This is the third in a series of 13 profiles of some of Concordia’s leading instructors. Here, NOW profiles Lisa Lynch, assistant professor of journalism.
A career in journalism can put you on the front lines, which is where Lisa Lynch found herself in 1987.
She was working as a magazine and newspaper journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area, a place undergoing a tsunami of technological change. "I got to see Silicon Valley come of age, including the rise of Apple," she said, referring to the vibrant technology hub that gave birth to the microchip. "It was such an exciting time."
No one could have foreseen how events then would revolutionize our world. This assistant professor in the Department of Journalism, who went on to obtain a Master of Journalism degree from the University of California and a doctorate in literature from Rutgers University, says her experiences shaped her view of technology and journalism, as well as her career trajectory.
Lynch, who came to Concordia in 2008 after teaching media studies in a U.S. liberal arts college, teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in international journalism as well as courses on digital tools and online writing. Her research efforts embrace subjects surrounding new media, global media flows, visual culture and human rights, and include a study of Internet governance and Canadian newspapers, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
When teaching technology-related subjects, Lynch thinks of herself as more of a coach than an expert. She encourages curiosity and autonomy, and urges students to explore various resources. For instance, they are often surprised to learn how much meaningful material can be gleaned from sources they take for granted, such as Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
Creative thinking and a willingness to experiment are also desirable. "(Developments in technology) that someone my age thinks are impressive or even shocking are considered normal by young people," Lynch says. "Part of my challenge is to get them to look at things from a different perspective and to question."
For those in the graduate program or international journalism, she alternates between coach and expert. "Ultimately, the students are the ones who are making the connections between theory and practice, and then bringing their conclusions back to me," she said.
Lynch is aware of her students' interest in games and actively looks for ways to get them involved. In 2012, nine spent a week playing a conflict-resolution game with students from McGill University's Department of Political Science. The Brynania crisis simulation involved about 100 students, who took on such roles as advisors, guerrilla fighters or government figures in a fictional small nation, with Lynch's journalism students playing CNN reporters.
"In class they talk about issues surrounding international journalism, representation and conflicts and develop ideas about what they would do in a conflict situation," she says. "Playing this game allows them to see what they actually would do." The next simulation is slated for spring 2013.
She is also co-developing a "newsgame" with Sandra Gabriele of the Department of Communication Studies, called The Oldest Game. They work with research assistance from Amanda Feder, a communication studies master’s student.
The playable online game is designed to explain a complex issue in Canadian society, in this case the legalization of the sex trade. Though gaming is still considered fringe by mainstream media, some outlets, such as National Public Radio in the U.S., are beginning to experiment with the use of this medium to convey news.
"It's an important way to explore ideas," says Lynch. And is exactly the kind of thing that keeps a journalist and teacher in the vanguard.
• Lisa Lynch’s faculty profile
Jordan LeBel: “The makings of a great teacher” — NOW, February 20, 2013
Philippe Caignon: “Using blogs and wikis as teaching tools” — NOW, February 26, 2013
Juan Carlos Castro: “Social networks, social pedagogy” — NOW, March 26, 2013
Alexandre Enkerli: “Using technology to facilitate dialogue” — NOW, April 3, 2013
Arshad Ahmad: “Moderating MOOCs" — NOW, April 3, 2013
Mamoun Medraj: "Terms of engagement" — NOW, April 30, 2013