‘Nice to meet you!’ Revealing community gems through photography

Inspired by the popular series Humans of New York, we organized a workshop where participants document a library scene or subject and have the choice of conducting a short interview with their subject or writing a description of the scene. You can view the presentation here and the handout here.

One of our most popular classes, we had students ranging from complete novices to more practiced photographers. One of our participants runs a section on her blog Jittery Cook called Jittery Jabber where she posted her photos and interviews of the day. While some of the shorter work by other participants were uploaded to Twitter and can be viewed here. One of our participants conducted longer interviews and both her experience and photos are posted below.

Of her experience Marcia said

For me, an unexpected benefit of the photo workshop was that my vision (inwardly speaking) improved as I […] shot pictures fully knowing why I was reaching for this one and not for that one…..
Thanks to you for your good work!

The question that I had in mind is: What Are You Doing on This First Beautiful Weekend in Montreal in 2015

I found seven people who allowed me to get their photo and talk with them and five who would not….

  • Amita at the Atwater Library told me, ’I go to the library mainly to borrow books and read the newspapers to find out what’s going on in the world…food for the soul.’ Often she visits the library in Brossard close to her home.


  • Mitchel is the Atwater Library gardener who told me “I just moved from one part of Montreal to Mile End in a student house with five others, a brand new whole house.” Clearly he loves his new home and will be moving in all weekend, unpacking.


  • Maureen was “on her way to the Jazz Festival with a friend who reached out to her on this Friday because she lost her husband three weeks ago.” She said she felt “If someone reaches out, the least she can do is reach back.”


  • I found the four members of a family on the corner of Atwater and St-Catherine this sunny Friday in Montreal waiting for a walk signal. One daughter in a two tone hijab and blue dress would not stand for the photo with her sister Naira and brother Anas, but she was radiant as her mother Qaisai said she is out enjoying her three children. Usually she’s cooking, cleaning, and shopping or going to work in a sewing factory. Naira “works for a federal public service in Ottawa and comes to Montreal every two weeks to visit.” Anas was just “taking a break from cleaning” and seemed glad to be out and about with his kin.


  • Evelyne and Toto were on the corner of St-Catherine and the east corner of the park being renovated;   she said she will take her two boys to play in Westmount Park” but they haven’t been to the Jazz Festival at all.


  • David received my introduction saying, “Enchante” and explained in English he was waiting for a friend “to walk the La Chine Canal.” He does free lance writing for papers such as La Press, but was born on the south shore and hasn’t been to the Jazz Festival this year because of “all the road blocks and construction on the bridges and streets this year.”


  • Finn and Gordon, who are part of the Humans in New York workshop are “Doing something that’s a surprise for Finn’s brother’s 11th birthday and Finn is excited to find out what the surprise is all about. She’s 14 and goes to Royal West. He’s retired and was looking after his mom and dad (90 and 95) till his mom recently passed away. “We’re going to visit our other grandmother on July 5th in Ottawa,” Finn told me.


Zine Making: Accessible Expression

Popularly know as a DIY way to self publish writing and art. Zines are created by people interested in political issuespunk culture, or even cult TV shows, and movies. Zines are a way to share thoughts to your community and beyond. We used the medium to create miniature E-Books. People were inspired to create books of poetry, cookbooks, and photo experimentations.

The first class focused on photoshop (handout here), showing students how to edit stock photos to create something completely new. On the second class we introduced the website BeFunky. A free photo editing site where people were able to play with, and edit their photos quickly and easily. The ones below were made by Susan who said “[she] had always wanted to make greeting cards”.

Check out some other cool zines at the bottom of this post!

AnimalsYourTreeorMineFinch AnimalsFeelingJumpy

Other community work:

AmiSlide1 Slide2hot teas       WolfPP2



What I Want To Do, And What I Need To, Aren’t Always Separate Entities

My experience at the Atwater Library has been completely undefinable. I struggle to put into words how much the experience has meant to me, and the amazing time that I have had working here over the past six weeks. I have learnt something new everyday and I have spent it doing what I love.

I am a big believer that anyone can learn how to use technology. Most people already have some of the necessary skills without realizing it. We are working to give everyone the same tools, and by doing so help bridging the technological divide. However, everyone has something to learn, and technology moves at such a breathtaking speed that there is no one who can say that they don’t have anything left to learn.

I had the opportunity to speak on CBC to promote the Creative Digital Media Workshop Series. While on air I spoke about the importance of Digital Citizenship, and how, just like in the real world, we have to teach people how to properly conduct themselves online. The importance of online communities is undeniable. In a society that is putting more and more of their personal thoughts and lives on the internet it is necessary to teach how to respect the person on the other side of the screen. We can form connections in a millisecond, forming relationships with people across the world, but we have to remember that there are people on the other side of the computer. Not just binaries.

One of the ways to do this is to teach Digital Citizenship. For every workshop we had over the past few weeks we opened the dialogue for ethical photo taking and sharing. By creating a fun medium to explore these topics in we were able to open the discussion in a way that everyone was comfortable exploring.

Not only is the ethical side of Digital Literacy important but so are the sheer amount of possibilities available to those who use computers. Creatively they can suit almost anyone’s tastes. Allowing for development in projects that focus on poetry, photography and video, music, art, and literature anyone is able to spice up their work in a few hours. Digital art is often forgiving enough that beginners are also comfortable with making mistakes and trying new things.

Through Digital Citizenship we are working to build confidence, both online and off, and digitally is a great place to do so—There are many online communities that foster positivity and kindness.

We have had a diverse amount of people who showed up to all our workshops.  We had people who were comfortable using their computers and cameras, and people who had never touched one in their lives. From children to seniors, everyone explored different forms of expressing themselves!

Leaving after six weeks, I can’t help but relate my experience to my present self as an Honours English and Creative Student; as well as my future self, the author and Professor I aspire to be. There are very few jobs at my current level that could give me the experience I need for furthering my education and my future career. I want to spend my life doing what I love and the only way I can do that is by practicing, and building my practical knowledge. The Atwater Library has given me that opportunity. Rather then committing myself to a career path I didn’t know for certain I would enjoy, I can commit myself to it knowing that I will love it. Interning at the library has shown me how much can be accomplished by hard work, and how rewarding it is to teach someone something new. Just like in the workshops where our goal was to learn skills that can be applied in daily life or to future projects, I have learnt skills that I will be able to use for myself!

Mindful Management of a Digital Identity

 Co-written by Eric and Shanly

In February, Dr. Shanly Dixon was invited to speak to four classes at Vincent Massey Collegiate. She was asked to address the issues that surround career planning and the content we produce and share on the Internet. Her talk Mindful Management of a Digital Identity addressed the challenges young people currently face in balancing potential audiences as they actively participate online. Eric Craven, the Fostering an Information Society Project Coordinator for the Digital Literacy Project at the Atwater Library collaborated on the presentations and together they had the pleasure of addressing a group of very digitally connected and engaged students.

At the Digital Literacy Project, we are continually investigating, monitoring and evaluating the importance of our online identity and how it affects many aspects of our life. This topic is a bit of a moving target. However, we feel that it will continue to be a relevant issue due to continuous changes in the technological landscape and our collective attempts to adapt to and use the social media at hand.

As technology becomes increasingly pervasive, people are inclined to use websites and accounts to create and disseminate their identities. As a result, we have empowering opportunities to communicate and share information. However, this also results in having to navigate some challenging privacy issues.

During our presentations at high schools many of the students argue that online identities (in the form of our various online profiles) should not be considered as part of the selection process for opportunities such as college admissions or employment. This is a valid perspective as young people often target their online interactions to a very specific audience of peers. However, the reality is that increasingly the information we place online is collected and analyzed by a variety of interests such as corporations, marketers, and governments. Many of us do our own research about potential colleagues, classmates or dates. We can expect that potential employers are equally as proactive and vigilant.
Read these two titles from Forbes Magazine to get a sense of how this is being discussed in the business world.

What Employers Are Thinking When They Look At Your Facebook Page

Facebook Can Tell You If A Person Is Worth Hiring

We at the digital literacy project have been taking a pro online culture approach, which encourages mindfulness. One thing that researchers, educators, policy makers, marketers and parents can all agree on is that young people are online and engaged with online culture.

Shanly Dixon, in her discussion, explained that the nature of information alters as it moves online. We need to remain mindful of the fact that once we share information online it becomes difficult if not impossible to control or completely remove it. Content can be collected by third parties through data mining. It may be stored on servers, archived or forwarded and as a result what we share may potentially be accessible long after we wish it would disappear. Additionally, information can spread far and fast online once it’s out of our hands. It’s important to consider whether we will be comfortable with all aspects of our digital identity in years to come. The information that we share ads up to create our digital identity and our online footprint can last a lifetime.

We also addressed the way in which the information we share offline often varies according to the specific contexts. Whereas, the integrity of context collapses online and as a result people from all parts of our life potentially see every other part of our life. This makes it important to consider all of the possible audiences our information can reach.

Managing our online community is very similar to managing our offline community. In discussing what approach we should take, we found our selves using the term ‘mindful’. We suggested that students assume that future college recruiters, employers and selection committees will search for them on the Internet when considering them for an opportunity.

Online spaces can serve as important tools in sharing your strengths, skills and interests. With a bit of care, your online identity can be a powerful asset. We discussed the value of being mindful about how you present yourself online, evaluating whether the content you share reflects your current and future goals and be aware of all of your potential audiences. For instance if you plan to pursue a career in the arts there are a range of online sites where you may be able to connect with other young artists and share or promote your work creating a dynamic online identity as an artist. However, it’s important to review the privacy and copyright policies for these websites.

Digital literacy education empowers young people by providing facts about how their information is treated online, what information they may be unintentionally sharing with organizations, the importance of reading and understanding privacy agreements and copyright, amongst other key topics.

One of the most interesting discussions with Vincent Massey students occurred around changing definitions of privacy, the importance of valuing privacy as a collective social good and how we can respect, protect and advocate for privacy going forward. Often young people are perceived as not being concerned about privacy but the students at Vincent Massey expressed overwhelming interest about the security of their information online and about the challenging privacy issues that they are currently facing.


For more information:

Dr. Shanly Dixon –  shanlydixon.com

Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) – www.tag.hexagram.ca

Vincent Massey Collegiate – www.vmc.qc.ca

Mass Media and Gender at Trafalgar School for Girls

Digital Literacy Project facilitators Robin Kelly and Victoria Nam worked with students at Trafalgar School for Girls. They offered a gender theory and photoshop workshop at Trafalgar School for Girls which focussed on Mass Media and Gender.

The course was multimedia in every way possible.





All the support material for the class was available on a blog set up specifically and only for this group.

The group learnt various theoretical frameworks for unpacking gender constructs found in the world of advertising.

They also read and critiqued blogs about gender and advertising written by other young women and contributed their observations to the class blog by commenting on each other’s analysis.

After digesting many theoretical ideas and being exposed to new ways of looking at examples of advertising, each student chose a specific advertisement and used Photoshop to alter and transform the images. With the support of the facilitators, each student created an ‘open letter’ to the world of advertising. These ‘open letters’ formed imagery which critiqued the mainstream view of gender in mass media. Students wrote an artist statement explaining her work and describing the techniques used. Each statement was also posted on the blog.

The students then chose a specific advertisement and used Photoshop to alter and transform the images, with the support of the facilitators, each student created an ‘open letter’ to the world of advertising. These ‘open letters’ formed imagery which critiqued the mainstream view of gender in mass media.


At the end of the session, we printed all the pieces in poster format and each student presented her piece to the class.

Robin elaborates:

“The best part of this workshop is the big critique at the end, when we put all the posters up and talk about them. This is when we really see the students pull together everything they’ve learned and explain how they’ve used design to create their own message with their poster. This year I was blown away by the students receptiveness and their level of analysis. Even the students who weren’t so sure at first ended up producing some pretty interesting posters!”

An example of their work:

Student work