IRDL visiting scholar Tracy Ying Zhang explores gender and film education at upcoming talk

Woman laptop computer FEATURED

On March 24, York University’s Institute for Research on Digital Literacies (IRDL) presents an engaging exploration of gender and film education by visiting faculty member Tracy Ying Zhang.

The talk, titled “’Only Homie on the Wall’: Participatory Photography as Feminist Spatial Storytelling” takes place from 3 to 4:30 p.m. via Zoom.

Zhang, who is a visiting scholar at York until September 2021, has been conducting research on issues of gender, race, inclusion and social justice in the global creative industries for the past 15 years. This discussion will focus on her Mitacs-funded research project on gender and university-based film production education, called “The making of a woman filmmaker: Gender and cultural production in a Montreal-based film school.”

IRDL Tracy Ying Zhang talk banner

The project had four main objectives: identify social-structural factors that influence women film production students’ learning experiences, career choices, and artistic approaches; understand how women students cultivate an artistic self and respond to challenges and opportunities in film school; develop connections between the film school and local progressive organizations for women content creators; and promote gender-sensitive education to increase women’s opportunities as key content creators.

“In Canada, the past five years saw increased efforts made by feminist advocacy organizations and arm’s length cultural agencies to address the underemployment issues of women directors, cinematographers, and screenwriters,” says Zhang. “However, little is known about how post-secondary institutions that teach filmmaking influence women graduates’ career choices and how film schools could be part of the pathway to gender equality in the Canadian screen industry.”

To explore these issues, she carried out fieldwork at Concordia University’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, which included ethnographic observation, participatory photography, a focus group and interviews with key informants – educators, women students and alumnae. Between the winter of 2018 and summer of 2019, she collaborated with 10 women undergraduate students who were studying film production to co-produce a collection of digital photo stories, which appeared in a virtual exhibition called Women in Film Education (WIFE).

In this talk, Zhang will explain the context of this research and her rationale of choosing a participatory visual research method. By focusing on three vignettes that draw from participants’ photo stories as well as her encounters with other interlocutors in film school, she will examine several ethical and methodological issues in participatory visual research that emerged during the project.

Zhang will also talk about how this research can be mobilized as a form of feminist spatial storytelling to expose and challenge gendered and racial barriers in university settings. Specifically, she will look at three themes: researchers’ positionality and access; exposing white masculine spaces; and creating spaces of dialogue through collaborative and collective multimedia storytelling.

All members of the York community are welcome to attend this talk, which will be of particular interest to students and educators of film and media production, film and media studies, and fine arts.

Register for the event here.