Annual SSHRC Storytelling competition distills funded research down to three understandable minutes

Three Concordians are presenting their work at the May 28 semi-final
May 4, 2018

UPDATE (May 29, 2018): Jay Marquis-Manicom (above) was selected as one of the final five winners at the 2018 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at Ryerson University in Toronto. He will represent Concordia at the SSHRC Impact Awards later this year.

Want to hear a great yarn? Look no further than Concordia’s three finalists for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) annual Storytellers competition.

Applicants are tasked with presenting how SSHRC-funded research impacts the society we live in. Graduate students Meaghen Buckley, Eric Powell and John (Jay) Marquis-Manicom have been selected among the 25 finalists.

The catch: they only have three minutes or 300 words to get their point across.

Each finalist receives a $3,000 prize and the opportunity to compete in front of a live audience at the Storytellers Showcase during the 2018 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Regina. The showcase takes place May 28 and will determine the competition’s five finalists.

Last year, Nadia Naffi, a PhD candidate in Education and Concordia public scholar, made it to the final five.

Jay Marquis-Manicom: ethnography of an alt-right organization

Jay Marquis-Manicom has always been interested in humans and culture. After his professors in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology encouraged him to combine his work with his interests in political movements, he decided to initiate an ethnography of an alt-right organization.

Under the supervision of professor Marc Lafrance, Marquis-Manicom has undertaken several months of field research in order to gather data for his master’s thesis. His main objective is to help demystify the political movement he is investigating and generate first-hand information about the organization for scholarly use.

“The advantage of ethnography over, say, a literature review, is that you generate your own data and do not have to rely on what other people are saying about themselves or others,” Marquis-Manicom explains.

During 2017, Marquis-Manicom conducted active participant observation with members of an alt-right movement and interviewed them as well.

“The rise of far-right and white nationalist politics is of concern to everyone,” he says. “It is important that we have accurate data about these phenomena in order to be able to engage with the current political climate.

For Marquis-Manicom, being named a Storyteller finalist is validation of his work and its usefulness.

“When you’re working in a specialized field and not taking a lot of classes at the graduate level, sometimes you can lose track of whether or not your work is even important,” he says.

“Getting awards and other kinds of positive coverage can really make a difference and remind you that people are paying attention.”

Jay Marquis-Manicom’s submission was text-based.


Meaghen Buckley: understanding the body’s expressive potential in psychotherapy

Meaghen Buckley was trained as a professional dancer, but an injury led her to change career paths. After completing an arts degree at Emily Carr University of Art and Design and another in linguistics at McGill University, she became fascinated by the relationship between our physiological and psychological experiences.

A second-year master’s student in Drama Therapy, Buckley explores how non-verbal experiences of the body inform the content of speech, improvisation and verbal insights.

“Body is the medium by which we experience our world,” she explains in her Storytellers video. “Language is our means of sharing that experience, and language is embodied in theatre.”

At the moment, the field of drama therapy does not have its own theory of the body’s role in psychotherapeutic practice. Using a technique called Focusing, Buckley is investigating how the uniquely felt experience of one’s body enters the medium of language.

“When we’re talking, the body is also there. I want to dwell in this kind of knowledge we don’t know we have and that gives us insights into ourselves,” she says.

“Bringing sensations to verbal awareness and integrating them in a congruent way are important aspects of therapeutic change.”

By reconnecting consciousness and bodily experience into a coherent acknowledgement of one’s memory, drama therapy can lead to the discovery of new and possibly better ways to communicate in psychotherapy,

Her project is supervised by Yehudit Silverman, professor in the Department of Creative Arts Therapies, and will take the form of a research paper and performance.

Being able to follow an interdisciplinary academic path is what attracted Buckley to Concordia.

Being an SSHRC Storyteller finalist is an opportunity, she says, to give exposure to the field of drama therapy, which is still excluded from the official definition of psychotherapy in Quebec.

“It’s a good thing for the field to be better understood and to get more visibility. If we can gather the support of allied professionals to help us become recognized, that would be of great value.”

Watch Meaghen Buckley’s video submission.


Eric Powell: interfaces to explore Montreal soundscapes

Eric Powell is interested in how we listen to the city. With a background in electroacoustic composition and soundscape studies, he researches ways in which sound shapes our individual experience of space and time, specifically in urban environments.

“I’m trying to change the perception that sound in the city is mere noise,” says Powell, a PhD candidate in Communication Studies working under the supervision of Kim Sawchuk.

By repurposing everyday devices, his research-creation project is geared towards the development of three interfaces to experience and play with the sounds of Montreal.

“Montreal is a very dynamic space, there’s always something happening,” Powell says. “It doesn’t have that same split between natural and urban sounds — a distinction I fundamentally disagree with.”

For his first project, Powell recorded the bells of Notre-Dame Basilica from six different locations simultaneously and incorporated the recordings in a marble-maze interface. The player can hear the same moment in sound from different perspectives depending on how the device is manipulated.

Then, he created Street Ears, a geo-locative Android app that includes sound maps of several Montreal neighbourhoods. Users can experience the sounds of Montreal from any physical location in the world, something Powell refers to as “augmented aural reality”.

Finally, for his 168-hour project, Powell built an interactive clock interface within which he arranged a week-long recording from his apartment in the Plateau in 2015. Buttons and knobs allow users to navigate through this period of time in any order they wish.

“These three projects also underline the archival nature of my work,” Powell adds. “Some of the recordings were made close to three years ago. It is interesting to notice how the sounds of the city keep changing over time.”

His submission to the Storytellers competition was strictly audio.

“I want to push the boundaries of what storytelling can be about. With my research project, I want to capture my experience with Montreal and the everydayness of it.”

Listen to Eric Powell’s submission.


Learn more about the SSHRC Storytellers Contest.

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