Feb. 13, 2019

UCalgary group promotes conversation about the good, bad, and ugly in social media

Undergrad essay contest launched by Calgary Institute for the Humanities working group
Colourbox photo

Colourbox photo

How does social media affect your friendships? Your self-confidence? Your ability to make informed decisions as a citizen?

With elections looming and social media hitting the news daily, an interdisciplinary research group at the University of Calgary set out to shed some light on these topical and sometimes disturbing questions.

With an essay contest titled Social Media: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, the group encouraged UCalgary undergraduates to join their interdisciplinary discussion and think more critically about how they use social media.

The scholars, affiliated with the Calgary Institute for the Humanities, looked at the ethics and politics of social media. Founders of the group were Dr. Mohammad Keyhani, PhD, associate professor in the Haskayne School of Business, and Dr.  Maria Bakardjieva, PhD, professor in the Department of Communication, Media and Film, working alongside doctoral candidate Safaneh Neyshabouri. They studied social media through the academic lenses of communication and media studies, entrepreneurship and strategy studies, and comparative literature and feminist epistemology.

“Social media may have started as a fun and cool new technology, but today they have become a major force in the world, and not always for good,” says Keyhani. “Social media are creating issues for mental health on a massive scale, and undermining institutions of democracy. While we have celebrated the bright side of social media for years, we are only beginning to realize the depths of the dark side.”

“So, it is increasingly evident that social media as a technology, a means of communication, and as an industry, demands critical analysis,” adds Bakardjieva.

“It is urgent for Canadians to reflect on these risks, especially in the context of growing social polarization and the upcoming provincial and federal elections,” says Bakardjieva. At the same time, the researchers want the contest to provide room for a balanced look at the pros and cons, not just the dangers or concerns that have recently come to light in the media.

Undergraduates in full-time attendance at the University of Calgary during the winter term were eligible to enter the contest. The entry deadline was Feb. 22, 2019. 

The winning papers were celebrated at an event March 1, featuring Dr. Rob Gehl from the University of Utah, who presented his paper, A Deep Dive into the Marianas Web: Surveillance, Information, and Mythologies of the Dark Web, and a paper by Safaneh Neyshabouri on #Resistance on Social Media: From Toppling Governments to Everyday Life.   

Learn more about the essay contest.

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