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Trent Oshawa Professor Connects Community with Cutting-Edge Digital Research

July 9, 2013

Dr. Sara Humphreys brings Lifelong Learners an understanding of digital communication

Trent Oshawa Professor Connects Community with Cutting-Edge Digital Research

Dr. Sara Humphreys, an assistant professor in the Department of English Literature at Trent University Oshawa, has expertise in digital learning methods. Professor Humphreys recently took her expertise into the community in a series of seminars for the benefit of Durham Lifelong Learners, a local group whose purpose is to promote intellectual stimulation on a variety of topics.

“Very informing,” said David Rabjohn, Lifelong Learners governing council chair, “We’ve had great feedback on Dr. Humphrey’s seminars. This group appreciates that Sara uses language we can understand to access, explore and debate the merits of digital and social media such as Facebook.”

Throughout the month of May and into June, Prof. Humphreys visited the Whitby Public Library to present her seminars on “The Digital Revolution: Myth or Reality,” to discuss with an eager crowd how digital communication such as social media may or may not be changing the way we think and behave.

At week three, ideas like crafting a digital self through social media with public profiles and how Facebook is changing the definition of friendship were explored, as the group interacted with a digital display in real time. Various websites, blogs and social media sites such as twitter and buzzfeed were looked at and discussions on important topics such as cyber-bullying and its consequences, internet “trolls”, digital tools for creating communities and facilitating groups were raised.

During one fun moment in the seminar, Prof. Humphreys demonstrated the ritual of checking in through comments on her Facebook page, an example of social behaviour and grooming wherein people acknowledge “the company we keep online.” She posted a question on her newsfeed, “What is good ‘netiquette’?” A little later on, garnering satisfaction for the group, a colleague from Trent University Oshawa provided a response that contributed to the discussion, "when someone is speaking to you, turn off your device and listen. It's easy."

Prof. Humphreys advised individuals in the group that they need to be critically aware when interacting on social media. “We must care for our digital selves and others,” she said, referencing the classical notion of the Greek ethos. “Self-representation online and in online communities is a craft. We must consider how we regulate ourselves and how digital communication is changing our interaction.”

About Sara Humphreys

Dr. Sara Humphreys is an assistant professor in the Department of English Literature at Trent University Oshawa. Her research interests include American literature and culture, captivity narratives, frontier literature, sentimentality, visual rhetoric, and new media. She is the editor and project leader of digitalcommunitas.org, a university-funded project that offers resources for teachers and students and studies the interactions between academic publics and digital media/tools/spaces.