About MediaToil

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Project Focus
Research Gap & Importance
Research & Funding
MediaToil Database

Project Focus

The MediaToil project is interested in how the representational struggle over Alberta’s oil sands has played out in the publications and campaigns of select oil sands stakeholders. Starting from the oil sand’s commercial development in the late 1960s, this project will offer a detailed historical analysis of text and images produced in public documents and campaigns by select industry, government and civil society actors.

Of interest are the attributes of these competing media representations, how these representations have developed over time, and how they underwrite the contemporary discursive and visual conventions of the oil sands debate.

Research Gap & Importance

The future of the Alberta bituminous sands is one of Canada’s most visible yet controversial energy and environmental issues. It's fate is the subject of an ongoing media struggle between industry, government and civil society. These stakeholders are actively trying to shape public perception about the costs and benefits – the risks and rewards – of oil sand development. While there exist multiple accounts examining the history of the oil sands, little scholarship has analysed the contested media framing of bitumen oil sands.

Moreover, even less scholarship has analysed the visual aspects of this framing. This is a significant oversight given that visuals – together with texts – are key resources in any mediated struggle. Thus, visuals are critical features to study - along with texts - to better understand the context, evolution and attributes of the oil sands debate.

Research & Funding

The MediaToil project is funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant (IDG). The project began in June 2014 and will run through the summer of 2016. The project Principal Investigator is Professor Patrick Mccurdy of the Department of Communication, University Of Ottawa. Professor Herna Viktor, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science is a project collaborator. The project’s current Research Assistants are Laura Nichol and Sahil Saroop. Adam Thomlison’s was the project’s Research Assistant from September 2014 to August 2015.

MediaToil Database

The MediaToil research project will provide the public with a catalogue of all oil sands documents, images and videos assessed through the project. Search the database by stakeholder group, year, and media source or type.