In Fall 2023, SFU’s School of Communication celebrated its 50th anniversary with a program of events to revisit and explore a range of critical scholarship and practice that has been a feature of the School since the beginning. Curated around the theme, Communication as Critique, the 50th Anniversary celebrations featured the work of world-class scholars to engage with the legacies and future research of faculty and students in the School of Communication.  

Communication, Power and Knowledge in Automated Societies - September 14 | Speaker: Paola Ricaurte

Communication plays a pivotal role in shaping and being shaped by power dynamics and knowledge production. In the context of automated societies, the interplay between communication, power, and knowledge undergoes significant reconfigurations influenced by emerging sociotechnical mediations. In particular, the increasing incorporation of datafication, algorithmization, and automation as desired configurations of society is giving rise to novel forms of epistemic, sociocultural, economic, and environmental injustice that are especially affecting communities and territories of the majority world. Moreover, these sociotechnical configurations are not mere extensions of previous power structures but represent an ontological rupture—a fundamental shift in reality conceptualization, experience, and enactment—with consequences for every aspect of social life. The resulting ontological rupture disrupts the nature of reality and knowledge production, reinforcing existing power imbalances and hindering the pursuit of global social justice. In this context, communication scholars and the critical inquiry of society face some urgent questions: What role does communication and non-hegemonic epistemologies can play in reestablishing the fundamental assumptions that make coexistence possible? How does the majority world respond to the growing asymmetries of power and socio-technically mediated knowledge production? In what ways do historically excluded communities expand the concept of justice within automated societies? By exploring these questions, we can critically reflect on the potential of communication research to address these challenges and to engage in the struggle to ensure a dignified future for all.

The event was followed by a reception.

Paola Ricaurte

Paola Ricaurte is an associate professor in the Department of Media and Digital Culture at Tecnológico de Monterrey and faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. With Nick Couldry and Ulises Mejías, she co-founded Tierra Común, a network of academics, practitioners and activists interested in decolonizing data. She participates in several expert committees, such as the Global Partnership for Artificial Intelligence (GPAI), the Global Index on Responsible AI and the Expert Group for the Implementation of the UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. She is a member of the <A+> Alliance for Inclusive Algorithms and leads the Latin American and Caribbean hub of the Feminist AI Research Network, f<A+i>r.

From Techno-Cultures to Techno-Critique: Gaming as Hybrid Spaces for Public Infrastructure and Community Building - October 5 | Speaker: Kishonna Gray

While public discussions around gaming culture focus on the toxic elements, there are thriving groups utilizing online environments and their related tools to sustain their communities. While trolls and other toxic actors (and resistance practices) may dominate the conversation, we must begin to center the communities that marginalized bodies create and sustain despite the toxicity (Banet-Weiser and Miltner, 2016; Gray, Buyukozturk, and Hill, 2017; Salter, 2017).

Additionally, gaming is also the inspiration for much of our innovative and contemporary world building (i.e. meta-verse). As such, the purpose of this talk is to explore these hybrid communities examining the role of transmedia in helping to create worlds and public infrastructures and sustain communities to foster identity development in both physical and digital contexts.  

The hybrid spaces within gaming culture that many marginalized groups inhabit are the few spaces that value the articulation of marginalized interests and viewpoints. As Anderson (2006) outlines, “cases such as these make it clear that ‘virtual’ worlds are only virtual in a limited sense; real-world issues can and do impinge on the fantasy landscape of games…” (as cited in Pulos, 2013). The hybrid conditions lead to a focus on “transmediated” reality to engage what Goran Bolin (2007) calls “textual production that travels over technologies” (243). The transmedia text involves intricate multi-platform narrative webs that, according to Henry Jenkins (2006), capitalize on the affordances of digital media convergence. The transmedia text, thus, requires cultural synergy of a multitude of mediated formats.  The visual of this mapping creates an intricate nexus of analyzing what identity and digital identity development means for marginalized users across platforms.  

Kishonna Gray

Dr. Kishonna L. Gray is an Associate Professor in Writing, Rhetoric, & Digital Studies and Africana Studies at the University of Kentucky. She is an interdisciplinary, intersectional, digital media scholar whose areas of research include identity, performance and online environments, embodied deviance, cultural production, video games, and Black Cyberfeminism.

Dr. Gray is the author of Intersectional Tech: Black Users in Digital Gaming (LSU Press, 2020). She is also the author of Race, Gender, & Deviance in Xbox Live (Routledge, 2014), and the co-editor of two volumes on culture and gaming: Feminism in Play (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2018) and Woke Gaming (University of Washington Press, 2018).  Dr. Gray has published in a variety of outlets across disciplines and has also featured in public outlets such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, and The New York Times.

Creative Practices, Social Movements, Policy Change - October 26 | Spry Memorial Panel | Speakers: Fenwick McKelvey, Lyana Patrick, and Kamala Todd | Moderator: Karrmen Crey

Identities shaped by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and citizenship are grounded in lived experience, and expressed in relation and resistance to dominant institutions, popular media, and public discourse -- structures that have historically sought to silence and erase these voices. In recent years, the field of communication studies has been transformed by interdisciplinary and critical scholarship and perspectives that centres marginalized voices and practices in research and society. In this stream, we feature and celebrate work that interrogates how marginalized and oppressed groups experience and respond to interlocking systems of oppression, including capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and cisnormativity, and explores the emancipatory possibilities fostered by activist politics and social movements in local, national and transnational contexts.

The Spry Memorial Lecture has a long history of tackling key issues facing Canadian media and its role in the national conversation.

Fenwick McKelvey

Fenwick McKelvey is an Associate Professor in Information and Communication Technology Policy in the Department of Communication Studies at Concordia University. He studies digital politics and policy, appearing frequently as an expert commentator in the media and intervening in media regulatory hearings. He is the author of Internet Daemons: Digital Communications Possessed (University of Minnesota Press, 2018), winner of the 2019 Gertrude J. Robinson Book Award. He is co-author of The Permanent Campaign: New Media, New Politics (Peter Lang, 2012) with Greg Elmer and Ganaele Langlois. His research has been published in journals including New Media and Society, the International Journal of Communication, public outlets such as The Conversation and Policy Options, and been reported by The Globe and Mail, CBC The Weekly and CBC The National. He is also a member of the Educational Review Committee of the Walrus Magazine.

Lyana Patrick

Lyana Patrick is Dakelh from the Stellat’en First Nation and Acadian/Scottish. She has worked in communications and education for over two decades. She was Education Coordinator in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia where she worked on curriculum development, managed education programs, and promoted knowledge translation of Indigenous research findings to health care providers and health sciences students. She has worked on evaluation projects connected to Indigenous health and education, including for the City of Vancouver where she helped design community engagement for a municipal poverty reduction strategy. She received a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship to pursue a PhD in the School of Community and Regional Planning where in 2019 she became the first Indigenous PhD graduate. Lyana is currently an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences where her work focuses on the intersection of Indigenous health, planning and justice. She incorporates film and other multimedia in her work and is committed to public scholarship as a creative and collaborative process of exploration with Indigenous communities.


Kamala Todd is a Métis-Cree mother, Indigenous planner, filmmaker, and educator born and raised in the beautiful lands of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓and Skwxwú7mesh-speaking people, aka Vancouver.Her maternal ancestral lands include Red River, St. Paul des Métis, Edmonton, Goodfish Lake, Turtle Mountain, and Lac La Biche (Peeaysis band). She has a Masters degree in urban Geography from UBC and works at the intersection of film and urban planning to support decolonizing the city and dominant narratives. For several years Kamala was the City of Vancouver's Aboriginal Social Planner and she was the City's first Indigenous Arts and Culture Planner. Recently, she was consultant and writer on the Vancouver UNDRIP Strategy. She teaches as adjunct professor at SFU Urban Studies and UBC SCARP. Kamala'smedia production company is Indigenous City Media and her film and TV credits include Indigenous Plant DivaCedar and BambooRELAW: Living Indigenous LawsSharing our Stories: the Vancouver Dialogues Project, and Tansi! Nehiyawetan.

Karrmen Crey

Karrmen Crey is Sto:lo and a member of the Cheam Band. She is an Associate Professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University, where her research examines the rise of Indigenous media in Canada, and the institutions of media culture that Indigenous media practitioners have historically engaged and navigated to produce their work. Her current research examines Indigenous film festivals and Indigenous digital media, particularly Indigenous virtual reality and augmented reality.

When Intersectionality Becomes a Brand - November 16 | Speaker: Sarah Banet-Weiser

In this talk, I will discuss the various histories, practices, and uses of the political and cultural concept of intersectionality. I then turn to a contemporary cultural use of intersectionality, where the concept has been commodified and branded.  Despite the fact that the concept was conceived of by Patricia Hill Collins, Kimberle Crenshaw, and other Black feminists as an explicit intervention to think through the ways that Black women are left without a dominant narrative through and around which to organize their lives within the power structures of the US, I argue the consumerist branding of intersectionality has a core logic of whiteness. The move to brand intersectionality is a move that does not examine nor challenge structural relations of power when it comes to race and gender, but is rather a strategy that narrowly focuses on identity as a way to build a brand and to accumulate both economic and cultural capital. Branding intersectionality functions to not only erase history, but also to shed a light on singular acts of racism—by a cop, a celebrity, a social media influencer—without ever interrogating how these “singular” acts are merely one in centuries of unquestioned acts of racial discrimination that have been sedimented into law, policy, and everyday life.


Sarah Banet-Weiser

Sarah Banet-Weiser's teaching and research interests include gender in the media, citizenship, consumer culture, popular media, race and the media, and intersectional feminism. She is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication and Professor of Communication at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Committed to intellectual and activist conversations that explore how global media politics are exercised, expressed, and perpetuated in different cultural contexts, she has authored or edited eight books, including the award-winning Authentic™: The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture (NYU Press, 2012) and Empowered: Popular Feminism and Popular Misogyny (Duke, 2018), and dozens of peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and essays. In 2019-2020, she had a regular column on popular feminism in the Los Angeles Review of Books.