(Left to right) Stacey Copeland, Dr. Milena Droumeva, Brett Ashleigh.

Doctoral candidate Stacey Copeland and PhD student Brett Ashleigh are finalists in this year’s SSHRC Storytellers competition

May 06, 2020

This year’s SSHRC Storytellers competition Top 25 Storytellers list shows exceptional creativity in communicating the relevance of social sciences and humanities research in the daily lives of Canadians.

One of the finalists include School of Communications’ Doctoral candidate Stacey Copeland and PhD student Brett Ashleigh, supervised by Dr. Milena Droumeva. The groups’ audio storytelling short submission “Sound Is Not A Waste Product” is part of Droumeva’s SSHRC funded research project “Soundscapes of Livability: Exploring the design of the livable city”.

Each finalist receives $3,000 and the opportunity to compete in the Storytellers Showcase.

Given the exceptional circumstances caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic and the nature of the Storytellers competition, where the finalists must learn to effectively communicate their research in front of a live audience, SSHRC has decided to postpone the Storytellers Showcase that was to take place at the 2020 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at Western University in London, Ontario. The finalists will instead be invited to participate in the Storytellers Showcase at the 2021 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, which will take place from May 29 to June 4, 2021 at the University of Alberta. The Final Five winners chosen at that event will be featured at SSHRC’s Impact Awards ceremony, to be held in fall 2021.

Learn more about the groups’ experience working on the SSHRC submission and the project.

Can you share what your submission is about?

Copeland: Our SSHRC Storytellers submission is an audio storytelling short about Dr. Milena Droumeva's SSHRC funded research project "Soundscapes of Livability: Exploring the design of the livable city". Brett and I are both Research Assistants on the project. We both have a background in audio production so Dr. Droumeva supported and encouraged us to flex our creative skills in making an audio submission for the contest as a way of thinking through the project in a new way. In our submission we ask the listener to think about their relationship to the sounds of their city and how we might think differently about the role of urban sound design in our daily lives.

What was the process of your application?

Copeland: The application itself is fairly straight forward. Some details on the project, permission and support from Dr. Droumeva as the Primary Investigator, and a media file are all that are required. The process to get there was a multi-stage collaborative effort from start to finish with Brett's voiceover skills at the centre. We worked through a few different drafts of a script before we were happy with it. I then worked on laying down sound effects, music and ambience first based on original and found recordings we have been collecting as part of the research project. I did a rough pass of the voiceover but ultimately chose Brett's voice as a better fit for the script. Then we each took turns refining the mix and edit, sharing it with others for feedback and getting it cut down to fit the time constraints before I submitted the final piece.

What would you tell to other students and researchers who might be interested in applying?

Ashleigh: Choose a topic or project you’re passionate about and allow it to inform your storytelling process.

Copeland: It's great way to flex your creative skills whether you already have production experience or it's your first time picking up a recording device. Either way it's a fun way to think differently about academic research for a more general audience and share it with folks who might not otherwise get to hear about your research.

What does the Top 25 Storytellers mean to you?

Droumeva: I am thrilled to have been selected and especially excited to win with an audio piece. It allowed us to represent and illustrate the project with recordings we have done as part of the project.

Ashleigh: it helps to validate non-traditional forms of communicating research among our peers (audio mini documentary, short form writing).

Copeland:  I guess to me it means being a part of a group of thinkers who see storytelling as an important aspect of academic research today toward a more open approach to knowledge sharing beyond the tradition article publication model.