Enriched through interdisciplinary scholarship reaching across the fields of information, education, media studies, and the creative arts my work integrates theories of youth empowerment, autoethnography, and participatory practices within the creation of graphic narratives.

 
Faculty of Arts
Eric Meyers
Squamish
Canada
UBC Public Scholars Award
 

Research Description

My doctoral research in Information Studies employs arts-based research methods to explore the making of autobiographical comics as a primary way of understanding and examining the experiences of researcher and participants. Enriched through interdisciplinary scholarship reaching across the fields of information, education, media studies, and the creative arts my work integrates theories of youth empowerment, autoethnography, and participatory practices within the creation of graphic narratives.

In fusing creation and inquiry, I aim to position the research to better understand how visual storytelling may foster knowledge related to identity, resilience, and hope in young participants. Working through the craft of autobiographical comics—as a medium often engaged in narratives connected to trauma—my research explores how working in this form may offer unique expression to young people in regard to current and future environmental narratives. Distinct from my dissertation artefact—which will also take the form of a graphic novel encompassing the theory, research, and analysis process—this work, created entirely by youth, aims to explore components of future narratives critical to young people today.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

Being a public scholar is for me about connecting with communities in and beyond the university, with other scholars working in creative and socially engaged ways, and with research that inspires new methods and practices in social justice.

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

The Public Scholars Initiative positions the Ph.D. experience within a new paradigm in which engagement in and beyond the university is fostered and supported in tandem with ongoing research. By engaging participants across the university, it dissolves barriers between disciplines and opens the dialogue with scholars across fields of study regarding shared pursuits in public good. Public Scholars offers not only a community of support during the Ph.D. experience but a network of researchers whose commitment, practices, and methods encourage new possibilities within present and future research.

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

My ideal career would continue to bridge my creative work with teaching, research, and community engagement. I see the possibility that visual narratives offer in communicating scholarship across many fields and in connecting research and ideas with more diverse audiences. I believe in supporting the development of multimodal literacy skills in young people and in the power of creative expression to convey information through new forms. 

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

The majority of my research will take place in a local high school as an after-school program. I aim to engage students, teachers, as well as professional writers and artists in the process. The young participants will be co-creators throughout the entire process, in crafting, editing, publishing, and touring the graphic novel. Collectively we will decide where to launch the book, where to tour with it, and how to engage other audiences in post-publication events, discussions, and public forums. The possibility, offered by the Public Scholars Initiative, to expand the reach of the work, and to engage a more diverse audience within and beyond academia addresses core values which propelled me to pursue doctoral studies. I continue to be motivated by the belief that pushing the boundaries between artistic practice, academic discourse, and public engagement are worthy pursuits in creating critical change and encouraging a common future based on collaboration, shared knowledge, inclusion, and equality.

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

We are at a moment of critical change regarding literacy needs, learning methods and academic practices. I hope my research will serve as a catalyst for theorizing the kinds of knowledge produced through graphic forms, arts-based-research methods, and in participatory learning environments. In our evolving society, new skills are needed as we negotiate information, communication, and emerging media. Gaining literacy skills beyond the textual is valuable; developing the ability to create and respond in multiple modes is increasingly even more essential.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

Over the course of my creative and academic career, I have taught workshops on autobiographical comics in universities, high schools, public libraries, and a prison. What compelled me most in the workshops was the level of engagement participants experienced when they crafted their visual memoirs. When writers, comprised of various ages and life experiences, engaged in the craft (often for the first time) the narratives and the modes of expression that emerged were unparalleled in depth, clarity, and agency. In deciding to apply my interest in graphic narratives with young people towards a graduate degree, I wanted to build on what I had witnessed in the workshops, to explore more deeply the mechanisms and experiences of comics and the process of creating them as a site of critical discourse. Currently, graphic forms are emerging in scholarship across disciplines as diverse as journalism, medicine, counselling, education, and linguistics. As knowledge translation, they are connecting information and research across cultural, societal, and academic divides. I hope that my research will contribute to this dialogue and to new approaches in scholarship with young people.

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

UBC was top of my choices when deciding where to pursue my doctoral studies. My advisor, the UBC iSchool, and the university as a whole offered encouragement for the kind of arts-based research I hoped to pursue. I had read about the Public Scholars Initiative before applying to UBC and was inspired by its commitment to community engagement and support for unique forms of research.

 

Being a public scholar is about connecting with communities in and beyond the university, with other scholars working in creative and socially engaged ways, and with research that inspires new methods and practices in social justice.