SSHRC Grant Helps Fill Gap in Research on Children's Online Media Making

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iSchool Assistant Professor, Sara Grimes, has received a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant valued at $177,000 to undertake research in association with media giants such as Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF Kids), Storybird Inc., etc. and academic institutions such as Faculty of Information (UofT), Utah State University, Simon Fraser University, and Centennial College.


Through a multi-stage study and workshop series centred around cross-sector collaboration, Prof. Grimes' research will tackle the gaps and issues regarding the rise and spread of "Web 2.0", and the increase in children's Do-It-Yourself (DIY) media production taking place online and in the public realm.

From drawing pictures to writing stories, children have long participated in DIY media at the individual and local scale. These practices have become a core part in sculpting a child’s cultural and social experience, and providing key opportunities for learning and developing valuable skills.

“I am extremely excited that this initiative has received funding, and I'm especially looking forward to working with this amazing group of partners,” said Prof. Grimes. “The social significance and potential impacts of the Children's DIY Media partnership are manifold, as the project deliverables are designed to support a range of stakeholders—including children's media developers, educators, policymakers, and of course, children themselves—in tackling the complex questions and tapping into the vast potential associated with children's Do-It-Yourself Media practices.”

This three-year research project, which began in March 2013, aims to significantly expand upon the promising yet limited knowledge that we currently have regarding children's online DIY media phenomenon. It looks at the frequency with which children engage in these activities, the features and functionality of the tools they use, how their content is shaped and moderated by companies who provide the tools, or the contents of the media they create. More importantly, the partnership seeks to address questions such as how to best manage, curate and regulate child-made media in a public space such as the Internet.

The Children's DIY Media partnership aims to advance our understanding of an important emerging phenomenon and map the various opportunities and challenges involved.

Its key objectives include identifying the types of support systems—regulatory, infrastructural, and technical—required to foster a rights-based, child-centric, inclusive approach to children's online DIY media production, which will in turn support children's learning, cultural participation and digital skill development.

“Children's increased engagement in the production and distribution of media content represents a fascinating and deeply significant opportunity in children's digital culture and cultural rights, and this cross-disciplinary team is uniquely positioned to identify key ways and best practices for fostering this opportunity across a range of media platforms and technologies,” Prof. Grimes observes.

The funding of this research is important not just for Prof. Grimes, but for Canada as a nation. “Through SSHRC’s funding opportunities for research partnerships and talent, we are enabling stronger working relationships among academic, private, public and not-for-profit sectors, while supporting the development of our next generation of leaders to build a better future for Canada and the world,” said Dr. Chad Gaffield, president of SSHRC.