated into policy—often not deliberately. People were not necessarily able to articulate what they wanted to preserve and protect either.”

For his master’s thesis, which he will defend on April 25, Weller pulled numerous documents from the historical record to examine how the application of newer, more modern approaches to culturally integrated landscape management might better support human and ecological wellbeing—rather than placing the focus on distinct spaces for distinct functions with separate standards and regulations, which has been standard practice in the past.

He feels deeply about conveying highly complex topics to audiences who are not specialists in the field. “For my thesis, I read heavily theoretical books and spent days immersed in old newspapers, and I feel amazed by what’s in those pages and the connections to everything that’s going on around me.”

He used archival footage for the video, but also some B roll (scenic shots) that he’d collected on a canoe trip in the Yukon several years ago, when he first began producing film.

The allure of the islands

Weller grew up in Rimbey, AB and after earning his BA in international development from the University of Alberta, “through a number of fortuitous twists of fate I ended up working for a videographer and then doing freelance video.”

He says he’s got “a pretty basic set-up – a good SLR camera, microphones, the Apple software system ‘Final Cut’ and some rigs to glide the camera along – to make enough to survive” as a student. He accepted a co-op position as videographer for the Royal BC Museum videographer when he first arrived at UVic for the master’s program.

Weller chose the SGI (and UVic) because “it’s a very different world here” and the islands “have such an allure, a reputation already.”

Before joining UVic, he held several internships and jobs overseas, in India and Nepal. “I have always been attached to places and learning about a place’s history."

"Healthy communities have a strong connection to history of place and our surrounding environment is an agent of change.”

SSHRC Storytellers at Congress 2016

The videos will be ‘unveiled’ in a cascade starting April 19 and ending May 17, just ahead of Congress 2016 of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Calgary May 28 to June 3. The finalists receive a prize of $3,000 and a trip to the conference, where they will compete in the Storytellers Showcase to win one of five final prizes.

In this story

Keywords: sshrc, funding, award, storytelling, video

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