Blog Post #4

It’s that time again, ASTU: our next blog post is due Monday, November 9 at noon (remember, if the original Friday due date suited you better, go ahead and post before Monday. Just no later). Please read and comment by 9:30 Tuesday as usual. In this post, I give some suggestions about finding a topic and I also talk about some material that is in my own “ASTU stuff” file.

Again this week, you will choose your own topic related to our discussions of life narratives. Be sure to make explicit how your content connects to our course conversations, and don’t forget to think about the needs of your readers, who will be us, but also the wider UBC community. Remember that I’m expecting analytical rather than merely descriptive posts. One way to add complexity to your discussions is to bring in the work of  scholars or other experts, engaging with their ideas as you develop your own insights.

If you’re looking for ideas for your topic, you could look ahead to the blogs we are reading alongside Cockeyed (see links on Connect). You could talk about aspects of Cockeyed we haven’t addressed as a class. You might draw on your lit review, or look ahead to the original work you want to do on your primary source (the life narrative you’ll study as your research site). Or you may have seen life narratives in action in other places and want to talk about them. It’s a great research practice, in any course, to start a “clippings file” (digital or print) to capture stuff you see in other contexts but that you find interesting and relevant to that particular course’s content. You never know when that “clippings file” might yield an original research project, blog post, or “hook” for another piece of writing.

As a researcher and teacher of auto/biography studies, I’m always on the alert for material that connects to my own scholarship (on digital life narratives) and to my courses. In mid-September, I found this interview in the Vancouver Sun with Jason DaSilva, a filmmaker whose documentary When I Walk was showing at the Vancouver Film Festival.  The documentary chronicles DaSilva’s experiences with MS, and explores what it means for him to navigate the world as a person with a disability (see the Sundance trailer with extra footage here). The feature-length film is only the latest (and longest) of DaSilva’s self-representations; he’s been a video blogger for years (see one here, but also note his many posts for organizations such as the MS Society, including this one).

There’s a lot to work with in DaSilva’s films: we could continue to think about representations of disability, using Couser or other scholars to help us develop our analyses (is DaSilva resisting or conforming to normative social narratives about disability? Are these “counter-narratives”? How?). We could use them to think about documentary as a form of auto/biography, with its own sets of generic conventions, that we haven’t yet considered. (How do do the conventions of the documentary shape the auto/biographical act? What are the effects of the film medium, including camera angle, voice-over, music, etc.)? We could think about these films in relation to YouTube and the DIY — video blogs that allow “anyone” to post about “anything.” I’m also interested in the reception of DaSilva’s blogs and When I Walk: I note how often the word “inspiration” is used, and I imagine that pattern is worth considering (especially given one of the blog posts we’re reading next week, “We’re Not Here for Your Inspiration“).

Unlike you, I don’t have to choose one path and present an analysis here. But you might find DaSilva’s work, um, inspirational. And do be sure to start your own “neat stuff” file: it always pays off!

Happy blogging,



  1. Charlotte: (
    I thought Charlotte’s analysis on Laferriere’s explanation (or lack thereof) of key historical events in Haiti presented an important acknowledgement of how the work didn’t cater excessively to Western audiences. However, her question about “how writers decide which cultural and historical elements in their work constitute as important to explain” makes me wonder if authors purposefully leave out elaborate explanations of important events for their audience in order to engage the audience further in the narrative. Confronted with a lack of explanation, an audience is forced look up the material on their own, which would enrich their understanding. Conversely, if they choose not to look up the material, they are left with an incomplete understanding of the material. In the case of Laferriere, his exclusion of material could indicate that he wants Western readers to feel confused or unsure of the historical context. Their awareness of their incomplete knowledge could decrease the potential for assumptions from Western audiences, because they understand that they don’t come from a place of authority in context of the narrative.

    Chipo: (
    I found Chipo’s personal connection to Ryan Knighton’s memoir very thought provoking. Although I personally do not have poor vision, my younger sister has had to wear glasses from a very young age, also having to strengthen her prescription as she ages. Chipo’s initial analysis that connected her experience to Ryan Knighton’s helped me to acknowledge how the memoir fits into my life and it pushes me to think about how my good eyesite has shaped me as a person. A trait that I take for granted, I am starting to realize how my eyesite has intrisically shaped me as a human being. I am (and have always been) captivated by detail, seeking to replicate it through art and writing. Although this is a more shallow connection than losing one’s eyesight, I still thought it was interesting to contextualize the memoir in terms of my life.

    Emma: (
    Emma brings up an interesting point about how the mainstream media caters to their Western audience. Her analysis of how Laferriere identifies the motivations of mainstream media and in his memoir, works to counteract mainstream media’s stereotypical portrayal of Haiti connects to my blog topic, which focuses on women’s counternarrative. I thought it was interesting that Laferriere, The Hunting Ground and Highway of Tears all counteract mainstream portrayal of an event by identifying as a marginalized subject. In the face of hegemonic production of narrative, all three are able to distinguish their perspective as coming from an authentic position, rather than extending the dialogue common in society, opening up new perspectives and opportunitites for discussion.

  2. Mishal

    Mishal, I found your entry to be fantastic! The prospect of a individual younger than us going out to sea without any assistance is definitely an impressive feat. It is amazing what upbringing prompts us to do as Laura was born in raised at sea for two years. Traveling in the first years of life would definitely open an overall larger view of the world as exemplified by Laura wanting to venture out into the sea alone. I also agree with your stance on how this narrative can be utilized as a method to reverse common stereotypes on gender and age particularly in Dutch society were Laura believes you simply “get money, get a house, get a husband, get a baby, then die”. In all honesty, this narrative reminds me of the novel Life of Pi of course not the disaster segment of the novel but the rest of it were the main character had to endure unpredictable weather and learn to survive off an allocated set of supplies and the sea. Of course in Laura’s case, there were several key differences such as Laura having knowledge of sailing and living at sea. Great post and I totally agree, this makes me think that maybe I should enjoy life a little more and go outside the box.

    Kaz Shigeta

    Kaz, I am impressed with how you managed to merge your experience into this blog post, I always find personal experiences interesting to read. The downtown east side is definitely not the most “preferred place” for non residences so I totally understand where you’re coming from and in all honestly, I would have been on guard too. Moving onto talking about the documentary you mentioned, I guess it proves true that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” because the women do not consider the East Side a bane to their existence but rather a tight knit community. I actually find the East Side communities of Vancouver (beyond the Downtown East Side) more friendly and hospitable, people always want to know your story and all. When I was young, I actually spent a decent amount of time in East Vancouver at my grandma’s house which overlooked Downtown and the East Side of it (it was quite the view) so I definitely connect to the documentary painting the East Side in a much more positive light. I find it awesome though that you ventured out into that area of Vancouver and blogged about it, East Side experiences are definitely on the more interesting side.

    Tima Johnson

    Tima, this is such a fascinating concept. The prospect of not knowing the whole story of what is said in these post card leaves a lot to the person’s imagination which is interesting. It must be mentally stimulating to imagine a narrative revolving around that one post card. The idea of Post Secret is quite fascinating too because of how it’s use can be combined sociologically (thank goodness for CAP being “coordinated”). Sociologically speaking, Post Secret could be used as a way to test people’s reactions to different phenomena world wide and current issues which allows for a greater understanding of how the world works. It would be quite interesting to see if the idea od Post Secret can be used for an analytical study.

  3. In response to Anna’s blog: I found Anna’s post extremely thought provoking. The power of counter narrative is undeniable in providing “marginalized” groups the opportunity to speak, these counter narratives have the ability to face issues and change stereotypes. It is astonishing that in so many cases of rape, especially those which occur on university campuses, the rapist are not reprimanded. Equally the unacceptable neglect that the Canadian government paid to the “missing or murdered” First Nations women. It highlights how improvements in technology have increased the amount of people who get the opportunity to speak and allows many people to criticize or express their discontent with the government and attitudes towards certain situations.

    In response to Chipo’s blog: I found it so interesting to see how Chipo’s perspective on reading Knighton’s cockeyed. It must have been scary to hear someones own experience of going blind with a deteriorating eye condition. Whilst I do not have weak eye sight, I do have an eye condition that affects my ability to focus. Sometimes my eyes cannot focus and they begin switching in and out of focus. After reading Chipo’s blog and seeing how she saw links between her own experience and Knighton’s experience it leads me to think about how my eye condition has effected me, but more how I try to ignore it or push past it as much as possible. This is something that I believe a lot of people do and I wonder how much it affects each individual.

    In response to Emily’s blog: The aspects Emily raised in her blog about the repercussions of “I am Malala” in Afghan society, I found to be extremely interesting. I had not considered how her plea to improve education for women in Afghanistan framed Afghan culture in the way it does. Not only does it assume the oppression of women, it implies that Afghan government is “incapable” of providing an education. However, to what extent is this a plea of “western” education, and does this undermine the traditional education that women receive.

  4. In response to Will’s blog: Reading Will’s post this week reminded me of a news story that recently went viral. It was about an eighteen-year-old girl who, shortly after she created her Instagram account, she became what is now known as “Insta-famous”, meaning she developed a strong following for her account. Although this may seem like a dream for some youths, this particular teenage wasn’t as happy as she appeared in her images. Having had enough, the girl deleted and reposted her images with explanations as to how she was truly feeling behind the poses. I know that when I smile in a picture, I am not always happy in that given moment. I think it’s natural for humans to want to present the best possible versions of ourselves but having to do so constantly and to a global audience can be overwhelming.

    In response to Charlotte’s blog: I also found Dany Laferriére’s changing use of “I” and “we” interesting whilst reading his memoir. I think we all have found moments in our lives where we aren’t sure if we stand with people or if we stand alone. This concept of fluid identity, I think I have and am experiencing it because of my history of traveling constantly. For example, I struggle to define where I stand in regards to Malaysia because I was born there, thus I am considered a Malaysian citizen. However, the rest of my family are citizens of Zimbabwe and I have felt a bit like an outsider having a different birthplace than my sisters. While “I” was born in Malaysia, my family and I (“We”) are Zimbabwean.

    In response to Blakely’s blog: This is my first time hearing of Jason DaSilva’s work and I find myself wanting to know more of it and perhaps watch one of his films. I don’t accept how people with disabilities are often stereotyped negatively, or how any group of people who are considered ‘different’ from the ‘accepted norm’ are handled with gloves. Just because one doesn’t understand something or someone doesn’t mean one has to fear it. Continuing off with your point of how “through disability memoirs, individuals write with the goal of eliminating… stigmatization”, I think about how some people think that all deaf people want to the ability to hear like ‘the rest of humans’. While this may be the case for them, the deaf community has accepted that they don’t have the capability to hear and have created a language which suits their needs. It is important to take into account that sign language is indeed a language itself and some deaf people have accepted their situations and aren’t ‘waiting in line’ to hear again.

  5. In response to Jodie: I was interested to see you mentioned the lack of censorship we often find concerning life narratives on the Internet, particularly YouTube. Censorship is something we often see in published life narratives and something that Schaffer and Smith bring into question in their work in “Conjunctions: Life Narratives in the Field of Human Rights”, when they ask questions about the authenticity of a story after it has been censored. Yet, as you explained, life narratives on platforms like YouTube still manage to find a large audience, despite a presumed lack of censorship. I think that the Internet is therefore an important tool for everyone to have access to, in order to make sure no one’s voice gets censored in the process of storytelling.

    In response to Shaan: I thought the point you brought up in your blog post about what it means to be “human” was really insightful! I also liked the point you raised about people who fear disability. Couser, in his work, investigates how narratives that follow traditional paradigms ultimately encourage audiences to fear disability. I am wondering whether or not Ryan Knighton’s work in Cockeyed, in its emancipatory elements, effectively dispels this fear. In my opinion, it does – the audiences learns about Knighton’s blindness through first person narrative, and gets the chance to experience his ups and downs alongside him.

    In response to Tima: I really enjoyed exploring the site you posted about ( and found a lot of the posts really interesting. I also thought it was interesting what you mentioned about the impact of the site on the people who send in submissions. I agree that providing an anonymous outlet for people allows them to confess and perhaps heal. As for those the presentation of the postcards, it reminds me of some of the posts found on Humans of New York (for example, this post: I think that the lack of context allows for different interpretations by the audience and can be beneficial in generating different discussions.

  6. In response to Kaz:
    So many people live in the downtown east side and most of the time their individual identities get lost in the broader narrative of poverty and drug addiction. I think your blog post does a great job of acknowledging how life narratives can work to humanize a group of people, and how individual stories can sometimes be greater than collective voices. I looked into the documentary you spoke about a little more and realized that I’ve actually met the filmmakers and while they are both activists who have done amazing work for people in the downtown east side, neither are residents. This reminded me of a conversation our ASTU class has been having a lot about who is able to tell their story. The stories of marginalized people are so often told by someone else, and I wonder how that effects the narratives we hear about.

    In response to Emily:
    I found your blog post very interesting because in the seemingly endless praise for I Am Malala in the West, the voices of Pakistani people are not found on the book jacket or in the mainstream media. The different receptions of I Am Malala tie back into Schaffer and Smith’s discussion of the way life narratives are marketed to and received by Western audiences. How much of Malala’s writing, which as you point out seems to cater to a Western audience, is really hers? How much of it was pushed upon her by an editor or ghostwriter? In Melissa’s blog, she discusses the memoir of a famous cross fit instructor, which was actually written by a ghostwriter. Thinking about your post and hers, I wonder how many of Malala’s words were actually her own.

    In response to Chipo:
    You mention in your blog that because of your personal connection with Cockeyed, it made you feel unsettled at times. This made me think about how life narratives of trauma or disability might affect those who suffer from the same things. In Emily’s blog, she mentions how I Am Malala seems to have been written for a Western audience. In the same way, I wonder if narratives of disability are written more for the able than the disabled. Looking back at Cockeyed, there were many instances where Knighton talked about feeling almost ashamed of his blindness. Though in class we’ve been looking at Cockeyed as a counter narrative, as Shaan notes in his blog, there are instances where Knighton follows the standard disability narrative: instances where he is ashamed or fearful of his blindness, where he views it as a major impediment and something he has to hide. How would reading about these instances affect a disabled reader? Would they be able to relate or would it make them feel further stigmatized? Perhaps this is not the case, but as an able person I can’t say for sure.

  7. In response to Nana:
    Like you, as a little girl I really wanted glasses. My dad had them, and my favorite babysitter had them, so it was my dream to be just like them. Even as I got older, my friends started getting glasses, leaving me out of circle. One of my high school friends even got fake glasses, before she realized she actually needed them. However, after reading Cockeyed, as well as Chipo’s interpretation of the text, I realized that glasses don’t, as you mentioned, “bind” us to one certain criteria. It simply opens new doors, new opportunities, new experiences, although sometimes stressful, based on the new experiences you face.

    In response to Anna:
    While reading your blog, both the sources you used made me think about my own blog and the differences between the media’s way of discussing the Haiti earthquake, and how Laferriere uses his experiences to portray it. To me, both The Hunting Ground and Laferriere shied away from using Western influences to tell their stories. They stuck to what they knew, not trying to fancy It up to please the Western society. However, both the media coverage of the earthquake and the media coverage of Highway of Tears both provided spectral vague, and sometimes, misinformation all to keep their asses safe from and bring in the money that they don’t really need.

    In response to Blakely:
    In the Couser reading, there was a woman by the name of Ruth
    Sienkiewicz-Mercer who, in a sense, overcame her disability and eventually went on to lead a semi-normal life. Her narrative about her struggles included not only her steps towards her “recultivation” (Couser 42), but it also included a sense of comedic relief, just as Knighton uses in Cockeyed. Both DaSilva and Mercer use their “triumphs” to show that they have moved past the inferred ideas that society has placed on them as marginalized peoples due to their disabilities.

  8. In response to Mishal’s Blog:
    That documentary sounds so amazing! I feel that I could never do something like that! However, maybe it is because, as you pointed out, there is a stereotype that girls shouldn’t be doing all these daring things. However, if we were 14 year old boys, do you think that it would be any different than what we would? Also, do you think it would be better if she was a grown up and was married with kids? Boys are encouraged by society to be brave, while a lot of people still consider girls to be the weaker sex, even if they don’t really realize it. It’s interesting how we don’t realize how sexist society can still be, but we don’t realize it because we think it’s normal. However, the roles between genders have been blurring, especially because of documentaries like these. I feel like documentaries to empower women are increasing, but do you think that it’s enough to change the stereotypes of gender? I hope they can.

    In response to Anna’s Blog:
    I think it’s really interesting how both of the documentaries you featured victim-blaming. I wonder if it’s because our society discriminates against the weaker peoples. Maybe so it’s so we can feel stronger because usually that’s what people consider good and we strive to work away from being weak. Because we value strength so much, we tend to overlook the bad things that the other people do to get where they are, as long as the person we are looking at is strong and someone we can admire. However, that just makes the victims become weaker from less support and it’s even harder for them to be seen as strong and so it is therefore harder for them to get their voices heard.

    In response to Shaan’s Blog:
    Your point about how you point out that fears of stigmas conforming to stigmas can actually make you follow the stigma yourself. I think this can apply past just stigmas about blindness or disabilities, but everyday life too. For example, if someone tries so hard not to seem “uncool” they might actually become uncool because they try too hard and it doesn’t work for them. However, I wonder if there is a way to not fear stigmas. Or, even more so, I wonder if everyone actually does follow a stigma, but they just don’t realize it.

  9. In response to Jewels blog: I really like how Jewel was able to connect Jenna Marble’s video to Cockeyed, a book that we have been discussing in class. It is also interesting to see a different form of narratives, that has only emerged recently. YouTube is now a massive industry, and a great way for people to share their stories. It is especially useful because it does not require any sort of editor or publishing company. Instead, absolutely anyone can share their story on YouTube, as long as they have access to the Internet. This is a great tool for many marginalized groups, whose stories may not be heard if they tried to utilize other means.

    In response to Mishals blog: The narrative that Mishal chose to talk about was very interesting and inspiring. It is an example of a very common kind of life narratives; an individual who fought for something they wanted to do, and succeeded, beating the odds stacked against them. Laura had many things going against her, and I thought it was smart of Mishal to point out that she had not only her age against her, but also her gender. There are very large stereotypes when it comes to sports, and the difference of abilities between men and women.

    In response to Emilys blog: It is shocking to hear that Malala’s narrative is not appreciated by those in Pakistan. This counters a lot of what we have been talking about in class, since those who the life narrative was meant to empower were actually offended by it. One of the purposes of life narratives is to help marginalized groups speak out about their problems. Instead, those in Pakistan are seeing Malala’s narrative as a appropriation of Western stereotypes, which is really sad.

  10. Anna,

    Both examples of counter-narratives that you touched on were very interesting. In our Western society, where we are becoming increasingly more dependent on technology, I wonder if documentaries displaying forms of counter-narrative will begin to outnumber books on similar topics, or if maybe this has already happened. It is also interesting to see how you touched on different topics and forms of counter-narrative and counter-history, bringing in a new element than what we have covered in class regarding disability memoirs. What seems to be important about the use of documentary to me is that as a form of counter-narrative and counter-history, it gives insight into the lives of several people, incorporating different perspectives, rather than just the single person perspective approach most books have. This approach provides helpful insight into an issue, quickly in one short film.


    I think the correlation you made between the popularity of an individual, their default position, and their ability to produce alternate narratives was very interesting. It leads back to one of those big questions we have explored in ASTU, that of “who is speaking autobiographically, and why?” (McNeill) It is interesting to explore this question in the context of social media, and in looking at the individuals you brought up. As social media becomes increasingly popular, it seems that we are seeing more and more people being given the chance to share their story. No longer is it that individuals must go through a publication process in order to get their story, or public appeal publicized, rather, they can now just share an image on Instagram, or make a video on YouTube, like in the case of Jenna Mourey.

    It will be interesting to see in the future how the imposition of social media as a vessel for life narratives will effect humanitarian movements and the advancement of human rights, just as other forms of life narrative have. We have already seen examples of this occurring, like in the Syrian refugee crisis.


    You brought up some very interesting points in your blog post regarding the acceptance of stigma by disabled people. It may seem like an odd approach, by accepting the stigma surrounding disabilities, but I think Ryan Knighton has a purpose in writing about his acceptance of it. As an individual with a disability, he knows that he has become part of a population marginalized in Western society. But by accepting the stigma surrounding his blindness, he has become more of a relatable character to his audience. As his audience begins to relate, they realize how much disabled people are stigmatized and marginalized in our culture, and therefore, begin to look at them as equals, rather than as “different” people. In the end, I think he is attempting to eliminate stigma, he just has an alternate approach to the goal.

  11. In response to Zoey’s blog: I found your blog very thought provoking and I pondered on your words where you mentioned that majority of the disability narratives still haven’t found their way in the market of life narratives. I think the underlying problem here is that of stigmatization; which makes the disabled population reflect on their stories and makes them think that there is nothing special or captivating about their story and hence they remain silent. Maybe they are silent because they are waiting for someone else with a similar to disability or disease to share their story first and see the response they receive before voicing their story. Afraid to take the first step, they fail to think that maybe there someone out there struggling with a similar situation as theirs and maybe making their story public will help that someone in living or coming to terms with their disease or disability.

    In response to Colleen’s blog: I am impressed with how you brought Couser, Schaffer and Smith and Knighton into conversation in this intricate pattern. I agree with your point that readers are more interested in happy ending which is more a fantasy than reality. In the expectation for happy endings in life narratives of disability or disease, readers in or society fail to understand how limited and narrow their concept of a happy ending is. If only we as a society change our mindset towards disability and disease and see–people accepting their disability and disease—as a happy ending, then we will see a rise in the number of disability memoirs published and read.

    In response to Jewel’s blog: I must start by saying that I found your blog really interesting and I looked up the video you talked about and it was quite entertaining. While some people might find it slightly offensive or just bad humor, I think different and I like how Jenna Marbles used her you tube as a platform to conveys society’s perception of beauty, because she knew the audience she was addressing (teenage girls). The way she negates the different roles or statuses ascribed to her by society and creates a different representation of self offers insight for other youngsters who feel pressurized by societal expectations. Her video gives a fresh perspective on physical appearance and the popular perceptions regarding beauty and makes the viewer rethink their personal standards of beauty and what kind of society we live in.

  12. In response to Kaz:
    What an interesting topic! Thinking about narratives I don’t think that my mind would have drifted to Eastside, but I completely agree with you. The dynamics and community in which you describe also surprised me, I can imagine all of the narratives of those who are part of that culture – they are so overlooked but they would indeed be filled with so much substance. The Documentary sounds really interesting and I intend to watch it at some point! I’m glad that it poses as some representation for the Eastside which I hope has been positive. Do you think that in abolishing their stereotypes the people their can benefit over their stories being told? I see that it is aiding with the stigma, however is it aiding to create something in order to improve the quality of life in that area of town? Reading your post and writing this comment I realize how little I know about this and it is definitely a worthy subject to look into.

    In response to Mishal:
    I particularly love documentaries like Laura’s as they are so empowering! I find it interesting how you commented on the dramatic music used to create a more intense energy in the trailer and overall how it was put together – it ties in a lot about representation ideas that we have been talking about in class as well as marketing strategy and accommodating to fit our consumerist nature. It’s puzzling how so much of life is conforming and fitting into a status quo when these documentaries of people completely breaking those patterns are so desirable to everyone. Granted they are usually amazing and adventurous feats, the people involved are incredible rebels to traditional thought. What do you thin is the most intriguing to viewers? Also, to what extend do you think these kinds of narratives drive their viewers to go out and pursue adventures themselves?

    In response to Jodie:
    Youtube is a wild outlet for expression and potential fame. While reading your blog post, as you mentioned, everyday people are posting their narratives in many different forms, and they are often very familiar relatable as many of these “vloggers,” are just everyday people. I can’t help but wonder if youtube’s vlogging popularity is actually taking away from other narratives of people who need to gain an international being documented. do you think that these will begin to take more and more precedence over narratives that need most to be heard? it just seems as if youtube is domination among other social medias.

  13. Kaz: The point you brought up about understanding a narrative through all prospectives is something I was reminded of often when reading “The World is Moving Around Me: A Memoir of the Hati Earthquake” by Dany Laferriere. In the book, Laferriere is able to write from the prospective of a Haitian man who experienced the earthquake first hand, understanding the dynamics of the country, and how the Haitian people act. Laferriere also was able to write from the prospective of someone who only had the news media as a source of information. Both of these situations that Lafferrrie found himself painted a different picture of the crisis, which in a way is what is happening with the crisis on the Downtown East Side. To outsiders it seems like a proverbial wild west, while in reality the occupants form a tightly knit community that supports one another. Humans of New York also also provided a counter narrative to the refugees of Syria.The refugees, who were viewed as a problem that needed fixing, fund a voice in HONY by sharing their personal stories. One must wonder how many more counter narratives lie underneath the main stream medias narrative of crisis.

    Tanvi: In your blog post you hail the absence of a third party as part of the reason why Youtube is so successful in getting the voices of marginalized parties heard- but have you considered that the absence of a third party takes away some of the validity a story that is shared through the medium of Youtube? Think about it, we are often urged by our professors not to rely on videos or Wikipedia as sources in papers. If we are given permission to use videos off of Youtube, we must back those stories up with scholarly articles that have been mediated through a third party. Therefore, the lens we view the video through is shifted to accommodate the article we are sourcing from. The “third party” or publisher is often the one who checks facts and makes sure that the narrative is true. Youtube has no such fact checker. So is the absence of the third party helping or hurting the life narratives shared on Youtube?

    Emma: Once I began reading your blog I immediately connected it to Kaz’s blog and my response back to it. I think that combining your two blogs would provide a deep insight into the media world through the real life example of Laferrieres experience. I think your conclusion that Lafferrrie has an inside track to the media world and there for can see how the narrative is being shaped would help to further Kaz’s reflections on the media surrounding the Downtown East Side. People who are able to have an inside and outside perspective on the media world can help to get a more objective view of the tactics being used by the main stream media and thus help to remove some of the bias that might be exhibited in the coverage of a crisis.

  14. In response to Kaz’s blog:

    Your experience of Downtown Eastside resonated with me because I’ve made the same assumptions when travelling in the area. Even while aware that they’re completely appearance-based judgements, it’s difficult to look at a first glance with an open mind. The counter narratives that provide personal stories of those reduced to stereotypical roles can change the attitudes of those witnessing. Another example of this is the biography of the actress Natalia Portman, who is known for her role in the Star Wars franchise and many other successful films. In addition to her acting roles she has a role within the Hollywood circles as a talented and beautiful young actress. However, behind this presentation of her is another; she is a Harvard graduate with multiple co-authorings in scientific journals. These alternate versions or stories, whether of the marginalized or privileged, have significance in the breaking of a devaluing label or image.

    In response to Anna’s blog:

    The example of the documentary “The Hunting Ground” and its focus on the difficulties surrounding rape reminded me of an article published on CBC News. There is a lack of access to rape kits across Canada, often making it twice as difficult for women to ask for help in these dire situations. Not all hospitals offer the exam and many women have to travel to find a properly equipped hospital.
    The example of “The Highway of Tears” reminded me of driving through a reserve around the age of 10. All the homes were decrepit or covered in trash and I remember wondering why the families wouldn’t clean up. Lacking the knowledge of the intergenerational trauma that Aboriginal peoples suffered from due to residential schools and the systematic oppression of their culture, I was unable to understand. This reinforces for me that learning about the “counter-histories” in school is important and can dramatically affect the child.

    CBC News article:

    In response to Colleen’s blog:

    “Can society ever escape prejudice?”

    I think that our study of life narratives almost centres around the hope of doing exactly this. After reading “Cockeyed” by Ryan Knighton, I doubt anyone remained judging Ryan by his blindness alone. We were able to look into his perspective and see his disability as more than just a condition his body suffers from. In reading about asylum seekers in “Protection” we gained greater understanding of the refugee crisis and the people who are caught in it. I hope that if everyone were to read these counter narratives most would identify with the subject and use the new perspective to spread alternative view. Choosing “refugee” over “migrant”, as Charlotte Taylor argues in our study of EU Migrant Narratives, is a simple switch that shows a big shift in thinking, one that can ultimately lead to greater acceptance of all people.

    “Migrant or refugee? Why it matters which word you choose” -Charlotte Taylor

  15. Tima,
    I wonder if you’ve heard of the Unsent Project? It’s got a similar theme to Post Secret – I think you’d find it interesting! It’s really nice to imagine how freeing it must feel, to be able to let go of your innermost thoughts in such an open way, but still remain anonymous. Whether it’s just passing on a joke or revealing your deepest feelings, there’s so much of a person’s personality one can uncover from so few words, because what you choose to reveal in that short moment says a lot about you. It’s kind of like self-introductions that you give on the first day of school, the whole concept of choosing specific things to share about yourself with a group of strangers. I think there’s a lot we can learn about our society from projects like this.

    My reaction upon watching the trailer in the link you provided can be summed up in one word: Wow. What Laura achieved is pretty unimaginable, considering her age especially. I find it really awesome that her parents were supportive of her dream as well – they must’ve been sick with worry, but they obviously believed in her goals and reasoning and wanted her to achieve them. It makes you think about the influence of culture and society in this case – coming from an Asian society which is open-minded yet still retains much of its conservative values, it’s difficult to see anything like this gaining such widespread support had the setting been changed to Singapore, except from the younger generation. It’s also really inspirational to consider the types of gender constructs and so-called “barriers” that she broke by doing this – the stereotype of a girl’s only future being that of a housewife, and the underlying and totally unnecessary view that girls would not be as capable of achieving such goals as boys. I’m sure it would be a really intriguing documentary to watch.

    I really liked your point about how some YouTubers are seen as individuals with the ability to inspire their viewers to conquer similar obstacles in their lives. One of the YouTubers that came to mind right away is Julie Vu, a transgender woman who documented her experience while transitioning through her videos. She’s a clear example of someone representing a guiding light for others going through similar situations, as she narrates part of her life in this manner. In a society where LGBTQ+ individuals may face tons of difficulty in being able to comfortably embrace who they are, people like Julie make it very clear that no one is alone. It’s also similar to how popular YouTubers like Ingrid Nilsen and Connor Franta speak about coming out to the entire YouTube community, and those videos are so touching to watch – it’s really wonderful to read the comments from people who relate to such experiences and find inspiration in these narratives.

  16. In response to Kaz’s post:
    Your post is really thought-provoking as it contradicts with my former understanding and yet give me a new insight into Downtown Eastside. I remember when I arrived Canada, a friend of my father who lived here for 7 years warned me not to go Downtown Eastside alone as there are many drug dealers and drinkers who may pose a threat to my safety. Therefore I am surprised to learn from your post that women living there are neither guarded nor scared. Instead, they have a strong sense of belonging within this “notorious” community. What’s more, they are willing to share their experiences from the insiders’ view to confront public perception. However this raises a question: why the stereotypes persist despite many dwellers speak out to defend it? What keep us from changing our perspective? Dara Culhane and Leslie A. Robertson in their studies of women living in downtown Eastside suggest that they are often portrayed by media as“people without history” (Culhane and Robertson, 7) in order to appeal to our interest in dangerous or exotic “others” (Culhane and Robertson, 10). I believe this explains how stereotype is socially constructed and is difficult to reverse even if it does not reflect reality. At the same time, it renders the importance of life narratives to alter our mindset as oppose the media representation.

    Culhane, Dara, and Robertson, Leslie A. “In Plain Sight : Reflections on Life in Downtown Eastside Vancouver.” Vancouver : Talonbooks, 2005. desLibris. Web. 9 Nov 2015

    In response to Charlotte’s post:
    I found your blog post really inspiring as you highlighted the importance of pronouns in the understanding a life narrative. I agree that having a fluid identity allows Laferrière to give insider and outsider view simultaneously. While first person “I” and “We” create an intimate personal narrative and enable him to represent to the collective trauma experienced by Haitian, Laferrière also uses third person “you” to detach himself from Haiti so as to provide an objective perspective of the earthquake. The constant shift between pronouns creates a dynamic tension to the memoir. Yet, what makes Laferrière claim the authority to speak on behalf of Haitian? Will the changing of identity confuse readers and undermine his representativeness for Haitain?

    In response to Blakely’s post:
    Your analysis on disability narrative is really detailed and comprehensive. Autobiographies not only reflect what the world thinks about disability, but also shape disable person’s view on themselves. Being influenced by the social construction of disability, they may create their own life narratives that conform to the paradigm in which they have to overcome and defeat disability. This is in accordance with what Colleen mentioned in her blog, that the fear for disability is “presented across cultures and throughout time.” Your examples of Ryan Knighton and Jason DaSilva suggest that it is not always the case as they destigmatize disability by creating a relatable character and they show us how normal they are. However, to what extend the stigma is essentially negative? Can it be a necessary evil that give disable people motivation to confront disability and strive for recovery if given opportunity?

  17. Emma:
    I believe the point you make articulating the role of LaFerrièrre’s shifting identity is pivotal in the autobiography being the way it is. The fact that he is not only analyzing the earthquake from the point of view of a Haitian citizen but also a Western media correspondent provides the book with a unique dynamic. I wonder how the book would have changed had he not been in Haiti for the earthquake. Would he have still written from the two perspectives or would he have chosen one? If the latter, then which one? If he had chosen to write from one perspecitve only I wonder if his narrative would have been lost within others of outsiders and insiders and not been one to stand out. It might have, it might not have but either way there is no denying the importance of his shifting identities in the writing of his autobiography.

    I loved your blog about Laura Dekker and her sailing trip around the world. Initially it seemed like a film that would have been created by Hollywood because one would assume that no 13 year old would be allowed to sail around the world completely by herself. However, it was clearly not a Hollywood film—it is a very true story of the life of a courageous, unique, and adventurous young girl. I also noticed in the trailer the music and overall formatting of the presentation of the documentary. It struck me in a way that not only made me want to watch to discover what happens on her journey, but also provided a completely new way of looking at “growing up.” I was fortunate enough to spend a year long trip with my family was able to experience a different education system, lifestyle and culture to my own. Through that I can understand (although to a much smaller degree) the way she notices that travelling and experience of something so completely different to what we call “normal life” becoming an education much more rich than the typical school education. As we have talked about in Sociology the Education system is one of the most important elements in the development of a child and I wonder how different the rest of her life will be having had the experience of a year on the ocean instead of a classroom.

    I agree with the point you made describing how the internet had opened up a new medium through which life narratives are being presented and published. You discuss the new way in which “ordinary people” are able to express themselves and internationally specifically through YouTube. However I wonder, where is the point at which YouTubers stop being considered “ordinary people” and enter into fame? For exapmple. Bethany Mota, a YouTuber who started out as a young teenager with a make-up tutorial channel has now become one of the most famous people if not just in North America but around the world. She has won Teen Choice Awards, been on talk shows such as the Ellen Show and reality TV shows like Dancing With the Stars. For me, this begs the question: when does the “ordinary” YouTuber lose their status as “ordiary”? What was so special about that one Youtuber that drew such popularity over others? This can be related back to a topic we return to frequently in class, asking the question “whose voices are being heard? why? and whose voices aren’t we hearing?”.

  18. Seana: I can personally connect to the example of Dana Gilmore’s performance. During my grade 12 year, at each assembly I gave a sports recap for the week called the “JOE SHOW”. I related to the experience she had with the audience ebbing and flowing with the audiences. To give one example, during one of my shows, my school hockey team had returned from a tournament and in one game I scored to goals. In a effort to be humours I deicide to give my self a shout out. The crowd react with a chuckle but my headmaster burst out laughing like it was the funniest thing he had ever heard.

    Colleen: I been able to connect the work you did with Jason Desilva and a personal experience I had. Through out the summer I was restricted to the use of for-arm crutches and felt this prejudice first hand. The crutches I used are better for your body for recovery but they are typical used for polio. While using these crutches I could tell people were looking at me and staring probably wondering if I was disabled or not. The feeling of eye bearing down on you is not a desirable feeling. One direct example of this prejudice was during my girlfriend’s grad one of her classmates approached her to ask if I was disabled, not simply asking me. Although I was physically disabled it was on temporary but I was given a glimpse into life of what disabled people go through daily.

    Blakely: Your work in your second last paragraph relates to the work I plan on doing for my final paper with the marketing of disability life narratives. With my work with Courser and my other articles I used in my lit review that as while as you state some life narratives try to portray the disabled subject as equal there is great potential for these stories to have a greater impact on the audiences. There is power to sway the opinion of a group of people to leave room for a political polices to be put in place or to inspired people to make a humanitarian change.

Leave a Reply