Jamie Lloyd-Smith completed a minor in Cultural Studies. The essay was produced in CULT 495 Directed Studies in 2021 and then published in the McMaster Journal of Communication. Find the full article here: https://journals.mcmaster.ca/mjc/article/view/2754


There has been considerable debate over the extent to which vulnerable and diverse populations are politically involved in decision-making. Specifically in Canada’s homelessness sector, there is a macro-level push to include individuals with lived experience of homelessness in the policymaking process. This research paper will explore the ways in which youth with lived experience of homelessness and their allies are engaging in online forms of activism and storytelling, and ultimately examine this interaction under the idea that media is both a practice and an imaginary. This study situates this argument in the wide critique of Jürgen Habermas’ exclusionary public sphere. Instead, this paper examines the emerging concepts of “affective publics” and “networked publics” to understand how online marginalized voices are only empowered to the extent to which they perform in mediated spaces to gain visibility. By drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s articulation of social capital, this study examines recent examples of Canadian organizations amplifying youth voices on Instagram to interrogate some of the implications that arise in online allyship and storytelling.