50th Anniversary Symposium | Communication as Critique

December 1-2, 2023, Downtown Vancouver

The symposium is a celebration of faculty, students and alumni from the past and present of the School, whose work intersects with the major themes in our 50th Anniversary celebration. Join us for interactive panel discussions, performances, dialogue and creative engagement.  

SFU’s School of Communication celebrated its 50th anniversary by offering a series of events that aim 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 brought together the work of world-class scholars to engage with the legacies and future research of faculty and students in the School of Communication. 

In our celebrations, we hosted a 50th Anniversary Fall Symposium, with a feature keynote lecture on the evening of December 1st, followed by a day of lively and engaged panel presentations on December 2nd, drawing from current and previous members of faculty and graduate students, and focusing on four thematic areas (see below) that have long informed critical research and teaching in Communication and Media Studies.

50th Anniversary Thematic Areas

Global Communication 

Global communication scholarship has long posed critical questions about the nature of knowledge and epistemic power in our field, the role of structural conditions that undergird processes of mediatization and forms of counter-knowledge and practice generated in and with the Global South. While advocating for forms of immanent critique that align with the struggle for national and transnational labour rights, gender equity, environmental protection or racial justice, global communication scholars have been at the forefront of calls for the development of a more balanced and just field of study. In celebration of the School of Communication’s 50th Anniversary, in this thematic stream, we draw on past and present research from scholars working together with, within or emerging from the School, to explore ongoing epistemic transformations in our field, including the structures of change shaping global communication infrastructures, practices and priorities today.


How do we connect critical theories of technology – including ones keyed to the infrastructural complexities of socio-technical and scientific assemblages – to ethical and political investigations into alternative paradigms of connection, interactivity and use? How are the potentials and affordances of technicity to be opened up to democratizing and emancipatory practices, and pulled away from their entanglement in authoritarian, exclusionary and exploitative projects? The critique of technology and forms of practical criticism embodied in and embedded by technical systems form an open field of what we’re calling ‘technocritique’ to capture an ample and diverse range of texts, inquiries and research programmes that have emerged from the School of Communication over the past half century.


Different identities and lived experiences along race, gender, class, sexual orientation, ability, and citizenship are constructed and communicated through ruling relations, institutions, popular media, and public discourse. Intersectionality as critique highlights an interdisciplinary, critical approach to communication and media scholarship that centres on voices and practices that have been marginalized and/or excluded in research and society. In this stream, we celebrate and feature work that interrogates how underprivileged and subordinated people are subject to the interlocking systems of oppression wrought by capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and cisnormativity, while also exploring the emancipatory possibilities fostered by activist politics and social movements for equality and justice in varied local, national and transnational contexts.

Fostering Social Justice 

One of the early objectives in the foundation of the School of Communication was to engage in work in the field of communication for social justice. Historically, this tradition is reflected in work invested in fostering democracy, including digital rights, advocating for peace and human rights, and promoting activism that aims to disrupt structures of power across societies. In this thematic stream we celebrate research and scholarship across the School’s 50-year history that addresses the critique of political economy and capitalism’s deleterious effects on values of equity, peace, environmental health, media democracy and non-precarious labour conditions, reflecting the longstanding commitment of many members of the School community to social activism in the service of progressive social change.

Friday Dec 1 

5:00-8:00 p.m.
Doors at 5:00 p.m.
Program 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Reception 7:00-8:00 p.m.

Keynote Presentation: Dylan Robinson

Dylan Robinson is a xwélmexw (Stó:lō/Skwah) artist, curator and writer. He is an Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia.

Moderator: Karrmen Crey

Saturday December 2 

9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. 

Territorial Welcome: 9:00-9:05 a.m.
Musquem Elder Morgan Guerin

Opening Welcome: 9:05-9:15 a.m. 
Host: Stuart Poyntz
Aims and Themes of the Symposium Sharing the Digital Timeline

Panel 1: 9:15-10:30 a.m. Global Communication as Critique
How do you locate your research in relation to the thematic of Global Communication in the context of the School and the ongoing evolution of the field of communication?
Chair/Moderator: Alison Beale
Panelists: Carina Albrecht, Dal Yong Jin, Sarah Ganter and Robin Mansell (10 min responses from each panelist)

Coffee Break: 10:30-11:00 a.m.

Panel 2: 11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Intersectionality as Critique
How do you locate your research in relation to the thematic of Intersectionality as critique in the context of the School and the ongoing evolution of the field of communication? 
Chair/Moderator: Catherine Murray
Panelists: Milena Droumeva, Michelle Phan, Monika Gagnon and Adel Iskandar (10 min responses from each panelist)

Lunch: 12:15-1:30 p.m.

Panel 3: 1:30-2:45 p.m. Fostering Social Justice
How do you locate your research in relation to fostering social justice in the context of the School and the ongoing evolution of the field of communication? 
Chair/Moderator: Liora Salter
Panelists: Bob Hackett, Siyuan Yin and Laya Behbahani (10 min responses from each panelist)

Break: 2:45-3:00 p.m.

Panel 4: 3:00-4:15 p.m. Communication as Technocritique
How do you locate your research in relation to technology critique in the context of the School and the ongoing evolution of the field of communication?
Chair/Moderator: Barry Truax
Panelists: Ellen Balka, Stephanie Dick, Anthony Burton and Sara Grimes (10 min responses from each panelist)

Closing Panel: 4:15-4:45 p.m. Communication Research and Praxis for the Future
Reflecting on the research panel presentations across the themes of the symposium, in what ways does this inform your thinking about the significance of praxis, action and impact in and beyond the School?
Chair/Moderator: Stuart Poyntz
Panelists: Enda Brophy and Mariane Bourcheix-Laporte (10 min reflection from each panelist)

Forum: 4:45-5:15 p.m. What is Next?
Reflecting on the history and the current state in the School, where are we headed?

Closing Remarks: 5:15-5:30 p.m.
Host: Stuart Poyntz


Carina Albrecht

Carina Albrecht is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Communication. She studies social network "thinking" drawing on both technology studies and social sciences, to question what digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter consider to be a social connection. Her research examines how these imaginations enable software design that polarizes users of social media by design.

Ellen Balka

Ellen Balka is a Professor in the School of Communication, where she heads up the Assessment of Technology in Context Design Lab. She is also a senior research scientist at Vancouver Coastal Health’s Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Evaluation (C2E2). Balka uses the social sciences to address varied issues related to computerization of the health sector. Partnerships with diverse health sector stakeholders inform her research questions and support the uptake of findings.

Alison Beale

Alison Beale is Professor Emerita in the School of Communication. She researches and publishes in the areas of globalization and cultural policies; cultural trade, communications regulation; feminist research in cultural policy; and cultural policy as cultural practice.

Laya Behbahani

Laya Behbahani is a PhD student at the School of Communication. She previously worked at the Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna, Austria, and currently serves as an Advisor to the BC RCMP Commanding Officer. Her research focuses on the narrativization of forced labour and human trafficking experiences in the Middle East. She has also recently collaborated on projects that address issues of forced labour and slavery and business models of forced labour in the field of corporate responsibility.

Marianne Bourcheix-Laporte

Mariane Bourcheix-Laporte is a Bombardier Doctoral Scholar and PhD Candidate in the School of Communication. Her research focuses on Canadian cultural policy and artist-run organizations and has been published in various edited books, art journals including esse art + opinions, C Magazine, and Inter art actuel.

Enda Brophy

Enda Brophy is an Associate Professor in the School of Communication. His areas of research interest and graduate supervision are the political economy of communication; communication and social change; labour and collective organizing in the media and communication industries; autonomist Marxism; digital and communicative dimensions of debt; and call centres.

Anthony Burton

Anthony Glyn Burton is a Mellon SFU and SSHRC Joseph Bombardier Fellow in the School of Communication. His research focuses on the history of optimization and his research interests include the networked development of epistemologies and ideology in technological and datafied environments and internet political subcultures.

Karrmen Crey

Karrmen Crey is Sto:lo and a member of the Cheam Band. She is an Associate Professor in the School of Communication, 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.

Stephanie Dick

Stephanie Dick is an Assistant Professor in the School of Communication. Her research and teaching are informed by her background in STS and History of Science, with a focus on computing, mathematics, and artificial intelligence since the Second World War. She is co-editor, with Janet Abbate, of Abstractions and Embodiments: New Histories of Computing and Society, published with Johns Hopkins University Press in 2022.

Milena Droumeva

Milena Droumeva is an Associate Professor and Glenfraser Endowed Professor in Sound Studies the School of Communication, where they specialize in mobile media, sound studies, gender, and sensory ethnography. Milena has a background in acoustic ecology and works across the fields of urban soundscape research, sonification for public engagement, as well as gender and sound in video games. Current research projects include sound ethnographies of the city (livable soundscapes), mobile curation, critical soundmapping, and sensory ethnography.

Monika Gagnon

Monika Kin Gagnon is Professor of Communication Studies at Concordia University. She has published widely on cultural politics and the visual and media arts since the 1980s. She is the author of Other Conundrums: Race, Culture, and Canadian Art, and co-editor of the anthology Reimagining Cinema: Film at Expo 67. She has curated and co-curated over a dozen exhibitions since 1993. Most recently, she is co-curator with Lesley Johnstone of the group exhibition In Search of Expo 67 at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.

Sarah Ganter

Sarah Anne Ganter (PhD, University of Vienna, 2017) is an Associate Professor of Communication and Cultural Policy in the School of Communication. She is an expert in the areas of media governance and media policy in the digital era, content industries, and comparative and cross-border research. Her expertise includes analyzing media and digital policy transformations from a theoretical perspective that focuses on the dynamics and interactions shaping institutional fields. Her work is influenced by a cosmopolitan approach that aims to integrate scholarly work from different cultural, linguistic and geographic contexts.

Sara Grimes

Sara M. Grimes is Director of the Knowledge Media Design Institute (KMDI) and Semaphore Labs and Professor in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. Her research and teaching are centred in the areas of children’s digital media culture(s) and critical theories of technology, with a focus on digital games. Her published work explores the commercialization of children’s play culture and creative expression, discussions of intellectual property and fair dealing in child-specific digital environments, as well as the legal and ethical dimensions of marketing to children online.

Bob Hackett

Robert A. Hackett is Professor Emeritus in the School of Communication. Dr. Hackett continues to be actively engaged in research and writing. He has written extensively on media democratization, and journalism as political communication and his collaborative books include, Journalism and Climate Crisis: Public Engagement, Media Alternatives (2017), Expanding Peace Journalism: Comparative and Critical Approaches (2011), Remaking Media: The Struggle to Democratize Public Communication (2006).

Adel Iskandar

Adel Iskandar is Associate Professor of Global Communication and Graduate Chair in the School of Communication. He is author, co-author, or editor of several works including Egypt In Flux: Essays on an Unfinished Revolution (AUCP/OUP); Al- Jazeera: The Story of the Network that is Rattling Governments and Redefining Modern Journalism" (Basic Books); Edward Said: A Legacy of Emancipation and Representation (University of California Press); Mediating the Arab Uprisings (Tadween Publishing); and Media Evolution on the Eve of the Arab Spring (Palgrave Macmillan).

Dal Yong Jin

Dal Yong Jin is Distinguished SFU Professor in the School of Communication. After working as a journalist for many years, he completed his Ph.D. in the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois in 2005. Jin’s major research and teaching interests are on digital platforms and digital games, globalization and media, transnational cultural studies, and the political economy of media and culture. He has published more than 20 books and is the founding book series editor of Routledge Research in Digital Media and Culture in Asia.

Robin Mansell

Robin Mansell PhD (SFU Canada 1984), FAcSS, FBA, is Professor Emerita of New Media and the Internet in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics. She has training in several social science disciplines including psychology, social psychology, politics and economics. Her research and teaching focus on media and communications regulation and policy, internet governance, privacy and surveillance, digital platforms, socio-technical features of data and information systems, and the social, political and economic impacts of innovation in digital networks and applications.

Catherine Murray

Catherine Murray is Professor Emerita in the School of Communication, where she previously co-directed the Centre for Policy Studies on Culture and Communities. She served as Chair of Women Studies as well as an associate of the Masters’ of Public Policy Program at SFU. Catherine’s research interests included cultural work and participation; cultural infrastructure and creative cities; cultural industries and especially broadcast policy in the creative economy; communication rights and global trade; and research design in audience and policy evaluation.

Michelle Phan

Michelle Phan is a PhD researcher in the School of Communication, who is broadly interested in the intersection between critical histories of computing, carceral studies, feminist media studies and digital labour. Michelle’s research interests seek to discern the relationship between the rise of technologies such as social media and their relationship with structural violence in public and private spheres, including in carceral institutions in Canada.

Stuart Poyntz

Stuart Poyntz is Professor and Director of the School of Communication, Editor of the Canadian Journal of Communication and Director of the Community Engaged Research Initiative (CERi) at SFU. His research addresses children’s media cultures, theories of public life, social care and urban youth cultures. He has published five books, including the new monograph, Youthsites: Histories of Creativity, Care and Learning in the City (Oxford UP).

Dylan Robinson

Dylan Robinson is a xwélmexw (Stó:lō/Skwah) artist, curator and writer. He is an Associate Professor at UBC and was previously Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts at Queen’s University. Dr. Robinson’s curatorial work includes the international touring exhibition Soundings (2019-2025) co-curated with Candice Hopkins, and his current research project xoxelhmetset te syewa:l, Caring for Our Ancestors, involves working with Indigenous artists to reconnect kinship with Indigenous life incarcerated in museums. His book, Hungry Listening (University Minnesota Press, 2020), examines Indigenous and settler colonial practices of listening, and was awarded best first book for the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, Canadian Association for Theatre Research, and the Labriola Centre American Indian National Book Award.

Liora Salter

Liora Salter was previously Professor and (Acting) Vice-President Academic at SFU. She is an expert in communication and interdisciplinary research, and author of several books including, Interdisciplinary Research: Issues and Problems, Mandated Science and Communication Studies in Canada, and Playing Politics with Information. Liora has also been a consultant to eight Royal Commissions, and in 1992 her professional contributions were recognized with an appointment as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Barry Truax

Barry Truax is Professor Emeritus in the School of Communication (and formerly, in the School of Contemporary Arts), where he taught courses in acoustic communication and electroacoustic composition, specializing in soundscape composition. He worked with the World Soundscape Project, editing its Handbook for Acoustic Ecology. He also published Acoustic Communication and as a composer, Truax is best known for his work with the PODX computer music system, which he has used for tape solo works and those which combine tape with live performers or computer graphics.

Siyuan Yin

Siyuan Yin is an Assistant Professor in the School of Communication, where she engages in interdisciplinary scholarship spanning the fields of cultural and media studies, feminist studies, social movements, and political economy. Her research centers on social inequalities and resistance in the process of migration and globalization. Siyuan received the 2022 Herbert Schiller Award at IAMCR and her current projects include work on migrant workers, labor activism, feminist movements, and gendered popular culture.