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RAW Communications

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February 07, 2022

Metaverse: Dystopian future or a glorified zoom meeting?
By Alvena Ali Wasim

Alvena author

I wrote this piece as a colloquial essay for my Professional Style & Editing class. I am majoring in Rhetoric, Writing, & Communications and want to become a writer in the nonfiction genre. I enjoy listening to Pakistani music and by learning the literary devices used in the English language and communications studies I have a newfound appreciation for how these techniques are organically used in my native language of Urdu and its music as well. I wish to master both the languages and the art of expressing yourself through words and beautifully constructed prose.

I remember the first time I was fascinated by the concept of virtual reality. It wasn’t when I watched “The Matrix”. It was while watching a 2009 Bruce Willis movie called “Surrogates”. The movie has nothing to do with “multiverse”, “metaverse” or even 3D online environments. It’s about people uploading their consciousness into robots and using them to interact with other people in robot suits. I loved the idea immediately.

I could Imagine all the possibilities. Going anywhere I want without actually leaving the house and coming back anytime by disconnecting a headset. Turns out I’m not the only introvert who’s been looking forward to that day. Fans of cyberpunk literature will have you know the term “metaverse” was coined in “Snow Crash” back in 1992. They will also let you know how the term itself doesn’t really mean anything.

Even tech experts don’t agree on what a real metaverse will look like. According to them we are still taking baby steps in creating it. We’re nowhere near the level of co-ordination and technical skills required to realize this dream.[1] But that hasn’t stopped billionaires from trying. Today if someone searches metaverse (at least on google), it will mostly show them articles about Zuckerberg’s meta. While it may look like he’ll be the first to reach that finish line, others are not far behind.

Tim Sweeney, the creator of 3D online game Fortnite has also revealed his blueprint for the metaverse[2]. In the spring of 2020 when most of the world was stuck in the first wave of Covid-19 pandemic, Fortnite hosted a live virtual concert inside the gaming space Minecraft.[3] A virtual Coachella where people can play Fortnite, attend fashion shows, and interact with their favourite artists is so far the best example of metaverse in action. In this version of metaverse, citizens aren’t shown ads for cars. Instead, they can test drive a virtual model of the new BMW.

If we were in a sci-fi movie, this would be shown in the prologue, along with a hastily put together montage of news stories. It’s hard for me to imagine how the world as we know it, can change into the status quo of a futuristic dystopian society. Zuckerberg’s announcement of meta sure seems to be a defining moment, but it is safe to say that so far we’re just a step above conducting glorified zoom meetings. On a clear sunny day- given good internet connectivity- people can hold virtual meetups which are almost as good as sitting somewhere in person.

But when it comes to appreciating the potential of a new technology, I’m no pessimist. CBC, with its umpteen articles about the use of VR technology, seems to be just as excited. From aiding isolation effects during space flights to improving reading skills in children, Canadian teachers and researchers are ready to take full advantage of the possibilities. CBC’s Bob McDonald even has a dedicated blog on applications of virtual reality. It is exciting to imagine living in a video game where you can be whoever you want to be. But does it have to come at a price imagined by every science fiction writer?

One of the reasons Zuckerberg is pumped about making the multiverse is because virtual reality is technically the rightful heir to the current version of the internet. It is both, the internet of the future and the future of the internet. But to realize this dream brands will have to break barriers and work together.[4] For example, Microsoft faces the dilemma of creating Fortnite skins for Minecraft. These giant corporations don’t want other companies’ avatars being used in their world.[5] We’re talking about companies that don’t allow a different charger or headphone to connect to their device. Would they really let independent developers enter the market? We saw what happened with Microsoft in the 90s, acquiring small companies and putting them out of business. No wonder it’s a race to who monopolizes the market first, and so far Zuckerberg seems to be in the lead.

It’s like Steve Job’s vision that led to smartphones becoming a reality. Even though the technology was already there, Apple is the company that mostly received the credit for mass production of touchscreen smartphones. But to have a headset on every head, like how smartphones are in every hand today, I wonder how many more stories of human rights violations and factory workers working under inhumane conditions will come to light. And then there is the ultimate impact of polluting the environment with more plastic. But we don’t like thinking about boring stuff like the human cost of building tech infrastructure.

My hope is that the benefits will outweigh the side effects. This has mostly been the case in the past, if we consider how many lives have been saved through technological advancements in the long run. I for one, want to hold off on joining the VR revolution for as long as possible, until the day comes when we all have to go through a naturalization ceremony to join the meta-world.

As a science fiction fan, I wonder where will I be seeing all these advancements from. Witnessing the smartphone revolution and surviving the current pandemic, I am grateful for being in a society which shielded me from the worst impacts of it all. So I can only hope that I survive whatever impending apocalypse waits for us all with Musk at the steering wheel, Zuckerberg placing a headset over our eyes, while Bezos shoots us into space.

[1] Robertson, A., & Peters, J. (2021, October 4). What is the metaverse, and do I have to care? The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/22701104/metaverse-explained-fortnite-roblox-facebook-horizon

[2] Park, G. (2021, September 28). Epic Games believes the Internet is broken. This is their blueprint to fix it. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2021/09/28/epic-fortnite-metaverse-facebook/

[3] Banis, D. (2021, January 11). Archeology of Virtual Worlds « INC Longform. Institute of Network Cultures. https://networkcultures.org/longform/2021/01/11/archeology-of-virtual-worlds/

[4] Park, G. (2021, September 28). Epic Games believes the Internet is broken. This is their blueprint to fix it. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2021/09/28/epic-fortnite-metaverse-facebook/

[5] Robertson, A., & Peters, J. (2021, October 4). What is the metaverse, and do I have to care? The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/22701104/metaverse-explained-fortnite-roblox-facebook-horizon

November 17, 2021

Sanctuaries: Yonic Expressions Open New Artistic Dimensions
By Jennifer Foidart


Jenny Foidart is a Red River Métis/european woman from Treaty One currently studying at University of Winnipeg in Indigenous studies with a focus on Métis history. Jenny is a mother, singer, writer, and artist with a passion for community, social justice, and art. This review was written for the class Rethinking Canadian Art History in the Art History Program in the Department of History. Jenny has taken Rhetoric and Communications courses during her time at the University of Winnipeg and thought of the RAW Communications forum as a venue for the current review.

The Sanctuaries exhibition is running at Gallery 1C03 from September 20th to December 19th, 2021. Due to the ongoing pandemic, Patterns Collective decided to take their exhibition online, including hosting a webinar for the opening of the exhibit. Patterns Collective is comprised of three successful curators: Shaneela Boodoo, Mahlet Cuff, and Chukwudubem Ukaigwe. This project forced the curators and art makers to think outside the box, figuratively and literally, by moving the gallery outside of the usual white gallery walls. The move online created an opportunity for the artists to work on their projects outside of the typical Canadian colonial gaze. Sanctuaries creates a safe space for bodies to function outside of this lens; and this transcendence stimulated vulnerability and fuelled expression in the artists. Virtual freedom becomes an important aspect of the exhibition, considering, “over the centuries, technology has continuously been weaponized to phenomenologically debase racialized bodies to spectacle, slaves, animals, substandard.”[1] This important conversation is realized between the art pieces in the virtual gallery and developed further between the artists and curators in an honest and thought-provoking webinar.

Odudu Umoessien is an architect by trade and the mind behind the online Santuaries experience. Umoessien’s virtual gallery experience “represents a meeting point between artists and curators who approach the subject of the female body from multiple dimensions.”[2] The virtual space then becomes an important aspect of the online gallery experience, by challenging the way the artists interact with their artistic visions and mediums. Umoessien’s yonic, industrialized 3-petal flower is the centre and life-giver of the exhibition. The petals run metal tubular veins throughout to signal to the fluidity of femininity. This notion is also mirrored in the water scene upon entry to the web gallery. The theme of femininity is apparent in all of the works of art, which ignore the Western societal taboos opposed upon bodies, therefore, opening up space to explore the raw visceral nature of human life.  Artist Anique Jordan explores the artists’ shared purpose when saying these works are “pushing for us to think about new worlds;”[3] new worlds where femininity has the opportunity to live outside a Eurocentric gaze. The webinar also gives way to a conversation where artist, Rajni Perera, communicates how this art works to move away from hierarchal capitalistic views and “detached the idea of demonstrating identity” relentlessly to unracialized people.[4] Intersecting issues of femininity, humanization and de-racialization run throughout the entire collection and hearing about the personal experience from the artists themselves made it even more impactful.

Umoessien’s large flower, which makes up the virtual gallery space, was informed by Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Mila Barcelona for texture, and by the Bahai Temple for the feminine functionality and appeal.[5] The main themes of raw femininity and liberation of racialized, sexualized bodies is embodied in Anique Jordan’s piece Darkie. Jordan reclaims the racial slur, subverting it into a term of endearment.[6] Darkie is a “study on beauty” for Jordan,[7] who created a visual that forces the viewer to re-imagine beauty’s own dimensionality. 

Overall this exhibition makes the viewer, artist, and curator function in a new realm, disrupting the normative colonial lens that art making has been tied to since the beginning of colonization. The white lens, and it’s focus on identity and racialization of human bodies, is something that the artists agree does not exist outside of Western minded communities. The feminine images give a feel of ease to the viewer who has experienced womanhood inside a colonial space; and an esthetic of home ripples through this innovative and norm shattering virtual gallery.


Oghosa Ogiemwonyi, Sanctuaries, Patterns Collective and Gallery 1C03, 2021, Website, https://thesanctuaries.ca/.

Sanctuaries, Webinar Brochure, by Patterns Collective, September, 2021, Gallery 1C03.

UWinnipeg, “Sanctuaries Exhibition: Discussion with Curators and Artists,” YouTube, October 4, 2021, video, https://youtu.be/tsDqLsOUvYc.


[1] Sanctuaries, Webinar Brochure, by Patterns Collective, September, 2021, Gallery 1C03, p.1.

[2] Sanctuaries, Webinar Brochure, by Patterns Collective, September, 2021, Gallery 1C03, p.3.

[3] UWinnipeg, “Sanctuaries Exhibition: Discussion with Curators and Artists,” YouTube, October 4, 2021, video, 35:20, https://youtu.be/tsDqLsOUvYc.

[4] UWinnipeg, 1:08:58.

[5] UWinnipeg, 14:00.

[6] UWinnipeg, 39:20.

[7] UWinnipeg, 37:48.

November 04, 2021

A Camera in Every Pocket: How Mobile Phone Cameras Have Revolutionized Communication
David MacDougall

Author's Photo

David MacDougall is in his fourth year at the University of Winnipeg, majoring in Rhetoric, Writing, and Communications, with a minor in East Asian Languages and Culture. He enjoys reading comics, playing games, and watching TV with his wife Wynona and their dogs Jackie and Bruce. David is passionate about music, photography, film, and travel. He currently works for the University of Winnipeg English Language Program.

Hardly a day goes by that I do not take a few photos; adding to the over 7000 jpegs on my phone documenting the last few years of my life. This is thanks to modern mobile phones with increasingly powerful and incredibly small digital image sensors. These cameras have not only changed the world of photography but the world itself and how people live their day-to-day lives. There are many advantages, like communicating visually instantaneously over great distances, but there are downsides as well. I will explore the advancement of digital photography, its connection to mobile phones, and the internet and how this combination has revolutionized communication with overall positive results despite some glaring negative implications.

Photography has been developing–pun intended–for over two centuries, the complete photographic process was presented by French artist Louis Daguerre in 1839. There was no device or even a patent, Daguerre provided free instructions to the world and photography became an overnight sensation (Kovarik 151). Of course, not everyone was on board, high-class members of society looked down on photography and painters felt threatened by the idea that photography could be considered art. The legality of whether photography was art or not was settled in numerous French and British court cases (Kovarik 157). While not commercially available for a considerable time after, digital photography was invented in 1973. A few years later the first prototype consumer digital camera was built by Kodak engineer Steven Sasson (Kovarik 175). Digital cameras certainly did not make their way into homes overnight. Growing up in the 90s I used my parents’ film camera or a disposable camera. Around 2002 I remember using a digital camera for the first time, it was from my dad’s work and used 3.5” floppy disks for storage. I always enjoyed photography but being able to see a photo instantly was amazing and changed the way I photographed. I got my first digital camera in 2007, coincidentally the same year I joined Facebook, and the first iPhone was released. Since then digital image sensors have shrunk to minuscule sizes and mobile phones are most people’s dedicated cameras. My first phone was a flip phone with a barely usable camera, now my phone has four lenses and takes photos that can be hard to distinguish from an “actual” camera. These developments in digital photography, mobile phone technology, and access to the internet have a combined effect that has dramatically changed the world in a little over a decade.


A few of the hundreds of film negatives I told my mom I would digitize over a year ago…

From its inception, photography has been used to communicate in many ways, being neither entirely dissemination or dialogue or sometimes a synthesis of both. When used in applications such as advertising, photography is dissemination; intended to be viewed by the most people possible. But photography can also be a personal one-on-one experience like sharing a photo album of vacation pictures with a friend. That personal aspect is still present in photography but has changed thanks to the internet. Instead of developing photos after getting home from vacation and showing a physical object to another human, photos can be shared with the entire world while still on vacation. Texting changed the ease and frequency at which people could communicate and topics of conversation shifted too; a conversation over text is different from a phone call. Likewise, when it was feasible to send photos with phones conversations transformed again. Snapchat paved the way for conversations primarily based on images. I never used Snapchat much myself and the main premise of a Snap disappearing after it was seen did not appeal to me. It was also a lie; people’s photos are definitely on servers somewhere. Snapchat, which had 188 million daily active users a few years ago (O’Hagan), may also be to blame for popularizing sexting, which I will get to later.

Some benefits of mobile phone cameras are fairly evident; the accessibility, speed, and ease of photography is unprecedented. People no longer need to buy a dedicated camera, develop film, or even put a memory card into the family desktop. More people are taking more photos than ever before. As of 2018 350 million photos were uploaded to Facebook and 95 million posts were uploaded to Instagram daily (O’Hagan). Phones have made dedicated cameras essentially obsolete to the average person and the camera market has taken a heavy hit, just as digital cameras affected the sale of film and the business of photo development. However, in terms of photography, newer technology does not fully overthrow the previous. Film photography is still around and has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years and professional photographers would not do client work with an iPhone. Some photographers viewed digital photography as an offence to their art form, and phone cameras have taken that further; with everyone taking photos it is much harder to stand out as a photographer. I think this is a good thing because it pushes photography to continue evolving and pushes photographers to experiment and try new things.

Social media is intrinsically linked to phone cameras and immediate access to billions of images is not without problems. When Instagram was new, when most images were over-filtered food, many photographers looked down on the platform. But not everyone, renowned photographer Stephen Shore recognized Instagram as “a new means of distribution and a new means of communication [which] opens possibilities that didn’t exist before” (O’Hagan). Others, like photographer Alec Soth, were more skeptical and concerned that Instagram had a negative effect on how people understood and appreciated photography (O’Hagan). I am probably somewhere in the middle of these two photographers; Instagram has helped me share my photography, stay connected with friends, and discover many cute dogs. On the other hand, I think viewing so much content does affect how I appreciate photography. Once you see the Hong Kong skyline for the hundredth time it has a diminished impact.

Hong Kong

It rained during my short stay in Hong Kong, but it still looked amazing!

It is evident social media can have detrimental effects on mental health and create addictions, not just for the younger generation, but also adults. Studies suggest that college students with poor mental health are more likely to be addicted to social media and extroverted college students are more likely to feel addicted to social media (Ferris et al. 3). Another study defined addiction as problematic use that results in negative consequences (2), like decreased community involvement, decreased academic performance, and increases in relationship problems (1). Whether or not social media has a negative effect seems to relate to how individuals use it, the study found that those who used social media to entertain themselves while bored or were motivated by fame reported lower life satisfaction (6). If people depend on social media for personal understanding, to alleviate loneliness, to meet new people, or to try to impress people, they are more likely to experience negative emotional consequences. Participants who used social media to maintain their offline relationships reported far fewer negative effects (9). I think from what these studies found and even just from my own experience, social media may not directly cause these problems but exasperate existing issues and the continued use of social media does not help to solve them.

In and of itself sexting–sending sexually explicit photos–is not bad if consensual. However, the proliferation of mobile cameras and applications such as Snapchat have made this phenomenon accessible to more and more people, as well as younger, and younger people, which is where problems arise. In some US states, sexting by minors can be prosecuted as a felony and could result in jail time and being placed on a sex offenders list. Sexting among minors is now so prevalent that pediatricians are advising parents to talk to their kids about it as kids are getting cell phones at younger ages. An estimated 53% of 11-year-olds in the US have cell phones (Hutchinson). Studies have so far shown mixed results about the psychological health impact of sexting. A study conducted in Spain surveyed over 2,000 high school students and concluded that sexting did not appear to harm those involved, at least in the short term (8). However, secondary sexting, forwarding images to unintended recipients, has a detrimental emotional effect (7). A man in B.C. was recently sentenced to 14 months in prison for sending nude photos of his ex-girlfriend to her current boyfriend (Fraser), this is a form of secondary texting called revenge porn. There have also been several instances where data leaks have led to celebrities having their nude photos circulated on the internet. Despite these issues, there are positive outcomes too.

More accessible cameras mean more people can participate in photography as art or to document their lives. Journalism has changed a lot and many stories have come to light that may not have otherwise. In 2009 the Iranian government banned foreign media from covering a protest. When a pro-government sniper killed 26-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan those around her captured images and video with their phones and the horrifying incident went viral nearly instantly. Photography writer Sean O’Hagan commented, “in a world where we are all able to fulfill the role of bearing witness that once fell to photojournalists how can traditional reportage compete?” (O’Hagan). Phones may have somewhat supplanted photojournalists, but in some ways made reporting easier and helped photojournalists work faster. It is now possible to have a one-person news crew thanks to mobile phones instead of a whole crew and large camera. But if reporters are absent the average person can assume the role, like in instances of recording police brutality. In May 2020 Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd and the entire incident was recorded. Without mobile cameras, Chauvin could have gotten away with murder. Mobile phone cameras have provided a powerful tool to hold people, especially those in power, responsible for their actions.

Photography is used to communicate in more ways than ever before, it can be intimate or intended for the entire world to see. It can be light-hearted, or serious matters of life and death. Like anything, there are pros and cons, and technology will always be misused by some people. Yet despite the dark side of mobile cameras and the internet, I believe that the positives outweigh the negatives. This technology is new in the grand scheme of things and as society and laws adjust I believe things will improve. I think the conviction in B.C. in the revenge porn case is a great step to addressing the seriousness of secondary sexting and will hopefully discourage others from doing it. Digital image sensors that fit inside phones have dramatically changed how photography is used to communicate, but they have not rendered previous iterations obsolete. Dedicated cameras, both digital and analog still have a place. I may have four lenses in my phone, but there are even more on the shelf behind me along with two digital camera bodies. Mobile photography, digital, and analog can all co-exist side by side; they have different uses and applications, and people are free to use them to communicate and express themselves however they want.

Pakse, Laos

A phone photo of me taking a photo near Pakse, Laos.

Works Cited

Del Rey, Rosario. Monica Ojeda, Jose A. Casas, Joaquin A. Mora-Merchan, Paz Elipe. “Sexting Among Adolescents: The Emotional Impact and Influence of the Need for Popularity.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 10, 2019.

Hutchinson, Jeffery W. “Sexting can lead to big problems for youths: Start conversation early.” AAP News & Journals Gateway, aappublications.org/news/2021/05/01/ masteringthemedia050121

Kovarik, Bill. Revolutions in Communication. Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2015.

Ferris, Amber L., Erin E. Hollenbaugh, and Paul A. Sommer. "Applying the Uses and Gratifications Model to Examine Consequences of Social Media Addiction." Social Media + Society, vol. 7, no. 2, 2021.

Fraser, Keith. “B.C. man convicted in revenge porn case jailed for 14 months.” Vancouver Sun, vancouversun.com/news/crime/b-c-man-convicted-in-revenge-porn-case-jailed-for-14-months

O’Hagan, Sean. “What next for photography in the age of Instagram?” The Guardian, theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/oct/14/future-photography-in-the-age-of-instagram-essay-sean-o-hagan.

May 31, 2021

Online Dating
Zena Desjardins Bjarnason

Zena Bjarnason is a 19 year old student at the University of Winnipeg, majoring in the Rhetoric Writing & Communications program. Her interests include writing and public speaking, reading, giving advice she doesn’t take, good lyrics, empathy, and spaghetti. She loves to love deeply.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the one thing that seems to be on nobody’s mind when it comes to the pandemic, which is the fact that couples actually have the advantage for once. Tragic!

The main reason for that advantage would be the slim pickins’ of dating someone online.

When we think about a fun way to spend our time, it’s often in love or with friends. A lot of us, including me would much rather go out for a night on the town instead of staying at home replaying old hurts in our mind of things we would’ve done differently.

A friend of mine from Ecuador told me she’s noticed in her country that the girls there don’t want to settle down and would rather party every night. We talked about possible reasons as to why this is the case, and decided we think it must have to do with the weather! For example, once summer comes around here in Winnipeg, my friends and I want nothing more than to be single and have a good time, and it’s hot weather there 24/7!

During covid isolation however, the option to party is no longer the case. We have been forced to spend time alone, with our thoughts and the inner contents of our mind, even during the scorching weather. This has perhaps made some of us realize a few things, one of which I personally came head-to-head with recently.

Since I’ve entered 2021 a single lady, ironically, for the first time in my life I know that I want the hard work that commitment to one person brings. And hey, look, this is a big deal for me since I’ve spent the first few months of this year hopping from dating app to dating app out of sheer boredom.

I’ve been having trouble relating to the new people who I pursue or who pursue me though which could be related to maturity gaps, different beliefs, or possibly just the fact that nobody has anything new going on.

When the pandemic first started, my work shut down, and I had a lot of anxiety. I would dread waking up every day looking for something new to do. Bored, I started meditating and doing tarot readings, as well as looking into the concept of spirituality! It’s been pretty cool so far, and I’ve been able to help a lot of my loved ones with whatever concerns were on their mind. I would simply ask my tarot deck a question, and an answer, I would receive.

This is apparently not for everyone, as the last guy I talked to accused me of being a witch.


So far, I have been talking to someone nice who seems to really care for me. It gets a little repetitive at times, us checking in on each other with no real news, but it’s nice to know that this person likes me enough to ask anyway.

When I was dating app hopping, I would get a match and nothing would come of it. Ironically, I first met this guy on Tinder, but never gave it a chance since Tinder is boring. (Sorry Tinder.)

I think my friends who I haven’t talked to in some time might be feeling disappointed I’m not on dating apps right now! But after too many horror stories of couples looking for thirds, I figure my best chance right now is realizing I’m probably not going to get what I want.

Hopefully, by the time the pandemic is over, I can indulge my hopeless romantic self a little bit, by having a date over coffee. As much as I’ve complained about relationships, I am a serial monogamist at heart, who is just looking for beautiful conversations along with some moments of intimacy.

May 10, 2021

A Little Goes a Long Way
By Nina McIntyre


Nina McIntyre is a student and writing tutor at the University of Winnipeg on the cusp of graduation. Taking the Professional Style and Editing course with Professor McLeod Rogers was an exploration in finding your voice, writing one topic in three different styles, from colloquial to formal, and a combination of the two. She highly recommends this class for any writer wanting to gain an appreciation for the craft of creating purposeful and persuasive prose.

It’s been a year now, living through the pandemic lock down. It’s been a year of uncertainty and isolation and loss. But somehow, we’ve had to find a way to cope and make it through another day. So how are you holding up? And what’s helped you along the way?

For me, it’s been the little things. It’s the simple acts of kindness that show that people still care, like holding a door open for someone (because no one wants to touch that handle!), or when someone gives you the wave for letting them into your lane on a busy commute. Some days, all it takes is one small gesture to really turn my day around.

Remember when that first wave hit and people bought up all the toilet paper, hoarding and buying more than they needed? Shelves were empty for weeks. I remember seeing an add on kijiji selling a 12-pack of toilet paper for $100. Really? (I still wonder if anyone actually paid that much for it).

Some people took that ‘survival mode’ to the next level. I remember grocery shopping and seeing police officers at the front doors, ready to pounce. I wondered whether they were there to limit the amount of people going in, or if they were there just in case they needed to break up a fight over toilet paper. Shoppers were in panic mode, aggressively pushing their carts with blinders on, ready to run someone over for that last bottle of Lysol. It was ugly.

Cue John Krasinski with “Some Good News”. In his first YouTube episode he shares that he started it because for years he’d wondered why there wasn’t a news channel dedicated to just good news, (something I’ve wondered myself). So, he asked his twitter followers to send him #somegoodnews, and the reels came rolling in. He showed videos of people all around the world clapping on balconies or streets to show their appreciation for the health care workers in their communities. He shared a story about man mowing his neighbours lawn. He reminisced with Steve Carell, his “entertainment correspondent”, about the good times they had working on The Office together, and he ended with a positive message, saying “This is SGN asking you to remember that no matter how tough life can get, there’s always good in the world”. That first episode has over 18 million views now, so apparently he wasn’t the only one who was needing some good news!

The popularity of that little show highlighted something very important for me. We need to be paying more attention to and engaged in acts of kindness. It’s not the celebrities and politicians that make a difference in our lives, it’s our next-door neighbour, or the cashier at our local grocery store. It’s the people we encounter every day that matter. It’s those little day-to-day interactions that really make a difference in someone’s life.

Let me give you an example. It was back in November, the day before the code red was going to take effect. When I was grocery shopping, I noticed that everyone in the store was either quiet and depressed, or in a mad rush to get out. The line to the cashier wrapped around the corner and down the frozen food aisle.  The store speakers quietly played music overhead as everyone silently stood six meters apart. It was tense.

I can’t remember what song was playing, but the elderly lady in front of me started tapping her toes to the music, then wiggled her hips, then her shoulders until she was doing a little dance next to her cart full of groceries. I couldn’t help but smile. She looked back and saw the smile from underneath my mask and said something like, “why not have a little fun with it?!”, and we shared a laugh.

We had a friendly conversation from our spots six feet apart and I could feel the tension ease in the rest of the line. It was like she let the air out of the balloon. All that tension just melted away, just as quickly and funny as a wheezy balloon. There was no reason to be anti-social just because we had to social distance. We were still following the rules, being safe, but making the most of the moment. If we had to wait in line, why not wiggle your hips? Why not chat up the person next to you? That little interaction made my day.

I’ll be honest. I was struggling with depression, but that small act of kindness really helped me through it. It made me see that there are some things we don’t get to choose, like a long line at the grocery store, but we do get to choose how we respond to it. We can complain and close ourselves off, or we can look for the positive and share it with others.

So I started looking for the positive, in my life and in my shows! Because, really, Netflix was still my main source of entertainment. If I learned anything from SGN, it’s that we need to look for the positive in what we watch too.

One movie that I found really inspiring was A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood. It’s based on the relationship that grew between Mister Rogers and Tom Junod, when he wrote the article “Can you say…Hero?”. He was a cynical writer at the time, but said that his time with Mister Rogers changed his outlook on life. Also, Tom Hanks does a beautiful job portraying the gentle kindness of Mister Rogers. It brought me back to watching his show when I was a kid.

So after balling my eyes out watching the movie, I bought the book based on the film. It has Junod’s essay, which is a brilliant piece of writing, and it has a lot of the little sayings that Mister Rogers was known for, like this one:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

And it reminded me of the lady in the store.

That simple act of kindness helped me and everyone in that store that day. You see, it’s the little things that make the world a better place. One small act at a time. The helpers aren’t just the ones running into burning buildings and running respirators. They are the people in our neighbourhood who make an effort to show kindness to one another. Like the guy mowing his neighbours lawn. Or the person holding the door open for you. Or the elderly lady dancing in a grocery store to put a smile on your face.

April 15, 2021

Online Learning
By Brandi Delaine

Brandi and her Grandmother
Brandi with her grandmother

My name is Brandi Delaine, I am a Métis student who came back to The University of Winnipeg during the pandemic. I am currently taking a B.B.A. and hope to work with not for profits once completed. I have a passion to bring awareness to Indigenous issues as well as bring light to the successes.  

After a nine-year hiatus, coming back to university was a challenge in itself; adding in the mix of online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic was a different issue. I whole-heartedly believe that learning is a lifelong adventure and always knew I would make my way back to university. I found that support due to the rapidly-changing university environment was abundant.

With everyone experiencing the same new problems, adapting to working and learning from home was a necessary transition. I found that if you were looking for help and support, there was a lot out there. I connected and got to know a group of people through both the Aboriginal Student Service Centre and being in smaller classes. I found the small class sizes the most beneficial support for online learning, and it allowed me to gain connections in a non-conventional way.

Overall, I love the fact that we all went through the transition into online learning at the same time. Having the benefit of going through both in-person learning and online learning, I can compare the two. I think that online learning was a better experience; I made better connections and did better academically. Whatever is the safest way to move forward, I welcome it with open arms and am excited about the challenge.

April 05, 2021

Let’s be optimistic…but realistically
by Emma Ko

This is the essayist.

Emma is a second-year student pursuing a BA in Psychology at the University of Winnipeg. She’s a homebody that loves to discover new music, learn new languages and play with her cat. Although Emma is yet to truly master the three languages that she speaks, she’s already starting to learn a fourth one. I guess you could say she’s a little too ambitious…

A few months ago, my friend and I re-took the Myers-Briggs personality test. While we were looking at our results, we noticed a vast difference between our levels of turbulence. And to be honest I didn’t actually know what that meant, even as a psychology major (oops). The 16 Personalities website says that turbulent people are self-conscious perfectionists that get caught up in thoughts of criticism, slights, or regrets. This trait sometimes makes people pessimistic because their thoughts can clutter around everything that can go wrong.

My friend, let’s call her Molly, scored much higher in turbulence than I did. She then told me that she’s always been jealous of my “never-ending positivity,” “laid-back personality” and “optimistic outlook” on life.

I guess I never thought about myself like that. Not to toot my own horn but I think her description of me is pretty spot-on. I’m not one to dwell on the past or to dwell on the future (at least not much anyway). I strongly believe that living in the moment is the best way to approach life. Let me explain.

Living in the moment is a double-edged sword. Yes, I don’t get affected by my past mistakes. But if I completely ignore the concept of the future, my life would be messier than my brother’s bedroom. Planning is good. And sometimes worrying is good. But worrying too much is not so good. As a 3-year psychology major I need to plan ahead so that I can graduate by 2023. If I don’t worry about my final exams, I’m not going to study for them. And if I don’t study for them, I have higher chances of failing my courses.

But that said, living in the moment doesn’t mean in this very moment. It means living for today (or for the next week) and not worry too much about the past or future. I mean think about it. If I spend all my time thinking about the “what ifs” where would that get me?

Instead of thinking about the “what ifs,” I think about the “can dos.” To put it in perspective, instead of thinking about “what if I didn’t say that” or “what if I can’t do it” – I’ll think “I can think before I speak today” or “I can prepare for my presentation.” Not only does it help reduce stress, but it also gives me a brighter outlook on life. And I think having a positive outlook on life is something every single person needs right now.

The past year has been difficult. It’s been so difficult that it’s difficult to put how difficult it’s been into words. When COVID first hit, no one knew what was going to happen and no one knew how to deal with it. With everything closed and everyone stuck at home, a lot of people had nothing but their thoughts to keep them company. And it was hard to see a light at the end of the road.

While I’ve never been depressed or felt like my world was ending, I’ve definitely had days where I just didn’t want to get out of bed. And I know that during those days it’s hard to see the good things in life. But throughout the past 3-4 years I’ve taught myself to see things differently. I try to think about the things that make me happy. Sometimes I tell myself not to think at all. Just to focus on the air I’m breathing, the bed I’m sitting on, the sunlight coming in through the window. And by doing so, my stress levels have decreased, and I feel lighter and happier.

But I feel like my personal experience isn’t enough to convince people to take me seriously. I mean, I am only one person, aren’t I? Plus, I’ve never really been a huge pessimist so I can’t truly understand how much it can affect someone.

A blog post on the Very Well Mind website discusses the differences between an optimist and a pessimist. Unlike optimists, pessimists almost always blame themselves when something goes wrong. Pessimists also find it difficult to ask others for help. Sometimes it’s because they don’t want to seem weak and other times, they just can’t take constructive criticism. Pessimists overthink everything. And when something happens that is “out of their control,” they don’t see a point in trying. So, if I put that mindset into our COVID world, what would happen?

Let’s go back to March 2020. Do you remember how you felt when everything started shutting down? One day we were on campus laughing and chatting with our friends. The next day everyone was stuck at home. Anyone who was working was suddenly laid-off. Everyone was terrified of what was coming because the future seemed so unsure. After a couple of weeks, isolation was starting to really affect people.

But this situation is out of my control. It’s out of everyone’s control. What if my mom catches the virus? What if someone close to me dies from COVID? What if I never live to raise a family? What if this is the end of the world? I hate this. Why did this have to happen? Why can’t people just stay home? Why do I have to be punished for someone else’s choices? It’s not fair.

I could go on for hours about how unfair it is. I could envelop myself in all the bad things that are happening because of COVID. And by doing so, I just might end up stuck in a rut. Surrounded by thoughts that everything sucks and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Or I can try to look at the bright side of things. Yes, the whole COVID thing is out of my control. Hell, it’s out of everyone’s control (to an extent). I know being optimistic isn’t easy but I’m going to focus on the small things that I can control.

That’s the thing about being optimistic. It’s not about being a happy-go-lucky butterfly-field-frolicking human being. It’s about being able to take pleasure and find joy through the small things in life. It’s about setting short-term goals for yourself. Maybe you want to learn a new skill, pick up an old hobby, or even get started on an assignment. There’s no such thing as a silly goal. Everyone is different, and as long as you feel some level of achievement: you’ve achieved something. And that’s what matters.

November 25, 2020

My battery is low, and it’s getting dark
By Megan McEwan

This is the essayist

Megan is a fourth year English major finishing up her BA before going right back into her studies to pursue Conflict Resolution or Behavioral Psychology. She's not sure yet. She's just a little indecisive. Her life goal is to figure out how to blend her love for English, Rhetoric and Writing with helping youth, or anyone that needs a hand. Her second life goal is to convince as many people as she can to join competitive dodgeball - - I'll see you on the court!

When you type 'curiosity' in the search bar of your friendly neighbourhood web browser, you will immediately get two things. First, you'll see the word definition (thanks, google) and second, you'll find an infobox on the right side of the screen with a blurb about Curiosity, our very own Mars rover. Now, this little guy was named after a pretty good human trait, one that allowed us to roam the stars. But I feel that one trait shines above all: Personification.

Think about it. I dare you to look up Curiosity singing happy birthday and not cry. Because it's a weird feeling, crying for a robot. NASA launched a robot to Mars, and for some reason, we feel so incredibly sad for it. The poor guys' all alone out there, on a weirdo desert planet, singing happy birthday to himself, and there's this guilt that we did this to him. Man, we're such dirtbags.  

But see what I did it there, just now? Personification. I took an inanimate object and gave it feelings, gave it a name, and felt empathetic towards it. We all did. And this isn't the first time we have either. But why?  

Personification is giving human traits to nonhuman objects, and I'm here to argue that this is the ultimate human trait. We use Personification to connect with things around us, and what's more human than that?

We mostly hear about using Personification in writing, but we can find this in our everyday lives. Have you ever named an inanimate object, like a plant or a car? I've got a Pothos Vine sitting on a shelf called OhFart, and my little red Mazda in the driveway has been dubbed Carmeleon, after the Pokémon. There are long stories behind them both. And that's the beauty of Personification. We can capture memories and moments of our lives in little things by naming objects. We can incite emotions for said objects and create a bond with them. We talk to them as if they are alive and breathing (there are too many times that I've asked OhFart if I’ve watered him. I’m not nuts, I promise). We can also create a community and connect with others. 

Turns out, our little Curiosity has a buddy named Opportunity, and guess what? We gave her a nickname. Oppy. What a cutie. About four different rovers over many years were planted on Mars by NASA, to be fair. Still, most of them have finished their objectives and returned home. Oppy's story, however, goes a little different. 

In February of 2019, NASA announced they'd lost all communication with Opportunity after a massive Martian storm. Turns out Martian storms are seriously intense, and our little Oppy got stuck in a big one.

And it was sad. Not for any scientific reasons, like not gathering any more research or millions of dollars gone to waste. But because we were rooting for her to make it through the storm. (Okay probably. Maybe. There could've been more practical reasons but stay with me; we all loved Oppy for who she was.) 

All I know is that when NASA stated that Oppy's last words on Mars were "My battery is low, and it's getting dark," the entire world had something to say about it. It's like this robot had a conscience all of a sudden and was able to feel, and we all could relate to her. The thought of being alone on a planet millions of miles away from home didn't sit well with any of us. So we were sad. For her. But the story doesn't stop there.

When I looked into it, I found an article by Spaceflight Insider that explained something quite interesting. Technically, Opportunity, our loving rover, can't actually talk. It was actually a science reporter with KPCC that tweeted a paraphrased version of what the Project Manager in charge of Oppy had said. Opportunity had relayed a final update before they lost contact, and there, the infamous 'last words' were born.

Man. I feel like I spilled some hot gossip, and I feel dirty about it. I'm not here to burst anyone's bubble, but this just shows so plainly that Personification creates community. From one personified and paraphrased relay of information, Oppy was brought to life.

Following that tweet, the world responded in kind. There were memes, and there were comics. There was even a children's book about how Mars rovers sing happy birthday, and it even included Oppy's last words. I, a fully grown 28-year old woman, almost bought that book because it was so damn cute. Oppy's story resonated with everyone.

Because let's face it, a human's worst fear is to be as alone as a Mars rover. Throwing birthday parties (NASA actually confirmed this happened, I'm crying) and writing a children's book about our little robots is just something we do. How else do we show love and affection to people we care about? We give them gifts, we make them food, we sing them songs. And since Oppy and Curiosity are out there, far away, living our worst fear, we need to show them that they're not alone. We include them in our community because humans want to share. Humans want to relate. Humans want to feel connected. We don't like the thought of being alone.

I cannot put it more eloquently than Tumblr User thebaconsandwhichofregret: "We built a little robot and called it Curiosity and flung it into the star[s] to go and explore places we can't get to because its name is in our nature and then just because we could, we taught it how to sing."

And in doing so, we've created a whole story behind two little robots. Even to the farthest reaches of the galaxy we've gone (so far. I mean, we're like parasites; we'll get farther eventually), we've used the trait of all traits. We have Personified them into existence. We've made them into something worthy of receiving affection, and it makes us all the more human.

November 04, 2020

Reflection Journal
Representations of Indigeneity
by Sarah Seroy


I am currently completing my second Bachelor's degree from University of Winnipeg, majoring in Rhetoric and Communications. I work as a Career Advisor for high school students, and inspiring them to follow their dreams motivated me to return to school, and one day make the shift to a career in the writing and publishing field. I am passionate about suicide prevention, mental health awareness, and Indigenous rights, and this degree would enable me to make more of a difference. In my spare time I enjoy reading, blogging about books, and spending time with family and friends.

Week 1: Found Art Project

Response to Indigenous representation in the media:

McCue, Duncan. “Policy Options Podcast: Indigenous Representation in the Media.” Policy Options, 31 Jan. 2017, policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/january-2017/policy-options-podcast-28-indigenous-representation/.

McCue, Duncan. “About.” Reporting in Indigenous Communities, riic.ca/about/.

McCue, Duncan. “Treaties, reconciliation and Indigenous history in Canada.” CBC. 26 April, 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9KJM3pjvKg&feature=emb_rel_end

Series of found art images composed of cedar leaves, sticks, stones, leaves, grass, and dirt:

Image One Image Two Image Three

Image 1

Clickable Image Two

A small, isolated, and broken cedar leaf on a background of dirt and stone - blurry.

The stones in this image represent negative depictions of Indigenous people in the media. The cedar represents Indigenous culture. Like the leaf, Indigenous culture cannot thrive when weighed down by negative depictions. Misrepresentations can also create distance and misunderstanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, represented by the isolation of the leaf in the image.

Image 2

Clickable Image Two

A small cedar leaf on a background of grass, surrounded by a circle of stones and sticks, and overshadowed by other plants.

The sticks in this image represent the positive but stereotypical depictions of Indigenous people in the media; the stones again represent negative depictions, and the leaves in the foreground represent non-Indigenous stories. While this cedar leaf is larger and healthier looking than the one in the first image, it still is not thriving. The sticks and stones create a border, which represent the limitations of sticking to negative and stereotypical representations instead of fully celebrating Indigenous culture in the media, and the leaves in the foreground represent non-Indigenous stories that predominate in the media, overshadowing Indigenous stories.

Image 3

Clickable Image Three

A large, vibrant cedar leaf on a background of grass, stones, sticks, leaves, and flowers.

This picture represents the ideal depiction of Indigenous people in the media. The stones and sticks, which still represent negative and stereotypical representations, are still present, but they are randomly scattered and not bordering the cedar leaf. This represents that while these depictions are there, they are only part of the larger story. The leaves scattered around the cedar without overshadowing represent how non-Indigenous and Indigenous stories deserve equal representation in the media. The cedar leaf is thriving because Indigenous culture is being accurately and fully represented. Finally, the whole image itself is more vibrant than the other two images. This represents the fact that everyone benefits from accurate media representation because it can help create connections, understanding, and respect across cultures.

Week 2: Mind Map

Response to Family, Community, healing documentaries:

“Family, Community, Healing: Documentaries Highlight Personal Journeys in First Nations. CBC Radio.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 29 July 2020, www.cbc.ca/radio/unreserved/family-community-healing-documentarieshighlight-personal-journeys-in-first-nations-1.5378549.

“Kashechewan Chief Ordained as Anglican Priest-'I Think It's Still the Same Job." CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 18 Nov. 2019, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sudbury/kashechewan-chief-ordained-anglican-priest-1.5357974.

Mind Map


I chose to do a mind map doodle in response to the Unreserved documentary feature on Paul Wesley, using an online sketchpad: sketch.io/sketchpad/

The two hearts by the Kashechewan sign represent Leo Friday and Paul Wesley – the two men featured in the podcast. The doodle shows how both men have made a full circle journey. It follows their different experiences with the church and how they came to help others in their community.

Paul’s path goes towards a figure separated from the church by a crack, with a quote from him below. This shows how people, not the church, are to blame for his suffering. The Bible with “twisted words”, the drawing of residential schools, and the words representing the negative impact show how religion can be misused. The path leads to Paul’s survivor camp, where he reintroduces survivors to Indigenous culture. His path leads back to Kashechewan, where he uses his experience to help others.

Leo’s path heads to the church. The Bible has positive aspects written beside it, indicating that religion can have a positive impact when used for good. This path also connects to doodles representing Indigenous worldviews and traditional knowledge. Leo’s path connects to both of these things, and shows the positive things that are shared by Indigenous worldviews and the church, as well as quotes from Leo about how he found his way to becoming a Chief Priest. His path also leads back to Kashechewan, where he uses his experience to help others.

Week 3: Inukshuk

Response to Senator Murray Sinclair: “The Truth is Hard but Reconciliation is Harder”

Sinclair, Murray. “The Truth is Hard but Reconciliation is Harder.” CCPC.  27 October, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxtH_E6FqVo


I chose to make an inuksuk in response to Murray Sinclair’s talk: The Truth is Hard but Reconciliation is Harder.

The base of the rock says RECONCILIATION. The first step in the process is deciding that this is a goal.

The rock above it says HISTORY. Reconciliation cannot move forward if Canada does not acknowledge the history of colonialism, residential schools, and injustices against Indigenous people.

The next rock is painted with words representing some of the negative social issues that affect Indigenous people today. These are a direct result of the intergenerational impact of colonization and residential schools, and need to be addressed in order for reconciliation to occur. The words on the rock are: MMIW, Health, Housing, Poverty, Racism, Trauma, CFS, and Prison.

The next rock says SORRY. It represents apologizing and taking responsibly for past wrongs – an essential part of reconciliation.

The next rock depicts a medicine wheel and positive words associated with reconciliation – LANGUAGE, LAND, CULTURE, UNDERSTANDING, RESPONSIBILITY, and EDUCATION. Reconciliation needs to involve the promotion and protection of Indigenous language, land, and culture. Education is a key tool for all Canadians, as well as an area where reconciliation can be incorporated quite extensively. Finally, reconciliation must involve respect and understanding from both parties.

The top rock says FUTURE. It indicates the positive future Canada can have if we make reconciliation an important goal and put time and effort into it.  

Week 4 (A): Crossword Puzzle

Response to A history of Indigenous languages and how to revitalize them:

Morcom, Lindsay. “A History of Indigenous Languages -- and How to Revitalize Them.” TED, Feb. 2019, www.ted.com/talks/lindsay_morcom_a_history_of_indigenous_languages_and_how_to_revitalize_them#t-103694.

This week I chose to create a crossword in response to the Ted Talk about Indigenous Language Revitalization. I took facts that I found interesting about Indigenous languages in Canada and some of the talk’s main points to create clues. I also chose to include two clues with answers in Cree in Ojibwe, because I believe that a crucial part of language revitalization is making Indigenous languages more visible in our everyday lives. This is a type of activity that could be used in a classroom to help students gain a better understanding of Indigenous issues.

Indigenous Language Revitalization

Week 4 (B): Cree Language Flash Cards

Response to A history of Indigenous languages and how to revitalize them:

Morcom, Lindsay. “A History of Indigenous Languages -- and How to Revitalize Them.” TED, Feb. 2019, www.ted.com/talks/lindsay_morcom_a_history_of_indigenous_languages_and_how_to_revitalize_them#t-103694.

Indigenous Languages Flashcards

Inspired by the discussion of Indigenous language revitalization, I chose to make flashcards that show people how to count to ten in Cree. My mother is Cree, but like many Indigenous people in Canada, she is unable to speak her own language fluently. She needed to leave her community in order to pursue education past grade eight, and was never able to add to the few phrases she had learned in childhood. For example, when I asked her how to count to ten in Cree, she told me she only remembered up to the number five. As a result her missing out on language learning, my siblings and I have also never learned to speak Cree. Indigenous language courses are limited and not easy to access, especially for free or at a low cost. I think it’s unfair that Indigenous people like myself and my family have to pay for the language deficits cause by Canada’s history, and hope that in the future Indigenous language courses become more readily available. In the meantime, things like home-made flash cards, YouTube tutorials, and lessons with Cree speaking relatives can help fill in the gap. I plan on using these cards to practice Cree myself, and to teach my niece as well. These flash cards are something that could easily be incorporated into the education setting, which is a key area for Indigenous language revitalization.

Crossword Solution:

Crossword Solution


October 05, 2020

The Bildungsroman and Robert Thomas Byrnes
By Marina Lee Koslock


marina lee koslock is a producer, journalist and audio artist based in winnipeg. she has a masters degree from new york university in literary reportage, with a specialty in audio documentary, narrative nonfiction and journalism. marina has worked both in the journalism and publishing departments at nyu, and outside the academy, she has worked for vice media, radiotopia, and the cbc. she is currently working on a middle years novel about lineage and magic, and a memoir on lost family histories. 

At the top of the hour, and not a moment sooner, Dr. Byrnes would whirl into the classroom, snow covering the shoulders of his trenchcoat, his black leather gloves starkly contrasting his impeccably white New Balance runners. As he hoisted his briefcase up on the table beside the podium, he took his place at the top of the room. This ritual, which began our lectures, would be finished with him stamping his hands on the wood, looking out into the room of young rhetoricians, and saying “OK TEAM”, before delving into the day’s readings of Wolfe, Didion, Baeurlein, or Paglia.

We had begun discussing the hero’s journey, or the bildungsroman, in detail: the call to adventure, meeting a threshold, going through transformation, the death and rebirth, and returning to the wasteland. Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, Byrnes would say, we are in it, and in completing the journey, one is able to transcend into the hero role, and then become the elder, as the next generation embarks on their journeys.

I carried this model with me from the classroom into my real life experiences, as I graduated out of Dr. Byrnes’ classes and the Rhetoric Department, leaving Winnipeg for Toronto, beginning my own mythic quest.

Dr. Byrnes and I exchanged ideas on new journalism practices and mythology over the phone and email, and the occasional office hours when I would come home to visit. Challenging me and imploring me to go further within, he would hold up mirrors in our conversations to show me new realities in the mental, physical and ethereal.

“It’s wonderful,” he said (as we looked at grad schools for me to apply to) “to start a new life at your young age. Indeed, Dante did it at 33, then wrote the Divine Comedy, which begins in the middle of the path of our life...” After considering UCLA, Byrnes’ alma mater, as well as grad schools across Canada, I decided to apply to NYU for an MA in Journalism.

Before I left for New York City, Byrnes emphasized how important it was for me to come out of the program with some kind of intellectual identity that would energize my work, one that would set me apart from my peers, asserting that, as in the mythic quest, I had been through the tribulations, experienced the transformation, and that my life was my own. Too often, he explained, graduate students memorize and absorb critical theories, but forget to synthesize them in their lives. This was absolutely fundamental in forming my own personality and writing style, and thus truly stepping into my own selfhood. The point, he explained, was to come out of the program an entirely different person. He would always end these conversations reminding me that I was having too much fun, and that if he didn’t love his job so much, he would be jealous. Our conversations, whether weeks or months apart, would pick up where they left off, and again, we would discuss Paglia’s Sex, Art and American Culture, and he would tell me that by the sound of my voice, I was on the right path.

After I had published my first byline in New York, his response to my piece made me weep. “I’ve known you for years now,” he began. “It’s clear that you will soon be turned loose on a defenceless public, with all the power and finery of your training, your intuition and your strong voice… this is a happy day.” He celebrated all of my wins with me as if he were there beside me, reminding me that I was at the vectors of the Force, the Cosmic Suspiration Tones, and Destiny, all waiting for me to ask them for what I needed as I touched pen to paper.

“I saw the mystic moment when they conferred the Magistral degree upon you, and your story changed forever,” he wrote to me, after he had watched me cross the stage at NYU. “I’ve been delighted to witness your trajectory over the past several years, and I hope you’ll send me an update whenever you set the city on fire. What an adventure, to go to New York, and take on a new life. This way went Joan Didion, and now you!” This was the highest compliment that he could give me, for his admiration of Didion was paralleled only by the admiration he had for his students and their dreams. I had, as Estes had written in Women Who Run with the Wolves, found the wild woman, buried in my psyche, and created a whole life that was my own. It would have been challenging to find the mythical aspects of it had I not come in contact in my younger years with this mystical man.

When I found out about the passing of Dr. Robert Thomas Byrnes, it was an idle Tuesday evening. I was with my family and I received a short message from one of my peers from the department, “assuming you already heard”, with the obituary. I had not. I sat back against the seat of the car, exhaling, and then said out loud, to make it truth, “Dr. Byrnes is dead”.

I know that the world still lies all before me, as Byrnes had told me, and yet I cannot yet comprehend that I will not be able to talk to him. That every milestone in my life, regularly bookmarked with conversations with him, will be tinged with sadness that he is not there to hear about it. This is a monumental loss to the rhetoric department, and to our community. I will miss Bob Byrnes every day for the rest of my life.

September 28, 2020

Reshaping Our Narratives During a Global Pandemic
By Cassidy Rempel

Cassidy Rempel is in her fourth and final year of studying Rhetoric, Writing and Communications at The University of Winnipeg. Alongside studying, she works as a writing tutor and writes articles for a fashion company. This piece focuses on collective and individual narratives of those living through COVID-19, and it is intended to get people to think about the ways that the pandemic is affecting their stories.

In the midst of September 2020, it is strange to think back to a time when COVID-19 wasn’t narrating our lives. People were free to go to work and school, to gather with friends and family and to go out in public without wearing masks and carrying around multiple bottles of hand sanitizer. Because of the sudden presence of COVID-19, many people faced serious changes to their daily routines. Some people could no longer work, and those who could had to do so remotely. In the evenings, people were unable to go shopping, go out to eat, or go out with friends. This abrupt change to people’s schedules resulted in feelings of stress and anxiety to many individuals. This anxiety could partly be because of how much presence a capitalism narrative holds in our lives. People revolve their daily tasks around their work schedules, and rely on their work to give their life a purpose. After work, people often go out and practice consumerist habits. Without the ritual of making and spending money, people had no structure in their lives.

In their article, “Stakeholder Capitalism” (2007), Freeman, Martin, and Parmar define four different narratives of capitalism. The authors note that a similarity in each sub-narrative is that the capitalism narrative is built off “competition rather than cooperation” (2007, p. 308). This argument, in the light of the pandemic, was especially clear during the beginning stages when people were hoarding household necessities such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and baking needs. Through this capitalism narrative that most people unknowingly exist in, people were quick to compete against each other, hoarding supplies until stores ran out of common products and had to create signs in order to limit the amount of products that customers could purchase. This is an extreme example of what Freeman, Martin and Parmar (2007) mean when they say that the capitalism narrative has “winners, losers, and limited resources” (310). In this case, the winners were the people who had the most supplies—not the people who had enough supplies, but whoever had the most.

This ‘winner versus loser’ mentality was duplicated in some of the metaphors in the media regarding COVID-19. Specifically, the media used game metaphors that introduce an element of competition that segregates the public. As Dworkin (2020) accurately predicted in his article for The American Interest, once the economy opens, some people will “purposely ignore social distancing to test their luck” (“The power of explanation” section, para. 4). Dworkin (2020) says these people “have a passion for gambling . . . [and] deliberately search out games of chance” (“The power of explanation” section, para. 4). In fact, the metaphor of COVID-19 being a game is quite common. People have referred to the virus as a football team: “Just one person can let the whole 11-strong team down” (Nerlich, 2020, “Metaphors to explain what to do about the virus: Football” section), or as a game of whack-a-mole “supressing [COVID-19] until a vaccine can be produced” (Nerlich, 2020, “Metaphors to explain what to do about the virus: Playing whack-a-mole” section). With a combination of the capitalism narrative and game metaphors to describe COVID-19, we are creating a message that says the people who are able to increase their profit during the pandemic while not adhering to social distancing practices are winners. This is a dangerous message, not only because it places greater importance on the wellbeing of the economy than on individuals, but it also creates a narrative where society cannot win against COVID-19.

In his socio-narrative, Letting Stories Breathe (2010), Frank argues that a story based around fear is also a story based around desire because the two are “complementary aspects for a single whole, because each mirrors the other, albeit at a distance” (82). So while fear is an obvious feeling during the pandemic, it is important to try to desire something achievable. Using metaphors that suggest that the public is playing a game against COVID-19 is not necessarily a bad metaphor; however, it suggests that our desire is to beat COVID-19 at this game. As mentioned above, though, if we understand success through economic gain, as the capitalism narrative does, we cannot win. In her article, Sharfuddin (2020) says that “the overall impact of the pandemic on world economy is gloomy to say the least. . . . [and that the] overall global GDP is estimated to fall between 2.4 to 2.8% in 2020” (248). If we continue living through this capitalism narrative, COVID-19 will beat us at any game we play because even once obsolete, it will have drastically hurt the economy. Therefore, the success of our economy post COVID-19 should not be our desired victory, because if it is, we have already lost.

Finally, it is important to remember that although COVID-19 is affecting the entire world, it affects everyone on an individual level. Frank (2010) says that individuals’ personal stories are made up of a series of events. Whether or not we like it, COVID-19 is one of the events that will shape all of our stories. Like Sharfuddin (2020) says, “no one will come out of this crisis without losing something” (248). It is, however, up to us what kind of narrative we position ourselves in during the pandemic; it is up to us whether we let this pandemic strip away our freedom, seeing ourselves as victims to an unfair fate, or whether we re-define what brings meaning into our lives outside of work and consumerist habits.


Dworkin, R. W. (2020, May 22). To beat COVID-19, science needs the humanities. The American Interest. https://www.the-american-interest.com/2020/05/22/to-beat-covid-19-science-needs-the-humanities/

Frank, A. W. (2010) Letting stories breathe: A socio-narratology. The University of Chicago Press.

Freeman, R. E., Martin, K., & Parmar, B. (2007). Stakeholder capitalism. Journal of Business Ethics74(4), 303–314.

Nerlich, Brigitte. (2020, March 17). Metaphors in the time or coronavirus. University of Nottingham. https://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/makingsciencepublic/2020/03/17/metaphors-in-the-time-of-coronavirus/

Sharfuddin, S. (2020). The world after covid-19. The Round Table109(3), 247–257.  https://doi.org/10.1080/00358533.2020.1760498

September 14, 2020

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Understanding Pro-State Media Biases in Minneapolis Riot Reporting
By Lily O’Donnell


Lily O'Donnell is currently in her fourth and final year at the University of Winnipeg. She is almost done completing her degree in Rhetoric and Communications with a minor in Indigenous Studies. She is originally from St. Paul, MN, but is enjoying the Canadian life. She enjoys writing creative non-fiction and academic work discussing the importance of community, with an emphasis on community building through DIY music genres and spaces.

George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers on 38th and Chicago in front of the Cup Foods Grocery Store in South Minneapolis on May 25th, 2020. The next night, Minneapolis was on flames. The city was angry. Police retaliated with tear gas and rubber bullets. A war began. The next night, protests followed in many American cities like Denver, Los Angeles, and Memphis. Later, protests followed in all 50 states and at least forty countries.[1] On May 28th, after a long ensuing battle between protestors and cops in full riot gear, the Minneapolis third precinct was burned to the ground. There was mass destruction. People were yelling and pleading for justice, for equity, for accountability. The chant, “No Justice, No Peace, Prosecute the Police” rattled within the crowd's bones. Across America, governors, mayors and other public officials went on live television pleading for people to “Go Home.” Local governments called the National Guard, threatened Martial Law, and most major cities enacted forced curfews. Amidst a devastating pandemic, and rising unemployment, this seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of American white supremacy, classism, and widespread oppression.

I am a native Minnesotan. My family lives about five miles from where George Floyd was killed. Due to the coronavirus, Canada has closed the U.S. border. So, I have been in Winnipeg since March. I was at a friend’s house the first night of the riots. I went home late in the night, checked social media, and watched the city on fire. I saw the places I used to frequent on fire. My hometown no longer looked like my hometown. I sat up that night until 4am on the phone with my Mom watching Facebook livestreams of people on the ground reporting what was happening. I watched two streams and she watched two other streams. We were constantly telling each other which one had the best footage at that moment. My mom said from her home she could hear constant helicopters. After the Facebook livestreams stopped for the night, my best friend called me. Her husband had gone out to riot and never came back. I was up until seven in the morning that first night of rioting.

The next morning, I woke up and my sister and I sat on our couch in Winnipeg and we watched four different Facebook livestreams on all our different screens. We were constantly on the phone, on our laptops, streaming things to the television. We were talking to our friends, to our mom, dad, and younger sister. Our little apartment had become a newsroom. We didn’t need coffee or food. Our jaws were clenched and our stomachs upturned watching our city begin a revolution. This is what the next six days of our lives were like, as we watched Atlanta follow, then Los Angeles, New York, etc.

It quickly became obvious that the mainstream media was not giving us the information we needed. Initially, the best way to receive footage was through our friends and friends of friends. Facebook livestreams were the only true way to get information. I watched my friends film themselves in Target parking lots while they were in stand offs with the police. I watched as they filmed cars driving into our local restaurants and whispered “Oh shit… oh shit” into the camera. My own mom had taken a livestream where she filmed and ran as tear gas was thrown in her direction. “I think I’m going home now, Lil!” she laughed into the camera knowing I was glued to the tv watching her livestream. I told everyone I knew to film, film, film. The only way I could tell what was happening was through their footage.

While I sat at home in Winnipeg, I forgot where I even was. My brain was so deeply enmeshed in watching. I became an expert in the best livestreams. I was sent livestreams of friends of friends, people like me who had now become the main reporters on a revolution. They were suddenly getting tens of thousands of views. They became the main voices of what was happening. The importance of everyday Minnesotans who just showed up with a charged phone can not be overstated.

The major news platforms brushed over the situation and our local smaller news stations like KTSP, WCCO, and others completely failed us. My sister and I watched horrified, as we saw our local, familiar anchors watch the on-the-ground reporter at the riots. The reporter would be in a blue plaid button up and khakis while those around him were wearing all black, with bandanas. The reporters looked uneasy and lost. We watched on multiple occasions as the reporters were threatened by police and protestors had to tell reporters where they could go safely. We watched the live footage of reporters being undoubtedly terrified and spoke openly about the solidarity and kindness of the protestors around him. Then the anchors would take the information and we watched as they twisted the story.

The anchors would take the terrifying accounts from the live on-the-ground coverage and say things like, “Looks like the police are doing a great job there!” or “Glad the police are there to keep everyone safe!” My sister and I would look at each other in shock. Were those anchors watching what I was watching? The mainstream news media showed its state-based biases in the ugliest forms during the riots. This shouldn’t be so surprising as mainstream media and police ties are notorious in the Twin Cities. Minneapolis Police Federation President and head of the Minneapolis Police Union, Bob Kroll is married to WCCO anchor Liz Collins.[2] This is an obvious conflict of interest and has led to much controversy as Collins has reported on many police investigations and police enquiry stories, yet her affiliation to Minneapolis Police Department is often overlooked, or hidden by WCCO. WCCO’s obvious police ties even led to protests outside the boarded up WCCO station early this June.[3] We cannot trust the media to accurately report on police matters when their biases are obvious. This ends up being dangerous. It’s dangerous for victims of police brutality, it’s dangerous for protestors, and it’s dangerous for those who want accurate reporting. To continue to hide police and anchor ties in the media means hiding the obvious barriers to accurate reporting. Local newspapers, local and public radio, social media livestreams and independent news media sources worked to do all the real reporting the main media outlets try to skew.

Local radio, newspapers, and one small independent news outlet, Unicorn Riot, did the main work on educating and portraying what was going on, and what the goals of the riots were. Where mainstream media focused on pro-state, pro-government responses, quoting Gov. Tim Waltz and heralding the words of Mayor Jacob Frey, other media stayed well connected to the voices of the insurgency. It’s these voices we need to lean on in times of crisis to voice the concerns of the masses and provide holistic solutions and work to stabilize and enhance community. Where the mainstream media was gaslighting and divisive, smaller news outlets were empathetic and revolutionary.

Adequate reporting is crucial. For me, in my comfy home in Winnipeg, the reporting was not as crucial as it was to my friends and family at home. Every night, most of the Central Twin Cities locked up at the 8pm curfew and sat at home. My parents sat at home, had the radio blasting, Unicorn Riot playing on the television, and the local news muted with aerial footage also on the television. All they could hear were constant sirens and helicopters. Through the riots, it became clear where we traditionally sought news coverage would no longer do. The narrative being promoted by mainstream news favoured police and military presence. It reduced protestors to looters, rioters. The message of the riots was lost over the blaring noise of pro-cop propaganda. If we wanted honest and in-depth understanding of what was going, the Twin Cities would have to do the reporting itself.

What the mainstream news media failed to cover were the street medics of colour and their essential nature to people being hurt en masse by rubber bullets being shot point blank by police.[4] The mainstream news media failed to discuss how inner city neighborhoods where the riots were taking place were suddenly without access to food or medication, due to the looting and burning of all the major grocery stores.[5] The solution to that was mass community outreach. Community groups fundraised and gathered mass amounts of foods and care packages so families could make it through the night.[6] The Sheraton Hotel near Lake Street became a safe haven for homeless people experiencing displacement during the riots.[7] In North Minneapolis, the “roughest” area of the Twin Cities, became a site for mass burnings and looting. So, local community groups went around all night with fire extinguishers from their homes to put out fires and stop people from perpetuating violence, as all the police and firemen were concentrated in South Minneapolis.[8] Minneapolis became autonomous. Community stepped up and cared for each other. Every morning, all of the twin cities went to the places where the riots had ensued the night before and swept the broken glass, painted murals over violent graffiti, and checked in on one another.[9] Mainstream media brushed over the impact and importance of community in the Minneapolis Uprising. I also don’t believe the Minneapolis Uprising is over, and I want viewers to recognize what narratives are being favoured. People live in Minneapolis. People live where the riots happened. People came together, supported the cause, helped each other and through this, through community, they changed the world.

The real fight against police brutality is an integrated fight against white supremacy, oligarchical government structures and a history of colonial corruption. People are sick of seeing state sanctioned murders on American streets. Mainstream media sources paint the picture that riots are disrupting the peace and police are there to protect. This is not true. When you see this dichotomy in reporting, question it. The truth is that America is dealing with a fight against corruption, equity, accountability, and a fight for new pathways of autonomy. The real situations in Minneapolis and other cities will tell a story of mutual aid and people working together to provide services the state has been neglecting. In mid-June, Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to defund the police. This has led to a new war cry for defunding and abolition of police forces across America and the world, including within our own Winnipeg community. As Police Defunding movements start gaining more traction and communities work more to rise up, pay attention to who you're listening to and the story they’re promoting. The key to defunding and the key to effective organizing is autonomy. Mainstream news media platforms that work to provide false, state backed narratives are just as violent and should be held accountable as much as police services.

As protests continue to break out in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the next city, watch how the mainstream media reports. To those on the ground, they know and understand that the police will start attacking, and the media will praise them for protecting. Please watch for this, and when you see it, turn off the television, and turn on local radio, find an online local paper. Question and educate yourself on the affiliations and biases within the media your watching. These affiliations and skewed narratives can be deadly and continue to perpetuate anti-community oppressive agendas.

[1] Vanessa Taylor, “Street Medics of Color Are Keeping Minneapolis Protesters Safe,” Teen Vogue, July 8, 2020, https://www.teenvogue.com/story/minneapolis-protests-street-medics-of-color

[2] BringMeTheNews, “Protest held at WCCO over anchor's marriage to Bob Kroll”, Bring Me The News, June 3 2020, https://bringmethenews.com/minnesota-news/protest-held-at-wcco-over-anchors-marriage-to-bob-kroll

[3] Ibid.

[4] Taylor, “Street Medics of Color.”

[5] John Ewoldt, “Minneapolis Neighborhoods Face Food Desert after Looting Closes Multiple Stores,” Star Tribune (Star Tribune, June 2, 2020), https://www.startribune.com/minneapolis-longfellow-neighborhood-almost-food-desert-after-riots/570928442/

[6] Jessie Van Berkel, “Need Help? Want to Help? Twin Cities Groups Offer Resources for Folks Hurt by Riots,” Star Tribune (Star Tribune, June 8, 2020), https://www.startribune.com/need-help-want-to-help-twin-cities-groups-offer-resources-for-folks-hurt-by-riots/570894392/

[7] Lauren Gurley, “200 Homeless Residents of Minneapolis Have Taken Over a Sheraton Hotel,” 200 Homeless Residents of Minneapolis Have Taken Over a Sheraton Hotel, June 3, 2020, https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/jgxm84/200-homeless-residents-of-minneapolis-have-taken-over-a-sheraton-hotel

[8] Jared Goyette, “Citizen Patrols Organize across Minneapolis as Confidence in the Police Force Plummets,” The Washington Post (WP Company, June 7, 2020), https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/citizen-patrols-make-statement-in-minneapolis/2020/06/06/cc1844d4-a78c-11ea-b473-04905b1af82b_story.html

[9] Lucien Formichella, “Minneapolis Volunteers Clean up Streets after Floyd Protests,” News | Al Jazeera, June 1, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/06/minneapolis-volunteers-clean-streets-floyd-protests-200601193014397.html

August 31, 2020

Learning amidst a Pandemic
By Valerie Chelangat

As a student who returned to the University of Winnipeg for a second degree, I feel that I have been given a second chance. I did okay when I pursued my Bachelor of Business Administration degree but it was never truly my passion. At the time, it felt like the more reasonable program to take to be employable (don’t ask me where I got that!). Last year I took a break from employment to focus on being a fulltime student. Perhaps it’s the knowledge that I sacrificed so much to follow my passion or maybe it’s about being more mature, I’m not sure but I am hungrier than ever before to learn. I love to research, read and talk about female empowerment. I wrote the piece on Menstruation because it is a cause that is close to my heart. In the patriarchal society will live in, being a woman is expensive and at times a source of limitation. I would like to see change. I want every woman to have easy access to high quality menstruation products without financial set back. I also want to see the stigma surrounding menstruation eliminated. I decided to also share my Covid-19 pandemic experience because every student faced this challenge. Sharing is one way of showing fellow students that we are in this together and there are ways to cope and to come out strong.

I am versatile and highly introverted. At the onset of the pandemic when many students seemed extremely concerned that classes might have to be moved online, I was only worried about two things. One, was (and still is) the possibility of infection. The idea of studying at home and attending zoom/pre-recorded video lectures was more than welcome. My second concern was the ease of slipping into a non-academic mind-set and losing my focus. In an effort to stay motivated I mapped out a routine in my Bullet Journal early into the university’s shift to a 'distant-learning' model and vowed to stick to it. It was not always easy to wake up at 8am even though my online class did not start until 10am. Since I did not have to shower, prepare snacks and lunch before starting my trek to school it often felt laughable that I put that much pressure on myself. In fact, occasionally some friends called it strange or odd but I know myself which is why I stuck to it regardless. I suppose I could have just rolled out of bed five minutes before class and it would have been just fine. But if I got too comfortable I would have struggled to study which might have affected my grades which was not an option. Sticking to a routine ensured that I remained in the zone. During those two hours I would shower, have some breakfast and then revisit the previous lecture notes because, memory.

As the winter term came to an end, the lectures were replaced by an incredible mountain of final research essays, most of which were due within days of each other. The routine that thank heavens I had managed to make a habit of, became my saving grace. By this time my energy was fizzling out. In addition to those conflicting final paper deadlines, I was now searching for a spring-summer job. My brain felt like it was in a constant spin much like Dom Cobb’s totem in Inception.

Asking questions from lecturers during the winter term had proved challenging for me. It was no longer simply a matter of coming to class early, staying behind after the lecture or walking to their office during office hours. I relied heavily on emails-emails that sometimes complicated the questions I was trying to ask.

In the spring I took two classes. By this time we were all beginning to accept the new state of things. One of my lecturers had a brilliant idea to have zoom office hours once a week. She would schedule the meeting and send a link to the class's email list. If a student had questions or needed to discuss, they would simply log in to the meeting and await their turn with the lecturer in the waiting room. That for me was a much needed solution. It was so easy to pop in for a five minute chat to clarify an assignment or ask a question I did not get a chance to bring up in class (or had not thought about until later).

Although 2020 proved to be a year so different from any school year before, it was not unbearable. It was a challenge that required flexibility and a positive attitude. While I hope that we are approaching the end of this insanity, I can confidently say that I am a better, stronger and more resilient person for this experience. I would like to think that my fellow Rhetoric students would agree with me, we are strengthened by the challenges we conquer. And so I walk into the fall term ready for whatever else 2020 has in its back pocket.

Menstrual Stigma: Understanding Gender Inequality as a Product of Patriarchy
By Valerie Chelangat

Patriarchy is not the only cause of gender inequality but in the context of menstruation, it is the main contributor. I refer to the shame and secrecy associated with the natural occurrences in the female body as menstrual stigma. It is experienced on a general level in society. It impacts all sexes. Females remain on edge as they preserve their ‘secret’, being cautious to avoid too much attention to their menstrual experiences. Males look the other way acting as though menstruation does not exist. Our patriarchal society diminishes the power of women by propagating stigma thus reinforcing patriarchy.

Menstrual stigma is embedded so deeply in our society that few are able to recognize the phallocentric society that propels it. Some examples of how stigma is enabled by phallocentrism include: the extent to which females go to hide their hygiene products, the fact that most buildings have the same size of bathrooms for men and women yet women require more time in the facilities, and the separation of boys and girls in classrooms for girls to learn about menstruation.

Patriarchy reinforces gender inequality by silencing this significant issue experienced by about half of the population. A ripple effect is created whereby women have little say over the manufacturing of products that only they use. Menstrual stigma encourages women to silently use the limited and costly sanitary products available. It leads men to fail to see that there is a problem. Therefore, little research is done on the raw materials that go into these products. Women are left to use products that may contain chemicals which could cause them harm. The environment also suffers because little effort is made to ensure that the materials in menstrual products are biodegradable.

This essay will look into the rhetorics of patriarchy in our society. My goal is to shed light on how phallocentric discourse reinforces gender inequality, menstrual stigma and indifference to our climate change problem. I will mostly use Michel Foucault’s Discourse theory and Nancy Fraser’s Feminism theory to build an analysis and produce an ideological critique of patriarchal rhetoric in today’s society.

A masters thesis written by Kathryn M. Lese titled “Padded Assumptions: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Patriarchal Menstruation Discourse” examines how menstruation discourse in public empowers or disempowers the female body. The author begins with a narrative about Instagram’s censorship of a menstruation project shared on the platform. It caused women to question what about menstruation is appropriate (or not) to discuss in public, and who makes those rules. By expurgating the user’s menstruation content, Instagram participates in the hegemonic discourse that silences women and creates shame. Lese argues that part of the problem is in the framing of menstruation as a medical problem (of the female body) needing management. The framing encourages communication to focus on managing this biological problem. It encourages shame which serves to silence those who experience menstruation (IV).

Lese contends that feminine issues are not discussed in male-dominated spaces. If these discussions are held, they are done quietly or through humour.  She gives an example of men joking about premenstrual symptoms and menstrual hygiene products (4). Lese’s argument reminds me of a commercial by Kortex which portrays a young woman walking to various places with tampons falling out of her backpack. The camera moves around to show groups of men pointing at her and laughing. Other females in the commercial quickly pick up the tampons and hand them back to her. Our phallocentric society normalizes men’s ridiculing of the idea of menstruating and encourages women to feel embarrassed at being discovered when on their menstrual cycle. Lese says that because menstruation talk is unwelcomed in masculine spaces it leads to discomfort in discussing it in dominant discourse.  

When women cry or express anger on television shows, movies and commercials, they are dismissed by the conclusion that they must be menstruating. This depiction suggests that women are irrational, unstable and unable to control themselves. Lese explains that birth control products are promoted as a method to enable women to control their bodies. She argues that in using birth control women support the dominant ideology, concealing the nature of the female body and causing it to perform in ways acceptable to patriarchy (17-18).

An interesting point that Lese raises is in the terms used to describe these products i.e. “sanitary” products or “feminine hygiene” products (19). These terms suggest that menstruation is dirty or filthy. There is also a level of vagueness in these terms because they are not specific as to what exactly fall under the category of feminine hygiene products. Do they include shower gels, deodorants and body mists? Or are they simply tampons and pads? What is unsanitary that these products help to clean? Lese writes that this language creates an avenue for manufacturers to market their products as solutions to the problem of filth. She discusses the promotion of products she deems unnecessary, that promise to improve the cleanliness of the vaginal area. Through all of this, society shapes the perception of what a clean female body is and how women should attain it.

Menstrual product commercials reinforce phallocentric discourse through the rhetoric of discreetness. The advert by Kortex mentioned above promotes resealable tampon bags promising to give users peace of mind as their tampons will not fall out to embarrass them. Another commercial boasts about their colourful and fun individual packaging assuring viewers that no one will know those are pads. A different tampon company emphasizes the compact size of their packaging that ensures no one knows a user is carrying one. Another example is that of television commercials opting to use blue dye instead of the more realistic red to test their products’ ability to absorb blood. Women rarely question any of these. In fact, we purchase the tampons that will easily be tucked into minute spaces. We also buy the colourful products that no one will know are pads. I am certain that we too would be made uncomfortable if commercials used red dye. A test commercial on YouTube that uses red dye to gauge the reaction of viewers is a case in point. Although a few women comment positively appreciating the realistic imagery finally being present, many argue that the bloodlike colour makes them uneasy. This is evidence that we are interpellated to reinforce ideological hegemony. By socializing women to keep menstruation private and avoid embarrassment, these marketing campaigns encourage women to purchase products that will ensure the comfort of men.

A quick search on Google for the definition of menstruation brought about various results. What struck me however was that “the curse” was one of the synonyms listed in a number of sources including the Oxford Online Dictionary and the Smart Lookup feature on Microsoft Word. Lese carried out a critical discourse analysis of the media’s response to Instagram’s censorship of the menstrual photograph. She identified that most media outlets used euphemisms in their publications in place of menstruation. The term “period” although now normalized, is also a euphemism, as Lese points out (41). The avoidance of directly using the word menstruation demonstrates a deep societal discomfort around the subject. It is a clear sign of the shame associated with it.

Michel Foucault’s discourse theory provides language through which meaning is formed. He argues that no real meaning is formed outside of discourse. Discourse produces knowledge through language. It influences how ideas are put into practice. It is the means through which power operates (Smart, 69). Foucault says that we are reified by power. Educators and medical professionals who produce menstrual knowledge and prepare educational material determine the framing of menstruation within the dominant patriarchal context. Because they hold the power, women are subjectified as clean or unclean and thus the need for discreet corrective measures.

Foucault uses Jeremy Bentham’s idea of the panopticon to explain how in society we self-regulate as if we are being watched. The panopticon is a building designed in a way that a single guard sits in a tower at the centre and is able to see every cell in the circular prison. The prisoners cannot see the guard therefore, they must behave as if they are being watched at all times (Smart, 83). Lese argues that the use of “decency language” about menstruation suggests the visibility of menstruation is immoral (61). Foucault uses the panopticon as a metaphor for society as our social prison. The idea of the panopticon encourages self-surveillance thus keeping menstruation from the public eye. Women are reformed into good citizens by accepting to be silenced and shamed on the topic of menstruation. Women follow the established hegemonic attitude towards menstruation by speaking in hushed tones amongst themselves, hiding tampons and pads from sight and by participating in the rhetoric that menstruation is embarrassing and inconveniencing.

Nancy Fraser, the Henry and Louise A. Loeb Professor of Philosophy and Politics at the New School for Social Research, advocates for socialist-feminist theorizing as the best tool for achieving gender justice, by aiming to end both economic and cultural oppression of women (98). She broadens Marxist feminism on the role of capitalism in the oppression of women and incorporates radical feminism theory on gender and patriarchy. Her article “Feminism, Capitalism and the Cunning of History” aims to integrate feminism theorizing with capitalism theorizing in her pursuit for a gender just society (99). In bringing marginalized groups together to support each other in their struggle, feminism efforts are then empowered to work towards a just society. Capitalism participates in the oppression of women as menstrual products are heavily taxed and also priced steeply. Menstrual product expenses are only incurred by women which creates gender inequality. Immigrants are often discriminated against at places of work and they wind up in low paying jobs. The LGBTQ+ community also faces discrimination for stepping out of the dominant ideals on gender and sexuality. In joining forces with these marginalized groups there is a greater possibility to end capitalism and phallocentrism and transform society in the direction of justice.  

Patriarchy enables menstrual stigma which creates gender inequality and gives room for climate decay. The silence around this subject has caused little research on the raw materials used in menstrual products to be carried out. Instagram’s removal of a fully clothed woman from the platform because her image portrayed blood with a caption on the stigma surrounding menstruation is evidence of the discomfort in dominant culture. The rhetoric of menstruation as a medical condition that requires discreet management and the name “sanitary products” and “menstrual hygiene products” portray it as a problem that needs fixing or cleaning. The media’s distasteful humour in suggesting that an emotion woman is showing premenstrual symptoms also create a negative image towards menstruation and the female body.

This rhetoric that has been applied through the years helps to reproduce existing forms of female oppression. Foucault tells us that when we internalize power we self-regulate. On the issue of menstruation, both men and women act in ways that have been established as the norm in hegemonic culture. The reproduction of the feeling of discomfort or embarrassment causes both genders to behave in a certain manner. For example, a man laughing nervously when a tampon falls by his feet or a woman diving in embarrassment to grab and put it back into her pocket in the hopes that no one sees her. We are monitored by the gaze of power which makes us subjects of a particular discourse, in this case phallocentrism.    

The good news is that many women are angry and ready for change. Nancy Fraser has written extensively about feminism. In her book Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto, she and her coauthors rebuke other forms of feminism such as liberal feminism that seeks to rise to the same positions of power as men to oppress the poor and those without voices. Instead she proposes a more inclusive feminism that uphold all women (1-6). There are a number of countries including Scotland that are working towards providing free menstrual products to its women. A ‘period’ pop-up shop was opened in 2016 in New York city for the first time in the world. Commercials are also starting to incorporate men in their advertisements. All these actions are encouraging signs that we are advocating for change. If we can garner together and push past phallocentrism and capitalism towards a just society, then perhaps women will confidently carry a free and environment friendly tampon in their hand and walk into a bathroom without the precursor of a ridiculous line up.

Works Cited

“Faculty.” Nancy Fraser | The New School for Social Researchwww.newschool.edu/nssr/faculty/Nancy-Fraser/

Fraser N. “Feminism, Capitalism and the Cunning of History.” New Left Review, vol. 56, no. 56, 2009, pp. 97–117.

“If Maxi Pad Ads Used Red instead of Blue.” YouTube, uploaded by UCB Comedy, 7 April 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EufLuiy2ANc&feature=youtu.be

Lese, Kathryn, et al. “Padded Assumptions: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Patriarchal Menstruation Discourse.” James Madison University, James Madison University, 2016.

“Missile Moments.” YouTube, uploaded by U by Kortex, 6 February 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jbSdKvixS4&feature=youtu.be

Sharif, Farah Al. “Scotland May Soon Make Pads and Tampons Freely Available in Public Places.” Vox, Vox, 26 Feb. 2020, www.vox.com/2020/2/26/21154743/scotland-menstrual-products-period-poverty.

Smart, Barry. Michel Foucault, Taylor & Francis Group, 2014.

Sveinsdóttir Herdís. “The Role of Menstruation in Women's Objectification: A Questionnaire Study.” Journal of Advanced Nursing, vol. 73, no. 6, 2017, pp. 1390–1402.

“U By Kortex Opens the World’s First Pop-Up Period Shop.” Youtube, uploaded by U by Kortex, 7 February 2020, https://youtube/Hc8nf9Yk84s

August 17, 2020

Looking Back: Canada’s Forgotten Universal Income Experiment and the New Potentials with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit
By Sharee Hochman

Author Photo

My name is Sharee Hochman and I am entering my final semester as a fourth-year student, double majoring in Rhetoric Writing and Communications and Sociology in the Fall. I initially wrote this piece for a non-profit organization called INKspire, an online publication platform for youth. I was drawn to the idea of a Canadian basic universal income after recognizing how financial limitations affect other social issues Canadians experience. The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit and the COVID-19 pandemic encouraged me to highlight these concerns. I have a strong passion for public policy, specifically within the European Union.

In the midst of widespread unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic, systems of basic universal income have gained a new importance. Attention towards a basic universal income lays heavy on Nordic models, specifically Sweden’s and Finland’s. However, a successful (yet forgotten) Canadian basic universal income experiment could provide direction and bring light to new potentials with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

Back in the 1970s a group of economists aimed to address poverty in rural areas. Their research designed a basic universal income system which was named “Mincome”, and was implemented in Dauphin, Manitoba. The program ran for four years, and families in Dauphin were guaranteed a yearly income of $16,000 Canadian dollars. The purpose of the experiment was to see if families who were positioned at or below the poverty line could experience an improved quality of life with a guaranteed basic income. In the course of implementing and executing Mincome, it was considered to be the “most ambitious social science experiment” to have ever taken place in Canada (Cox par. 12). The economists saw successful results indicating an improved quality of life such as low rates of hospitalizations, better mental health and a lower number of students dropping out of high school. Similar to CERB, Mincome came with the concerns of determining if the experiment would help residents of Dauphin or if it would discourage them from joining the workforce.

The experiment abruptly ended because of a series of oil price shocks led to inflation and a fast increase in unemployment rates. The effects of oil price shocks resulted in an increase of participants in Mincome, which the experiment did not anticipate or budget for. The rise of inflation also meant an increase in payments for the already existing participants. Consequently, both the federal and provinchel government decided the experiment was not longer feasible to support and ended the experiment immediately in 1979. Although the Mincome experiment had come to an end, it proposed a potential life changing approach for Canadians. The question would be, could a basic universal income work for Canadians across the country?

Why Isn’t a Universal Income Already in Place?

Critics argue that a basic universal income outside of Mincome would be associated with huge administrative costs. Critics’ main argument is that the idea of a basic universal income is a radically individualistic concept, meaning its unique and distinctive characteristics are too drastic. One drastic characteristic critics are concerned about is how households redistribute their income between members, such as providing payments to individuals with a lower to poor income who live in a well-off household. Critics claim this is an issue in the function of the family rather than the function of the nation. The amount of people who earn a small income who do not live in poor households but receive the basic universal income is a reasoning as to why it would be to expensive to execute.

As mentioned before, the Mincome experiment feared participants would be too discouraged to either join or rejoin the workforce while they received payments. However, employment rates in Dauphin remained the same throughout the four years of the experiment. Too, a new trial in Finland provided around 2,000 unemployed individuals a basic monthly income of 560 euros between 2017 and 2018 and found that this experiment helped more than half of participants find work to become more financially secure. Both of these examples point to the social limitations for individuals, which hinder their ability to become financially stable, rather than becoming strictly dependent on the basic universal income payments. 

Would a Basic Universal Income in Canada Be Possible?

According to the Huffington Post, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Canada to see the most distressed job crisis in 70 years. Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough spoke on the CERB program and its benefits, adding “what we’re going to show through the CERB is that we can actually have a really straightforward income-support system at the federal level″ (Press par.8). Some may add that Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) is sufficient enough to assist individuals in financial aid. However, Qualtrough noted that the government decided to execute CERB because the decades-old employment insurance system was not created to cope with economic shock, and millions of workers who could not qualify for assistance. Qualtrough knew action had to be made and admitted that a basic universal income in Canada can be envisioned as “this could be the impetus to really, radically simplify how people access income support from the federal government” (Press par. 13).

What Would a Basic Universal Income in Canada Do?

It is important to observe current social factors before determining what requirements should be met for a Canadian basic universal income. To begin, the basic necessities for life are water, shelter, food, and medicine. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, it is estimated that at least 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness per year, and a total of 3.4 million Canadians live in poverty. The high poverty rate represents 9.5 per cent of Canada’s population. The unemployment rate before COVID-19 was about 6%, whereas the unemployment rate post COVID-19 rose to 13.7%.

A basic universal income could not only lower unemployment and poverty statistics, but help others thrive. In 2017, it was recorded that over 67% of Canadian university students graduated with some form of financial debt. Not only could university students pay off their debt while entering the workforce, especially in its current state, they could potentially pay for school during their studies and avoid debt and interest rates overall. A basic universal income could also help university students focus more on their studies while in school, as an estimate of 56% of undergraduate students work while studying. Too, one third of working students reported that working while in school had a “negative impact on their academic performance” (Serebrin par. 4). Additionally, 62% of Canadian students drop out of their programs to find work to support their education finances and avoid accumulating debt.

Health would be another area that could benefit from a basic universal income. According to CBC News, a study reported that 968,000 Canadians spared money on basic necessities to pay for prescriptions and medications in 2016. The two most common necessities that were cut back on to afford prescriptions and medications were food and heating. The most affected groups were reported to be individuals without insurance, individuals with a lower income and younger individuals. Indigenous people were twice as likely to report these challenges. The study additionally found that 8.2 percent of Canadians who have been prescribed medication did not fill prescriptions, skipped doses, or did not consume the medication because of financial difficulties. Not only does it mean the patient would continue to be sick without their medications, but they could also stress the healthcare system by having repeated visits to their doctors or an emergency room.

Overall, a handful of social issues limit Canadians’ quality of life, which could be improved with the benefits of a basic universal income. With the benefit individuals who are greatly affected by homelessness, poverty, student debt, unemployment and cost of medication would be more financially able to pay for necessities. Additionally, other individuals who are less effected by those factors could live a greater quality of life in other areas that may affect them, such as using the additional benefit for childcare, transportation, and internet access. The process of creating the requirements for a basic universal income is another detailed discussion of its own. However, as mentioned prior, Qualtrough sees CERB as momentum towards a drastic yet streamlined approach to receiving financial support from the federal government.

Works Cited

“Almost 1 Million Canadians Give up Food, Heat to Afford Prescriptions: Study.” Cbc.Ca, CBC News, 13 Feb. 2019. 

Cavalcanti Guerra, Lenin, and Ken S. Coates. “What Universities Can Do to Keep Students from Dropping Out.” University Affairs, 6 Nov. 2019.

Cox, David. “Canada’s Forgotten Universal Basic Income Experiment.” BBC Worklife, 24 June 2020.

Employment and Social Development Canada. “Canada Reaches Lowest Poverty Rate in History.” 7, Mar. 2019.

Kangas Olli, Jauhiainen Signe, Simanainen Miska, Ylikanno Minna. “The Basic Income Experiment 2017–2018 in Finland. Preliminary results.” Ministry of Social Affairs and Health Finland, 8 Feb. 2019.

Mollins, Carl. “The Stagnant 70s - Canadian Business.” Canadian Business - Your Source For Business News, 4 Aug. 2003. 

Niemietz, Kristian. “The Case against a Universal Basic Income (UBI).” Institute of Economic Affairs, 23 May 2018.

Palermo, Alex. “What Happens When You Can’t Afford to Be a Student?” The Journal, 2 Feb. 2018. 

Plecher, H. “Canada - Unemployment Rate 2021.” Statista, 28 Apr. 2020.

Press, Jordan. “HuffPost Is Now a Part of Verizon Media.” Huffington Post, 26 Mar. 2020. 

Rech, Natalie. “Homelessness in Canada.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 29 Apr. 2019.

Serebrin, Jacob. “More Students Balance School with Jobs.” Macleans.Ca, 25 Jan. 2012.

Staff. “Canada’s Unemployment Rate Reaches Record 13.7%.” Global News, 5 June 2020.

The Canadian Press. “Liberals Look Filling EI Gaps as Some Set to Exhaust CERB Aid, Qualtrough Says.” CP, 23 June 2020.

July 31, 2020

Gendered Algorithms in Spotify Music-Streaming Service
By Sophie Ashton

Sophie Ashton

My name is Sophie Ashton. I wrote this essay for the course Critical Studies of Social Media, taught by Dr. Matthew Flisfeder. I am heading into my fourth and final year of my Rhetoric, Writing and Communications degree at the University of Winnipeg. I spend much of my free time listening to music, and as a member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community the reproduction of dominant ideologies through algorithms within streaming services was of particular interest to me.

The intention of this research is to determine the cultural implications of biased ideologies on marginalized groups that are excluded by the binary oppositions inherent to algorithms. In studying the works of communications, technology and cultural scholars, new insights develop showing precisely how algorithms interact with ideology in contemporary culture, particularly in marginalized communities. In his book, Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life, Adam Greenfield stresses the grave importance of algorithms in contemporary culture; they are coded by binary oppositions and therefore generalize and essentialize people into limiting characterizations. Algorithms both collect and produce the content we consume, including our music interests if we use streaming services such as Spotify. If algorithms collect our data to determine the content a user is provided, they have the ability to reinforce and shape culture and ideology.

Since 2008, the Swedish music streaming service, Spotify, has provided avenue for musicians and listeners alike to engage in a social music experience online (Spotify). As of December 13th, 2019, Spotify had 124 million subscribers, and 271 million monthly users, making it the music industry’s largest source of revenue (Spotify). While the platform offers a free streaming service, they also offer a subscription-based service for users wishing to skip advertisements, download music to their device, and skip songs in playlists (Spotify). The platform has over 50 million tracks, upwards of 4 billion playlists, and more than 700, 000 podcasts available to stream in 79 countries (Spotify).

Spotify and Algorithms

Spotify uses The Echo Nest, a data analysis company which collects and analyzes data about each song’s aural factors such as pitch and tempo to recommend songs that have similar qualities. They also collect data about cultural factors from online discussions about music in blogs and tweets, as well as user generated data like favourites, skips, and ratings to curate playlists to each user’s musical taste (Prey 1090). Echo Nest refers to this data as a ‘Taste Profile’, which, along with non-user-specific information like general song and playlist popularity, curates a ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist for each subscriber every Monday morning (Prey 1091).

While the algorithm itself relies on cultural, and user-specific data for curating content rather than demographic data, algorithms are still mathematical equations, which require binary oppositions to categorize users (Finn 21). Algorithms are created to answer a specific question or questions, which are posed by humans with biases, making the results of the algorithm inherently biased (Finn 25). If the content we consume is decided by biased algorithms, then algorithms are capable of shaping culture and ideology. (Finn 26). Through this process, users become ‘data subjects’, or numerical representations of the self, defining and influencing our self-perception (Prey 1088).

Algorithms and Ideology

Jean Burgess of Queensland University of Technology and Frederik Dhaenens of Ghent University researched LGBTQ-specific Spotify playlists to discern precisely how algorithms both enable and inhibit specific cultural groups, and work to reinforce dominant ideologies. In a study considering thirty-seven LGBTQ+-specific playlists, Burgess and Dhaenens organized their findings using three considerations: (1) the amplification of LGBTQ+ issues, (2) the mediation of identity on algorithm-based platforms, and (3) the simultaneous adherence and resistance in ‘queer’ music-streaming (Burgess and Dhaenens 1193). Within this study, there were multiple factors that constituted ‘queer’ music, including music by artists that are publicly out as queer LGBTQ+, artists who actively seek to subvert heteronormativity, and artists who create music with relatable messages to the LGBTQ+ community (Burgess and Dhaenens 1199).

Within these categories of ‘queer’ music, there are numerous differing manifestations of ‘queerness’ and ‘queer’ culture. Many of the playlists, particularly the ones more closely related to Pride parades, and mainstream popular-culture, are situated at an intersection between identity politics and commodification (Burgess and Dhaenens 1203). These playlists work to reinforce a queer popular culture that is mostly decided by white, gay men, while other playlists with less mainstream artists, particularly artists who are transgender, or people of colour, are underrepresented in the recommendation software (Burgess and Dhaenens 1202). This music is less recommended sometimes because it has a lower stream-count, and music with more streams is recommended before music with less. More significantly, however, songs that are less simple to categorize into binary oppositions, or whose artists are more challenging to categorize are considered “difficult” to recommend to specific data-subjects, and therefore are recommended less (Burgess and Dhaenens 1202).

Maria Eriksson and Dr. Anna Johansson, researchers in communication studies at Umea University, used bots to perform a study on the gendered components of the Spotify algorithm. Particularly, they intended to assess whether those who self-identify as women, receive different recommendations to those who self-identify as men on the platform (Eriksson and Johansson 174). While the research found only marginal evidence that women and men receive different recommendations to one another, they did find that overall, music by men was recommended far more often than music by women to all users. Eriksson and Johansson found that Spotify in a few countries allows users to self-identify as non-binary upon registering for the service. However, the algorithm simply recodes the non-binary-identified users back into binary code, to gather more precise data for advertisers, making the option to not adhere to the gender binary only representational (Eriksson and Johansson 174). within genres.

Shaping Culture: Spotify and Identity

As one of the leading music streaming services, Spotify and its algorithm hold immeasurable power over popular culture, and cultural identity (Burgess and Dhaenens 1196). The interplay between human-defined problems and algorithmic solutions replicates already dominant ideologies that place white, straight, cis-gender men as the standard, with all identities falling outside of these categories as ‘other’ (Finn 18). Although hidden underneath the interfaces we browse every day, we must consider the underlying structures that generate the interface material (Finn 53). Spotify is only one of the many platforms through which we consume content in modern-day communications. All social media platforms use algorithmic technology to curate the content we are exposed to. To understand our culture, we must understand the algorithms on which it relies. To understand the algorithms, we must consider who is asking the questions for the algorithms to answer (Finn 55).

Algorithms, by nature, require binary oppositions to generate answers to the questions posed by programmers. For LGBTQ+ people, women, and people of colour, the this affects their ability to gain recognition on the Spotify platform. Although Spotify has created LGBTQ+ specific playlists, the underlying heteronormative ideologies remain inscribed into the platform’s structure. This could explain why Burgess and Dhaenens found many of the songs in their study were not by people who actually identified as LGBTQ+, but rather, popular artists whose music the algorithm could more easily categorize (Burgess and Dhaenens 1202).


Most of the LGBTQ+ playlists on Spotify reinforce ideologies that oppress people within the community the queer community, disadvantaging people of colour, and gender non-conforming people. Algorithms, which curate our entire social media experience, replicate the ideology of those who program them, making them effective in shaping and defining culture. With over 124 million subscribers and an extremely popular recommendation system, Spotify holds great power in their ability to create a specific reality. Spotify’s algorithm, inherent with gender-biased ideology, has an effect on the art of marginalized communities’ culture and self-perception

Works Cited

“Company Info.” Spotify, newsroom.spotify.com/company-info/.

Dhaenens, Frederik, and Jean Burgess. “‘Press Play for Pride’: The Cultural Logics of LGBTQ-Themed Playlists on Spotify.” New Media & Society, vol. 21, no. 6, June 2019, pp. 1192–1211, doi:10.1177/1461444818808094.

Eriksson, Maria and Anna Johansson. “Tracking Gendered Streams.” Culture Unbound, vol. 9, 2, 2017, pp. 163–183, http://www.cultureunbound.ep.liu.se.

Finn, Ed. “What Algorithms Want.” Imagination in the Age of Computing, MIT Press, 2018, pp. 15–56.

Greenfield, Adam. Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life. Verso, 2018.

Werner, Ann. “Organizing music, organizing gender: algorithmic culture and Spotify recommendations.” Popular Communication, vol. 18, no. 1, 2020, pp. 78-90, doi:10.1080/15405702.2020.1715980.

July 20, 2020

The Year of Remote Learning and Uncertainty: Graduating During a Pandemic
By Giordana Curatolo

GC Photograph

My name is Giordana Curatolo, and I recently graduated from The University of Winnipeg with a degree in Rhetoric, Writing, and Communications. While writing this piece, I was able to reflect on the challenges of graduating in the time of coronavirus, but also celebrate my achievement and all other 2020 graduates.

Completing my undergraduate degree amid a pandemic posed a unique set of challenges beyond the already stressful realities of finishing a university degree. As an undergraduate student, I followed a strict daily routine that kept me sane. When the university cancelled classes and shut their doors, I quickly realized that the schedule I lived by was going to be disrupted. In-person interactions with students and faculty turned to stressful Zoom lectures, which at times resulted in ‘zoombombers’ and technical obstacles, and my daily Starbucks study set-up switched to a work from home scenario. Oh, and I purchased a Keurig to satisfy my iced coffee cravings. However, aside from adjusting to a new routine it felt like we lost the privilege of knowing it was our very last day. We missed the opportunity of a goodbye; a farewell to classmates, professors and faculty, and the environment where we spent numerous years dedicated to our work.

Regardless of the added academic challenges and the sadness of leaving our secure environment, we were all consumed with coronavirus stress, which made a usually demanding exam season more difficult. Many of us, myself included, were (and are still) fearful of contracting the virus, fearful for our loved ones, and fearful for our future. Yet, amid these stressful times I quickly recognized my privilege. I was not an international student miles away from family, a student who lost their job, or a student taking care of loved ones. Unlike many, I was fortunate to finish my studies with my professors’ support in the comfort of my newly designed study space (courtesy of Pinterest and lots of plants) surrounded by family and many Zoom dates with friends.

Despite the loss of an in-person convocation, my crisp 8" x 11" degree made the thousands of words written, the several all-nighters, the countless presentations, and a few (a ton of) tears worthwhile. But what is next for me? Well, leaving behind student life is undoubtedly stressful and uncertain, but the pandemic created new uncertainties. It feels like our life has been put on hold, not just us graduating students, but most of the world. As recent graduates, searching for work during this pandemic is entirely different. Internships are cancelled, seeking opportunities outside of your hometown is next to impossible (not to mention frightening), and building professional connections is challenging. However, it was vital for me to use my time appropriately. I updated my portfolio, improved my digital skills, and expanded on some freelance work. No, I do not think I will miss remote learning, but it will be weird not to open a textbook come the first week of September. Who knows, I might be back to the student life sooner than I think. Grad school anyone?

July 07, 2020

The Implications of Social Media on Communication During a Global Pandemic
By Daryn Arnott

Daryn Arnott

My name is Daryn Arnott, and my major is in English, Creative Writing. I wrote this essay for the course RHET-2131 Professional Style & Editing, taught by Dr. Jaqueline McLeod Rogers. It was for an assignment about voice; we wrote the same essay three different times, once using informal or colloquial voice, once using formal voice (hence this essay), and once in moderate voice.

The aftermath of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 is yet to be determined; regardless, it continues to affect how humans communicate amongst themselves. The situation is more dire in parts of the world other than in Canada, but it continues to have resounding impacts around the globe—its influence is far-reaching, as physical distancing measures prevent people from gathering with their friends and families. Due to these restrictions, social media platforms such as Facebook have seen their user activity increase dramatically; this is a direct result of the quarantine, which has restricted people to the insides of their homes and away from others. From restaurants to movie theaters, large public spaces have closed down to prevent the spread of the infectious COVID-19. As a result, social interactions have shifted almost entirely online. These changes affect the ways that humans contact one another, and restricted interaction and exposure have a deleterious affect on both their mental health and personal relationships.

Social media impacts academic performance; therefore, increased use of social media may hinder students’ abilities to perform well in an educational setting. This is further confounded by the fact that university closures have moved courses online, making the temptation to access social media platforms during class time incredibly enticing. For students to thrive in the post-COVID-19 world, they will need to practice stringent self-discipline when using the internet to properly comprehend educational resources. A study that measured students’ social media use and examined the effects on academic performance found that “student exposure to social media sites has found statistically significant as it does affect the Computer Science student’s academic performance” (Aqueel et al). There is an argument to be made for the benefits of social media, such as its ability to connect people and draw support in times of need, but this study found that “negative impact is more than positive effect on the students” (Aqueel et al). Addiction to social media is impeding students’ academic progress. Specifically, it was discovered that “addictiveness of social sites has a significant influence on academic performance of the students” (Aqueel et al). As more educational facilities are moving online to offer their resources to students, it raises concerns about how social media will interfere with this process.

Another intersection of social media and communication is its impact on the mental wellbeing of users. An advantage to social media during times of isolation is that it connects people who are physically restricted from contacting their friends and family. Isolation involves introversion and infrequent interactions.[1] Conversely, it has negative effects on the psychological health and strength of these users—it is difficult to discern if the positives outweigh the negatives. One study sought to examine how social media impacts mental health and the challenges it poses to individuals with anxiety. It found that “people who are socially anxious like to use social media to fight loneliness” (Ramezankhani et al). The pandemic has dissolved this distinction because not only the socially anxious rely on social media for interaction, but rather every individual that abides by social distancing measures does. The study found that “online communication could further isolate persons offline and decrease social wellbeing” (Ramezankhani et al). In an already isolated world, social media may exacerbate the effects of loneliness and isolation. Since the pandemic is such a recent phenomenon, it is difficult to study whether or not social media is enhancing loneliness or reducing it. Another effect of social media was discovered, which is that “occasional or chronic exposure to social media platforms could be a negative impact on people’s self-evaluation and self-esteem” (Ramezankhani et al). The implications of this effect are concerning. In an isolated world, more and more people are turning to social media for interactions and communication; does this mean that the negative impacts of these platforms on self-esteem will apply to an increasing number of individuals? COVID-19 may result in greater levels of loneliness, and reduced self-esteem around the globe. It is difficult to imagine how these circumstances would change without the presence of social media. Namely, would isolation increase tenfold without the ability to communicate online with friends and family? Due to the rapidly evolving nature of this pandemic, the answers are not yet clear.

Social media is like a double-edged sword[2]: for all its benefits, it also has negative impacts on the human psyche. Yet another troubling outcome of an increased reliance on social media for human contact is its effects on alcohol and drug use. The open nature of these platforms means that “alcohol and illicit drugs-related content is easily generated and consumed by young adults” (Ramezankhani et al). Similarly, due to stay-at-home mandates, more people are consuming drugs and alcohol throughout their days, due to relaxed responsibilities pertaining to education and employment. This study found that “teens and young people who used social media were more likely to used alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco than individuals who did not use social media frequently” (Ramezankhani et al). As activity rates for social media soar and the consumption of drugs and alcohol increases due to worldwide stress and uncertainty, these two factors may interact to produce a worrying effect on humanity as a whole. If social media leads to increased consumption of intoxicating substances, then the world may experience a greater surge of addictions to these substances, especially amongst younger age groups.

The same study acknowledges that social media has the potential to enhance social relationships. The authors write that social media provides “a fantastic opportunity for relationship expansion by enabling individuals to connect with others by sharing their opinions, beliefs, and experiences” (Ramezankhani et al). Although it comes with its own set of challenges and negative outcomes, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter also allow users to connect with other people and share their experiences. They can seek support in especially troubling times, such as during a global pandemic. It allows people to contact and share information with those who they are physically restricted from seeing. As such, the negative and positive outcomes of social media must be weighed to determine whether or not it is an overall helpful or harmful addition to society. To certain people, social media is a blessing that provides the ability to connect and empathize; to others, a curse[3].

Social media is a landscape that is rapidly evolving and changing how people relate to and share information amongst themselves. Ideas are posted online, posts are consumed by relatives and friends, blogs are commented on by strangers, videos are uploaded by creators[4]—the possibilities for communication that these platforms provide are endless. There are numerous benefits of social media: it connects those who are isolated from their support networks, it gives a platform to share information and seek support, and it allows for the easy spread of vital information such as precautionary measures regarding the pandemic; conversely, social media has its downsides[5]: it can increase feelings of loneliness, isolation, exacerbate anxiety, and encourage the use of intoxicating substances. Whether or not social media has an overall positive or negative impact on the psyche of its users during the pandemic is yet to be determined.

Works Cited

Aqeel, Muslim Bin, et al. “Investigating the Effect of Social Media on the Students’ Academic Performance.” Gomal University Journal of Research, vol. 35, no. 2, Dec. 2019, pp. 66–78. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=142237285.

Ramezankhani, Ali, et al. “Impact of Social Media on Psychological Health: Challenges and Opportunities.” Novelty in Biomedicine, vol. 7, no. 3, Summer 2019, pp. 158–164. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=138267597.



Metaphor: “social media is like a double-edged sword…”

Antithesis: “There are numerous benefits … conversely, ….”


Ellipsis: “To some, social media is a blessing… to others, a curse”

Alliteration: “Isolation involves introversion and infrequent interactions.”

Parallelism: “Ideas are posted…videos are uploaded…”

[1] Alliteration

[2] Metaphor

[3] Ellipsis

[4] Parallelism

[5] Antithesis


To contribute, email: a.mcgillivray@uwinnipeg.ca or e.buettner@uwinnipeg.ca