Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Marty Fink

Caitlin Boros, MPC2014

I sat down with the newest addition to the Faculty of Professional Communication, Dr. Marty Fink, and discussed evolving narratives and the important role of social media in facilitating societal change.

Firstly, a big PCAA welcome to ProCom! Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your new position with ProCom?

Thanks! It’s great to be here.

My research and teaching is in queer and trans studies, and I’m excited to bring gender and sexuality studies into my teaching and research here. I am queer and genderqueer/nonbinary, and I use the gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “them.”

I will be teaching CMN211 – Language and Power and CMN450 – Participatory Media, in the Fall. Both classes will incorporate queer and trans studies using intersectional, anti-racist, and decolonization frameworks. I am going to invite my students to make video games as well as other kinds of interactive digital media.

Your research focuses on the narratives supporting issues like trans access, decolonization and movements like #BlackLivesMatter. Why are narratives surrounding these issues so important?

I think especially in terms of social media, it is becoming increasingly easier to see the discrepancy between how stories are told by mainstream media, and how stories are told within communities facing violence and displacement by the Canadian state.
While Canadian news media often normalizes police violence, racism, gender-based violence, and colonization, resistance to these forces is evident in narratives distributed online. I think centering these narratives of resistance is important in trying to understand the capacity and limits of how social media can function in mediating violence and trauma.

This issue, we’re discussing all things social media. How do narratives, for example the ones you focus on in your research, play out online on social media?

I think it’s interesting to understand how, in calling attention to police violence and racism in Toronto, movements including Black Lives Matter actually teach us a lot about social media. The potential uses of social media like live action streaming, Twitter feeds, and hashtags are expanded and transformed by these kinds of community-driven responses to anti-black racism and colonization. I think rather than attempting to understand social media in a vacuum, it is really fascinating to look at how activist and community-based responses to state violence and injustice shape media transformations.

Is there a difference between online narratives and traditional ones? How has social media influenced the structure of these narratives?

Social media transforms narratives by allowing for collaboration, by involving audiences in the narrative process, and also by reaching audiences that are normally under-represented or ignored by mainstream media. I think it is especially interesting to play with this traditional vs. digital media question by telling traditional stories digitally and taking digital stories offline and making them into print narratives.

For instance, many queer and trans people make textile crafts about digital culture. I find this practice fascinating in terms of how it expands stories about gender and sexuality, but also about what traditional media can be and what social media is about.

What do you see for the future of social media in sharing and shaping narratives?

I love this question and I love futurism. I feel inspired by the Afrofuturist work of Octavia Butler, Kiese Laymon, and Janelle Monae. I think that social media in the future can end policing/police brutality, dismantle the prison industrial complex, and support all queer and gender nonconforming kids in our communities to expand the way we think about sexuality and gender. I think this because I think we need to keep working hard to use social media to imagine the futures we want to see.

Fun Facts:

Cats or Dogs? Dogs. I’m allergic to cats.

PC or Mac? LOL, I can’t answer that because I hate capitalism.

Favourite snack food? Ice cream sundaes.

What social media platform do you use most? Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector.

Top of your travel bucket list? The Upside Down?

One surprising fact about yourself? I just realized you could use PowerPoint as a comics animation platform. It’s changing the way I think about lecture notes.