I have over a decade of experience conducting academic and applied research, both individually and in multi-disciplinary teams. Over the years, my research interests have shifted considerably, from cultural theory and humor studies, to festivals, urban development, intercultural and organizational communication, to communicating with diverse audiences and user experience design. Through it all, however, I have been consistently interested in the value of inter- and multi-disciplinary research practices, especially related to developing and applying new or innovative research methods.
Below are a few project summaries. These include academic and applied research. More information or copies of publications are available upon request.
The Role of Empathy in Experiential Learning
This is my newest research project. It seeks to understand how empathy can enable new forms of learning and create new teachable moments. I have been experimenting with experiential learning activities in my classrooms in order to delve deeper into the role of empathy in learning. This primarily involves taking students out of the classroom and asking them to navigate an environment in a new way.
Recently, I gave small groups a baby stroller to push around and asked them to purchase and deliver coffee. Students were assigned different roles (active participant, observer, note-taker, photographer, monitor) and asked to reflect on the experience. In basic terms, this exercise forced students to experience their lived environment in a new way, and complete a banal, everyday task with a new restraint. The reflections that students produced in this exercise will be used to inform further research in this area.
Urban Development, Space, and Cultural Scenes
Over the past 10 years, I have been very interested in understanding how art and culture contribute to making our communities livable, vibrant, and desirable. Research projects have included understanding how festival spaces contribute to public life in Montreal, uncovering the origins of the unique cultural scenes of Queen Street West in Toronto, and mapping cultural spaces in the Waterloo Region in order to uncover tensions in urban development as it contributes to livability and vibrancy. This research has been presented at national and international conferences, published in academic journals, and used to inform economic development decisions at the City of Kitchener.
Humour and Laughter
Stemming from my early graduate work which studied sketch comedy in Canada, I have researched and published a number of articles related to humour. Comedy is a notoriously problematic genre in the globally oriented creative industries. Humour is linked closely to cultural signposts and cannot always be exported or easily understood by outsiders. In the broad fields of organizational and intercultural communication, humour is a linchpin. If you can understand a group’s jokes, you can understand their culture. This research interest cemented my belief in using diverse methods in research (a fluidity that is often frowned upon in many formal academic circles where scholars are defined by methods) and pushed me to engage more creatively with knowledge production and cultural understandings.