“Let’s Destabilize this with a Feminist Narrative”: Mediating Feminisms in Educational Spaces Through Digital Storytelling

  • Author / Creator
    Jagger, Patricia
  • As feminist educators strive for new ways to engage students in sharing personal stories requiring vulnerability, the arts have emerged as vital to crafting “ethical, relational space[s] to hold such difficult knowledge” (Conrad & Leavy, 2018, p. 2). Anchored within a participatory arts-based inquiry paradigm, my study explored three main research questions: 1) What stories, whether visual, written, or lived, inform educators’ perceptions/interpretations/ understandings of feminism? 2) How might the participatory process of co-creating visual narratives contribute to uncovering individual and shared interpretations of feminisms? 3) How might engaging in a storytelling process through media creation elicit new understandings of and potential for feminist pedagogy in formal and informal educational spaces?
    At the heart of this study sat an acknowledgement that young people today are growing up in a media-dense world requiring educators to consider how their students are both consumers and creators of media. Informed by a desire to understand what happens if we consider feminism as a pedagogical orientation towards listening to or eliciting the stories of others, I utilized the method of digital storytelling to identify intersections of shared experience. Situated in the wake of the #MeToo movement in 2017, this study considered how the emergence of social media has engaged increasing numbers of girls and women in mediating identities through new forms of digital media. For educators, this is a meaningful conversation (for example, debates around girls’ dress codes in schools) as younger generations’ views on feminism(s) and being feminist are informed by how conversations have materialized in contemporary media spaces. Recognizing the importance of locating my experiences and perspectives, my dissertation details moments and interactions with feminism(s) that led me to my doctoral research.
    My literature review explored perspectives and understandings of feminism, what it means to be, or become, a feminist, and the history of media production as a form of activism within Western feminist movements. This resulted in recognition of how, despite being critiqued, the frame of feminist waves provides a context for tracing how media and cultural production have been alternately utilized to drive moments of collective action in pursuit of women’s rights or to inform more individualistic conceptions of feminism within specific movements.
    My research questions were explored through a four-month-long online study with four emerging educators — three of whom were registered in formal teacher education programs and one who worked for a not-for-profit film collective as a facilitator. Data collection occurred through focus groups, individual in-depth interviews, a visual journaling process, and the creation of digital stories. Utilizing a participatory approach, I included my participant's perspectives and interpretations as I undertook visual and narrative analyses of the emerging educators’ digital explorations of their feminist identities. This resulted in identifying three themes, including intersectionality, the body/how we (primarily women) embody and occupy spaces in the world and the potential for digital storytelling as an act of social imagination.
    In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to understand social media's impact on youth as consumers and creators of visual stories, my research contributes to the growing body of literature highlighting the importance of media and visual literacy for educators and their students. A key conclusion of the study was the potential for digital storytelling as a feminist pedagogy. Such engaged pedagogy is needed amid the growing need for confronting difficult knowledge and cultivating empathy and an ethic of care through which students can navigate differing perspectives and understandings of the world.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2023
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.