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Grad students funded to study facets of our modern times, fracking and social media

$1.391 million in scholarships and fellowships awarded

November 14, 2014 — 

Two graduate students at the University of Manitoba are each researching facets of modern times that we all have a stake in: fracking and modern technology. Kaela-Mae Hlushko is examining fracking as a technical, environmental and lived experience. Raymond Lavoie is studying how new technologies, like social media, have a negative impact and shape our behaviour.

The pair are just two examples of the thirty-nine projects recently supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) with $1.391 million in funding.

“Our graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are among the best in Canada,” said John (Jay) Doering, vice-provost (graduate education) and dean of graduate studies. “They compete on a national level for these awards and their success in receiving this funding bodes well for their futures.”

The Canada Graduate Scholarships and Fellowships awarded to graduate students and postdoctoral fellows support up-and-coming scholars who demonstrate a high standard of achievement in undergraduate and graduate studies in the social sciences and humanities. SSHRC is the federal agency that promotes and supports postsecondary research and training in the humanities and social sciences in Canada.

“I congratulate these newly funded researchers who are now embarking on a transformative journey of research and discovery at the University of Manitoba,” said Digvir S. Jayas, vice-president (research and international) and Distinguished Professor at the University of Manitoba.

Hlushko’s research involves hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” which has dramatically shifted the way contemporary fossil fuel extraction is conducted. New technologies combining hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling have opened up access to deep underground shale deposits, exponentially increasing the amount of available oil in southwestern Manitoba. While the industry refers to hydraulic fracturing as the technical act of high pressure drilling, Hlushko proposes that the term fracking intertwines technical realities with social and political relationships of those living and working amid the oil boom.

“I examine fracking from three different epistemological viewpoints,” says Hlushko. “I interrogate fracking as a technical experience, as an environmental experiment, and as a lived experience, to reveal that people living amidst the oil boom have a much more complicated understanding of fracking than the strictly economic terms used by fossil fuel authorities.”

Lavoie’s research explores the major shift in recent years in which a significant amount of our time is spent on phones and social media. Research suggests that communicating through media is having a negative impact on consumer well-being. The angle Lavoie’s research is taking is that these interactive communication types provide a sense of “flow” and thus draw us in.

“Think of when you search through Facebook and then you realize that 10 minutes have gone by,” said Lavoie. “We suggest that while capturing so much of our attention, social media reinforces certain goal structures (e.g. impression motives) which carry over into the external world and shape how we act. For example, impression management is becoming very important which can create negative feelings such as anxiety in social situations.”

Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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