Eric Meyers

Associate Professor

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Do the ends justify the memes? : exploring the relationship between youth, internet memes, and digital citizenship (2023)

This project explores the relationship between youth, Internet memes, and digital citizenship. Adopting an interdisciplinary orientation that drew on the fields of information, communication, and education research, I investigated the sense-making underlying young people’s engagement with Internet memes. Creating a methodology inspired by aspects of design ethnography, participatory design ethnography, design-based research, and critical design ethnography, I conducted a study with a teacher and twenty-one of his students (aged approximately 15-18 years) at a secondary school in Langley, British Columbia. Through the design of a class unit we ran in three different English classes, we examined the relationship between memetic storytelling and digital citizenship. This process involved having students reflect on their own meme engagement and design final research projects on a meme-related topic of interest. Using a multimodal approach to narrative analysis that drew on the work of Arthur Frank (2012), Alexandra Georgakopoulou (2006, 2019), and Gillian Rose (2016), I analyzed the different materials I collected through the unit workshops (e.g., field notes, photographs, assignments, etc.), as well as the seventeen interviews I conducted (i.e., two teacher interviews and fifteen student interviews). The findings I arrived at showcase the significance of humour to memetic storytelling as an information literacy practice, drawing attention to the role laughter plays in people’s personal negotiation of the values represented through memes. While the students’ observations regarding their meme engagement highlighted the joyful nature of these digital texts and the potential information needs they might meet, their final project designs drew attention to the tensions memes hold, revealing both practical and theoretical insights that can inform literacy and digital citizenship education moving forward.

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How task frames affect the process and products of inquiry (2023)

According to Goffman’s (1974) Framing Theory, information is always presented in a frame (i.e., parameters that both limit and contextualize information). For example, a photograph is often framed both to communicate essential information (e.g., by focusing on a subject) and to remove information deemed unnecessary (e.g., by cropping a scene). However, when people look at the information, they might not always have the frame's parameters in mind (e.g., what information did a photographer crop out of the photograph?). In addition, many topics are open problems, meaning they are subject to multiple frames (e.g., how to solve climate change). How do people reconcile these multiple frames in an open problem when they seek online information? To explore this question, I conducted an experiment to understand how frames affect the search process of students working to solve open-ended information problems. Participants were asked to research on Google the use of cellphones on campus, and divided into two conditions: one condition was provided with a task framed around health, while the other condition had a task with no frame. The study found a significant difference between conditions both in the behaviors students exhibit with selecting information and their activities when using information. I used a think-aloud to observe abductive reasoning (i.e., the reasoning people use to find information outside of a frame). An analysis of the think-aloud data identified eight themes whereby people reference frames, which can assist abductive reasoning. My findings have implications for both information systems design and the end-users of those systems (e.g., from information design to teachers creating information curricula). As our search systems become more automated and more reliant on advanced AI, the role of frames will become essential to our mediation and evaluation of information.

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Unpacking homework: Brazilian school children's information interaction ecologies (2022)

Homework is part of the routine of many primary school children around the globe. Children and, sometimes, more knowledgeable others (e.g., caregivers, family members, peers, teachers) “unpack” homework descriptions to understand the information needed. Seeking and retrieving information to complete homework involves handling contextual constraints (i.e., opportunities and limitations) across school and home settings. While school and home settings enable and limit how children complete homework, we have a limited understanding of how context affects children's information-seeking and retrieval homework strategies.The discrepancy between how youth information interaction studies (YII) frame context and youth's real-life context has led to information systems (e.g., search engines, portals) that do not support youth's agency and information practices. This dissertation addressed this gap by analyzing the interplay between context and agency in information interaction involving primary school students engaged in homework through an ecological qualitative study based on the Cognitive Work Analysis (CWA) framework, using interviews, observations, critical incidents with nine Brazilian child-mother pairs, and interviews and photo-elicitation with five Brazilian elementary school teachers.The findings suggested that the environment, homework domain, homework activities, social organization and coordination, and personal characteristics enable and limit information interaction strategies of the Brazilian primary school children under analysis. To illustrate these findings, this dissertation presented a model representing the homework domain process. To evaluate what information-seeking and retrieval strategies to use, the Brazilian primary school children in this study encountered critical situations (unpacking levels) where more knowledgeable others' support was needed. Those primary school children needed help to analyze (unpack) unfamiliar problem-solving and decision-making situations. A framework representing a cognitive-work analysis in homework domains is presented here. This framework illustrates the relationships across the CWA phases to describe what contextual constraints researchers and designers should consider when developing tools (e.g., information systems) to support YII in homework domains.This study brings a rarely explored ecological perspective on youth information interaction by analyzing the interplay between context and agency in information interaction. Furthermore, this study provides guidelines to support YII in homework domains, which can help to inform the design of inclusive information systems.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Heroic transformation : restorying gender in My Hero Academia fanfiction (2023)

In 1993, Henry Jenkins wrote that slash fanfiction reveals “aspects of traditional masculinity which prevent emotional expressiveness of physical intimacy between men” in the ways that it allows one to “imagine what a new kind of male friendship might look like” (Jenkins, 1993, as cited in Green et al. 2006). But what male friendships are portrayed in fanfiction outside of slash, that is, in non-romantic contexts? Furthermore, what might those friendships look like in fanfictions of the shōnen manga genre, which traditionally reproduces Toxic Masculine attitudes regarding male gender expression? Building on an interdisciplinary foundation of gender studies, fandom and affinity space studies, education, and children’s literature, this thesis investigates Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia (MHA) (2014-) and its most popular work of fanfiction on Archive of Our Own, PitViperofDoom’s Yesterday Upon The Stair (YUTS) (2016-2019). Using a mixed-methods approach that combines close-reading and data-driven analyses, I compare the selected texts for their respective depictions of crying and the attitudes surrounding such expressions of emotional vulnerability by male characters. Through this analysis, I explore how fanfiction narratives such as YUTS represent fan intentions to critique and challenge the gendered tropes of the popular shōnen manga, My Hero Academia, as well as how YUTS’ restorying (Thomas & Stornaiuolo, 2016) serves as a counter-narrative against gendered assumptions in the shōnen manga tradition and its fandom activity more broadly. The findings show that YUTS provides an alternative approach to shōnen narratives that preserve the genre’s narrative structure while overtly challenging its attitudes regarding masculinity. YUTS’ in-narrative discussion of the sexualization of characters and their relationships speak directly to the fanfiction reader, posing questions about what attitudes regarding gender are perpetuated in fandom activity and in their official, “canon” counterparts. This thesis concludes with a discussion of the limitations and implications of this study, and a call to action for fandom members, academics, and the YA industry to challenge its approaches to masculinity in young adult media.

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"Radical uncertainty": interrogating magic in children's literature (2022)

Witches and magic are ever-popular and enchanting, whether on screen, in children’s literature or in the cultural imagination. They offer empowerment, escapism, wonder and excitement. However, the figure of the witch is also a marker of waves of oppression, persecution and violence against women and other marginalised groups throughout history. In this thesis, I explore whether depictions of fictional witches in children’s literature can reconcile these discordant understandings, and how they might do so. I illustrate the disconnect between fictional representations of magic and witches and real witch hunts and marginalisation. I discuss what place magical writing has in representing marginalisation and oppression and outline definitions of a variety of types of liminal magical writing. These definitions, with a focus on Tzvetan Todorov’s the fantastic and magical realism as defined by Wendy B. Faris, are applied to a reading of Natalie Babbitt’s classic novel, Tuck Everlasting. The conclusion reflects on how the “radical uncertainty” (Gooderham), found in these types of magical writing, may be a useful tool in exploring othering and marginalisation and representations of witches in children’s literature. I seek out a mode in which the realities of violence and othering can be rendered without denying a magic that leaves space for empowerment, epistemological pluralism, wonder and hope.

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Configuring the autistic child in literature: autistic characters' language and agency in Rules and Rain Reign (2021)

This thesis investigates how autistic characters are represented in children’s literature, especially in regard to their language use and their linguistic relations with other characters. This analysis has two parts. First, I examine how Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and relevant experiences are represented in children’s literature. Drawing on several models of disability representation, I found that ASD characters often fall into three broad categories: 1) othered characters, 2) incomplete characters, and 3) symbolic or inspirational figures. Second, I use this framework to analyze two texts that include ASD characters, specifically Cynthia Lord’s Rules and Ann M. Martin’s Rain Reign. In my reading of these texts, building on work in the fields of Children’s Literature, Sociolinguistics, and Disability Studies, I sought to determine 1) if these texts repeat the conventional representation of disability or deviate from it, and 2) how the autistic character’s language or linguistic relationship affects the overall ASD representation. The findings suggest that autistic characters’ language use and conversation with other characters can be understood as a useful indicator of the autistic character’s agency. The analysis of Rules and Rain Reign also illustrates that the overall portrayal of ASD is conditioned by a wide range of factors, including the presence of an autistic character’s voice, autistic character’s narrative agency, positioning of an autistic character in the plot structure, character dynamics, and the descriptive language used for autistic characters. The findings have implications for the development of emerging literature on the autistic experience for young readers, as well as how those books would be mediated by teachers, librarians, and caregivers. I conclude my thesis by calling for scholarly attention and public interest to bring positive changes in depicting and understanding ASD both in the literary world and the real world.

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"The Goodbye Backpack": applying structural design principles to a picturebook (2020)

This hybrid creative thesis consists of two parts: a creative portion and an academic portion. The creative portion is a printed dummy of my original picturebook The Goodbye Backpack, which portrays the complex and challenging nuances of death and the grieving process. The dummy book includes the written text and four final illustrations. The academic portion of this thesis begins by investigating the prevalence of representations of death in children’s literature, as well as how picturebooks can be used to comfort children after they encounter death. Using the ten structural principles of composition defined by Molly Bang, it continues with a detailed examination of The Goodbye Backpack. By analyzing each spread in the dummy book, it explains how compositional choices—such as the directionality of the lines and the placement of visual elements—can provoke specific emotional responses from readers. This thesis aims to demonstrate the importance of including visual representations of death in children’s picturebooks and clarify how an understanding of death can make it less frightening. It also strives to shed light on the process of creating a visual connotative picturebook that heavily relies on structural principles to tell a story that is emotionally evocative and abstract.

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A story in three dimensions: theme parks as inhabitable story spaces and selected artwork and text from Verne's Journey (2020)

This hybrid thesis is a companion to the Pitch Bible for my creative project, ‘dark ride’, a narrative theme park attraction titled Verne’s Journey. Here I discuss the history and theories on themed narrative attractions, specifically with a focus on the role of narrative themes. I review audience engagement with these spaces, especially their participation in playful behaviours and interactions, and their acceptance of the imaginative nature of these rides as brief realities where they may go as far as to dress up and inhabit story spaces they have previously consumed in literature and/or other media.

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Heroes, adolescents, and artists: the quest of the adolescent female-identifying artist in young adult fantasy literature (2020)

This thesis is the academic companion to my original young adult fantasy novel, Writing Magic. I explore the impact of patriarchal discourse on hegemonic Western literature through a poststructural lens, focusing on stories centered around heroes, adolescents, and/or artists from the eighteenth century to the present day. Female-identifying characters have long been confined to narrow roles (temptress, mother, damsel, crone) within heroic narratives, both fantastical and artistic, if not altogether excluded. This has perpetuated the limited subject positions available for female-identifying characters in literature. Therefore, I propose the Kunstlerroman form (a novel foregrounding the development of the artist; related to the Bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story) as one possible method for centering female-identifying protagonists and their concerns, while also challenging the perceived universality of the male experience. By using evolving artistic practice as one vehicle through which the female-identifying protagonist can voice her own story, the Kunstlerroman novel has the potential to dismantle patriarchal language in fantasy from within. My 140 000-word novel, Writing Magic, serves as a creative inquiry into the effectiveness of the Kunstlerroman to these ends, with an eye toward possible bibliotherapeutic and pedagogical applications.

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"My name is Alice, not Alicia": a non-fiction picturebook biography (2019)

This hybrid creative thesis consists of two parts. The creative portion is a fully realized printed dummy of My Name Is Alice, Not Alicia my original picturebook biography of Alice Dixon Le Plongeon’s life and work, highlighting the period between 1873-1884 when she lived in Yucatán, México, exploring the Maya ruins. The dummy includes four final illustrations and the final written text.The academic portion of the thesis begins with a thorough description of the research done in preparation for writing and illustrating the story. It then follows with a detailed explanation of the intentions behind each layout and illustration in My Name Is Alice, Not Alicia.The goals of this thesis are to provide insights into the creation of a non-fiction picturebook biography with attention to the affordances of this narrative non-fiction picturebook genre. A further goal is the publication of My Name Is Alice, Not Alicia since it contributes to the body of stories about underrepresented groups. Hopefully its publication will inspire creators and publishers to bring other forgotten lives to light.My Name Is Alice, Not Alicia portrays the Yucatecan and Maya culture and its traditions, pays close attention to authenticity and historical accuracy thus offering readers an important book on Mexico and its Pre-Hispanic cultures. Furthermore, the story revendicates Alice Le Plongeon’s achievements and acknowledges her as an exemplary woman whose passionate interests fueled her ambition to pursue a professional career uncommon for women of that time. Her ideas were far ahead from those of the Victorian Era. She became the first woman to explore the Maya ruins, a prolific, published academic writer, and an active first-wave feminist.

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Between metaphors; a documentary: reimagining war and violence in Colombia through picturebooks (2019)

Colombian children have grown up in a country where there has been a constant internal conflict for more than five decades. Part of this conflict came to an end in 2016 with a signed peace agreement between the FARC-AP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – Peoples Army) and the Colombian government. In the present, the country is going through a post-conflict phase and trying to negotiate peace with other armed groups that are still active. This reality makes children from both rural and urban areas aware of the conflict, and either they or their family members have been directly or indirectly affected by it. Picturebooks are one way that youth and their families can have conversations on the challenges of war and the consequences that come from it, provided that these texts are carefully crafted. This thesis investigates picturebooks in Colombia that depict types of violence brought about by internal conflict. Limited academic research has interrogated the role of picturebooks in this specific region and addressing this conflict. Knowledge of this area is critically important to understand the possible benefits and difficulties that such books bring to Colombian children and beyond. With this in mind—by analysing the six interviews that form the basis of a documentary film entitled Entre metáforas: re-imaginando la guerra y violencia en Colombia a partir del libro album (Between Metaphors: reimagining war and violence in Colombia through picturebooks)—I sought to answer: how are picturebooks that focus on the violence in Colombia published? How are these picturebooks received by their readers, based on the experiences of the booksellers, authors and illustrators? Finally, what are the perspectives of Colombian children’s book specialists on this subject?This thesis is both a qualitative analysis of the process of creating picturebooks about the Colombian experience from the perspective of authors, illustrators, and editors, as well as an act of research creation, as the documentary film provides an alternate entry to this knowledge for diverse stakeholders, including educators, creative professionals, and scholars of children’s literature.

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Making tomorrow's stories: the commercial viability and material demands of transmedia narratives for children (2019)

This project aims to explore the exciting new trends in multimedia storytelling through an economic lens. Although strongly enthused by the theoretical possibilities of digital technology in multimodal narratives, the academic world seems to turn a blind eye to the harsh material limitations of such artistic endeavors. The apparent discrepancy between the academic conversation on transmedia narratives and the latter’s (lack of) commercial success reveals a significant gap between the literary and media theories surrounding multimedia storytelling and the economics of their production and marketing. This thesis offers to bridge these two realities through an exploratory analysis of the resources needed in the production and promotion of a transmedia narrative designed for children. The project is divided in three stages: a case study of the commercialization of Inanimate Alice as a transmedia narrative for children, an original design of a multimedia narrative for middle grade children, and an assessment of the resources— material, human, and financial—the design would require for its production. The resources assessment at the core of this exploratory research is based on the creative design for a transmedia narrative this project proposes, as a hypothetical commercial and material production. Through the analysis of production concerns for an existing transmedia story as well as a supposed one, this work identifies the array of financial and human challenges that are specific to the transmedia medium. Using Jenkins’ definition of “transmedia narratives” and the current academic discussions on transmedia, this project assesses the resources needed to produce, distribute, and sell a specific transmedia narrative, in order to paint a clearer portrait of the material realities and production challenges faced by transmedia content creators.

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Ah, music, a magic beyond all we do here: an analysis of Matilda the Musical and its application in creating musical adaptations of children's novels; selected songs from The Boy Who Lived: a musical adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2018)

This thesis explores the world of adaptation and the transformation from book to musical theater stage. I study adaptation by examining adaptation theory, as seen through Linda Hutcheon’s text A Theory of Adaptation and an exploration of the adaptation from book to stage according to Vincent Murphy’s Page to Stage. Using these texts and theories, I explored the adaptation of children’s literature to the stage, with a close reading and analysis of Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly’s Matilda the Musical, an adaptation of Dahl’s children’s novel, Matilda. With insight from Gilles Deleuze’s work on repetition, difference, and rhizome, this analysis into the adaptation process guided me in producing an original musical adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone entitled The Boy Who Lived. The analysis and my own adaptation process revealed the key components for creating musical stage adaptations of children’s novels, with further insights into the reader and audience’s role in the success of the adaptation.

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Tenets of Selected Picturebook Scholarship Applied to the Practice of the Adaptation of the Picturebook, The King Has Goat Ears, to a Picturebook App (2016)

This hybrid creative study distills concepts from picturebook scholarship, and writings on audiobooks, sound semiotics, multimodality, and reading as a form of play to create a set of guiding questions for the creation of a story app called The King's Ears. Three important concepts foreground the inquiry. Firstly, picturebook stories are played multimodally through the combined contributions of words and pictures. Shaping the app's modes of sound, interaction, and animation to interrelate with the words and pictures, and with each other to tell the story was the central challenge of the app design. The second significant idea that governs this design-based approach is that children read picturebooks differently than adults do. The third principle is that the interactions, sounds, animations, and navigation of the picturebook app should be child-controlled and replayable. From a process of iterative cycles of design, enactment, analysis, and redesign to develop an original media artifact, a framework emerged that can be used to guide the development and assessment of picturebook apps, as well as sharable theories that can inform the work of other designers.

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Systemic Oppression in Children's Portal-Quest Fantasy Literature (2015)

This thesis investigates the representation of systemic oppression in Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Employing Foucauldian poststructuralism and critical discourse analysis, this research identifies how the social systems of the fantasy texts construct hierarchies based on race and gender, and social norms based on sexuality and disability. Privilege and oppression are identified as the results of the relaying of power relations by social institutions through strategies such as dominant discourses. This study questions the historically understood role of children’s and fantasy literature as socialization tools, and the potential negative consequences of this.

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The Hunger Games Fanfiction as a Community of Practice: Forming Identities in Online Communities (2015)

This research investigates expressions of identity and formation of identity found in an online fanfiction forum based on the young adult novel, The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Using Wenger’s neo-Vygotskian socio-cultural learning theorem from his book, Communities of Practice I observed, then coded posts by authors and respondents using a rubric I operationalized from Wenger’s five characteristics of identity in practice. I employed a deductive coding scheme and used Wenger’s community of practice as a framework. During the coding process, I found many examples of what seem to be expressions of identity in practice and what appear to be examples of identity in formation. I discuss how this online fanfiction forum operates as a community of practice and consider how this fanfiction space informs other educational applications. There are different instructional strategies that could be gleaned from the coding and analysis process that practicing teachers and librarians could implement into their current online or offline practices. This fanfiction forum is an example of a self-selected online activity with a high level of reading and writing engagement. There are many exciting signs of educational and developmental activities occurring in this fanfiction forum, which suggests further investigation is needed.

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Playfulness in e-Picturebooks: How the Element of Play Manifests in Transmediated and Born-Digital Picturebook Apps (2014)

This thesis analyzes how playfulness is expressed in eight picturebook apps available for the iPad, four of them being born-digital picturebook apps and the other four picturebooks being transmediated into apps from print counterparts. These works of digital literature, aimed at children between 3 and 8 years old, underwent a close reading through the lenses of social semiotics, as presented by Gunther Kress and Theo Van Leeuwen, and its manifestation in picturebook theory, as presented by David Lewis’ ecology of the picturebook. Playfulness was analyzed according to the three categories proposed by Nikolajeva: through the interanimation among modes, through metafiction and through performance–implicit and explicit. One born-digital and one transmediated app was selected among a sample of 100 picturebook apps as quintessential examples of that type of playfulness, although all apps manifested on different levels all kinds of playfulness. The multimodal analysis of these picturebook apps revealed that each app is unique in the way modes both individually and in combination work as a multimodal text in expressing playfulness. The different modes may work in counterpoint to generate irony, or they may complement each other building signs that are ironic in contrast with other signs inside the narrative. The inclusion of interactivity makes possible new combinations of modes that integrate reader inputs and various forms of participation. Participation is an important element in the construction of metafiction since, as interactive narratives, most texts manifest an overt recognition of the reader as a participant.The differences between born-digital and transmediated apps are subtle, but this sample suggested that the counterpart among modes is used as a playful resource more significantly in transmediated apps, while the born-digital apps count more on interactivity and performance to generate playfulness. Half of the transmediated apps manifested covert metafiction, while all of the born-digital texts manifested overt metafiction. Finally, in terms of performance, the born-digital apps showed highly theatricalized participation of the reader and also promoted reader participation in co-authoring, which was not seen in the transmediated apps.

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