Medicine Hat College was awarded, for the first time, a grant from the Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada. Dr. Jana Smith Elford is the lead investigator on the project and is working in collaboration with Dr. Michelle Meagher, chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies program at the University of Alberta.
Elford’s dissertation for her PhD, done at U of A, focused on feminist magazines from the late Victorian period, late 1880s through to the 1890s. Meagher was one of her examiners and thought it would be interesting to see if the same methods could be applied to magazines from the 1970s and 1980s.
Elford and Meagher have been working on the project for a few years. With this grant, they are focusing on one particular year, 1979, and how the advertisements in all the magazines link to each other.
“One of the interesting thing about any social movement magazine is you don’t advertise for conventional goods and services,” stated Elford. “They advertise for each other. They advertise for other people who are part of the movement, other publishers and other magazines. That’s why we were interested in the magazines because it’s a way, in the advertisements specifically, to trace the movement so we can see who are the important figures, what are the important events, what are the kind of random magazines appearing. They are not magazines that people today would know about, they aren’t familiar.
“We are familiar with movements and how today social movements mobilize through social media, but we aren’t really aware of how, in the 1980s before social media, people mobilized through magazines. We are clipping those ads and representing them with linked data and putting them in a database that is openly accessible.”
The year 1979 was chosen because interesting debates about race were taking place. The aim is to determine if the advertisements mirror the debates taking place. The research is focusing on feminist magazines but aims to look at women of the world, rather than only those in the U.S. or Canada.
Providing linked, open data is something that Google is currently doing and the team is hoping if they put their research findings out there as linked data, it will get picked up by the computers that are speaking the same language.
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada offer nationwide, competitive grants and they are difficult to receive. MHC received the largest amount, $74,986, which indicates the research is seen as valuable. Additionally, the grant helps MHC build its research capacity.
MHC receives the money and then provides a subgrant to the U of A.
“The reason we decided to do that is because it gives students from MHC and U of A the ability to work together,” said Elford. “The student hired from MHC has the opportunity to work with master’s level students. It provides an opportunity for collaboration and learning new skills and techniques they otherwise wouldn’t have had an opportunity to learn.”
The team is comprised of a student from MHC, Elford, Meagher and two graduate students from the digital humanities program at U of A. This grant, called an insight development grant, is for two years. It started in September 2022 and will run through until September 2024.
The team is looking to apply for a five-year grant to expand the project so they can investigate more years and more magazines.