Being a public scholar means striving to produce accessible scholarship and cultivating methods of knowledge dissemination and creation outside the strictures of the traditional academic world, while learning from communities.

Research Description

A popular ASMR artist clinks plastic containers together, YouTube’s auto-generated captions pronounce the sound [Music]. Teen heroes struggle against their supernatural foes, the caption [tentacles undulating moistly] anchoring and rendering the fantastical soundscape. A TikTok user mimics a bird song, a series of emojis captioning the sound. [THE SOUND OF BUILDINGS COUNTING CARS] stretches above a busy street in Deaf artist Christine Sun Kim’s Captioning the City (2021) art installation. A tool of sonic access for D/deaf and hard of hearing audiences, textually transcribing both speech and ‘significant’ sounds, captions are arguably an increasingly ubiquitous dimension of film and media in the modern streaming age. Drawing upon a diverse selection of case studies, my research delves into the sonic resonances of captions, arguing that captions are a crucial dimension of the sonic experience for many audio-viewers today. Yet, in the process of interrogating the dynamic possibilities of captions and sound, I also consider their straining flaws and access frictions, the limitations of the format to encapsulate the complexities of the soundtrack. From the vagueness of YouTube’s auto-captioned [Music], to Kim’s transposition of captions from the cinema screen to urban streets, captions offer a fundamental space in which to experiment, theorize and play with the conceptualization of audiences, listening and sound itself. With the support of the PSI, a chapter of my dissertation will be created as an audio-visual essay, an essay crafted by bringing together images and sounds from film and media sources. An emergent form of scholarship in the field of Cinema and Media Studies, and a popular means of public scholarship on spaces like YouTube, my audio-visual essay and accompanying annotated transcript delve into the complexities of (sonic) access, in the process asking what it means to create an ‘accessible’ chapter. While crafting this audio-visual essay will provide practical experience in the art and labour of captioning and this emergent form of knowledge dissemination, it also details the possibilities and attendant frictions of access, embodying and enacting the conceptual project of the dissertation.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

To me, being a public scholar means striving to produce accessible scholarship and cultivating methods of knowledge dissemination and creation outside the strictures of the traditional academic world, while learning from communities.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

I believe the Public Scholars Initiative fundamentally reimagines the Ph.D. experience. It offers the opportunity to delve into the possibilities of what scholarship can be, to explore what forms it might take, and to conduct this work and ask these questions with the intention of reaching a wide array of audiences. Personally, the PSI has allowed me to reimagine the conventional borders and dimensions of the dissertation document, traditionally a more staid form of scholarly output. Drawing on my filmmaking experience, my audio-visual essay serves both as a public-facing dissertation ‘chapter’, and a means of enacting, interrogating, and playing with the project’s overall research goals. In reimagining the PhD experience, we can also reimagine how knowledge is shared, and how creative projects can help shape and inform traditional scholarship.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

Throughout my time at UBC, I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to work with students, in the process developing a love for teaching and exploring ideas together in the classroom. My teaching philosophy has come to be greatly shaped by my research, inspired by access studies, and work on Universal Design for Learning. In creating my PSI project of an audio-visual essay, I envision opening further pathways into practice based creative research, engaging, and learning with groups beyond the boundaries of the postsecondary classroom.

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

My research is at its core interdisciplinary, drawing on sound, disability, deaf and technology studies, digging further into the fundamental connections between these fields. Bringing together these various threads, my audio-visual essay should be of interest to scholars from across these fields. More significantly, my hope is that this audio-visual essay will engage an array of audiences, including D/deaf and disabled audio-viewers, captioners, as well as general audiences. From Zoom to Netflix, captions are increasingly ubiquitous in our online world, and my research strives to engage various audiences in conversations on access and sound in film and media.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

It is my hope that my work will join the growing field of caption studies to raise awareness of the necessity of quality captions, highlighting to general audiences and the industry the generative possibilities of recognizing captions as a crucial sonic dimension of film and media. I also hope to join efforts to disrupt conceptualizations of sound that start and end with a so-called ‘normal’ audio-viewer, a common audist fallacy that still looms large in sound studies. To study captions and their frictions, is to listen to the evolving and exciting role of sound, music, and sonic access today.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I chose to pursue a graduate degree because I love learning. I feel incredibly fortunate to have this chance to delve into a research project that I find both exciting and deeply meaningful.

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

After completing my Master’s, I decided to stay at UBC to continue to work with my wonderful and supportive supervisor Lisa Coulthard. As a member of the first PhD cohort of the program, the small cohort has led to great connection and comradery, and I am constantly inspired by the incredible scholarship of my peers.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

I was excited about the opportunity to be a part of a small and close-knit PhD program, and the chance to join a growing department as part of its first PhD cohort.

For you, what was the best surprise about graduate life, about UBC or life in Vancouver?

It was a wonderful surprise discovering just how close UBC is to the ocean. The view looking down Main Mall towards the ocean and the mountains still takes my breath away.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

Throughout my academic career, I have had the opportunity to direct several short films, serve as co-editor-in-chief of a graduate academic journal, sit on a hiring committee, and work in a film archive. I think all these experiences, along with the support of numerous amazing professors over the years, have helped prepare me for this degree.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I play with my cat, listen to audiobooks, watch movies and read graphic novels.

Do you have any tips for students from your home country coming to Canada / to UBC Grad School?

Take breaks. Go for walks. Know that everyone has imposter syndrome.