Boundary Vision is the home for writing, photography and visual art by M-C Shanahan, Professor of STEM and Design Education at the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. M-C studies identity, language, media and gender and their influence on participation and engagement with science, technology and engineering by people of all ages.
As a professor…
In my professional world, I am a science education, design and communications researcher interested in the social parts of science, technology and engineering. How can students feel welcome and accepted in science and technology classes and programs? How can adults feel comfortable and confident learning about new scientific and public health information? How can we invite adults and children to participate in computation and coding in public spaces?
With a background in mechanical engineering, I started my career as a junior and senior high school science teacher and I realized the complexity of the decisions that students make at that age about who they are, what matters to them and what they’re interested in. Students that I thought were excellent science would often say things to me like “Oh Miss, I’d never study science after high school. I’m just not a science person.”
Inspired by those students I returned to graduate school to do research in the sociology of science and science education. After completing an MA and PhD at the University of Toronto, I am now a professor at the University of Calgary. I do research into language, communication and identity in science both in education settings and in public communication, such as in the media, social media, and public spaces like museums and science centres. Our Mind, Matter and Media lab website (co-lead with Dr. Pratim Sengupta) has links to recent collaborative projects with the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and Telus Spark in Calgary.
If you really want to learn more about what I do at work: MCShanahan CV
Photography and Visual Art
I am a self-taught photographer and began my practice by teaching myself to work with film and a broken hand-me-down camera in my early twenties as a way to document travels and adventures. I wandered around Toronto on the weekends, without light meter, guessing at exposures and writing copious notes along the way. But a few years later, my camera broke completely and I got swept into the current of adult life: grad school, partner, move across the country for a job, start a family. It was only recently, that I’ve had the chance to pick up a camera again and explore what I have to say with it. As someone with a busy full time job and caregiving responsibilities, it was first out of necessity that my artistic practice was tied to my every day: taking photos to learn and develop while around the house, while working, or at the playground or dog park. I now embrace that as an opportunity. My work focuses on capturing the moments that might seem mundane but are where we were actually construct who we are. I don’t typically extensively plan or set up my photos, but I carry my camera or phone nearly all the time and pay attention. My photos are glimpses of what I see and notice while living. I try to create photos that invite the viewer see what I see and feel what I feel, sensorially and emotionally.
Why is the blog called Boundary Vision?
As an MA student, one of the papers that I most vividly remember changing my understanding of science was Thomas Gieryn’s (1983) Boundary-Work and the Demarcation of Science from Non-Science. In it and his later work he creates a very striking analogy of cartography as a way of thinking about science. Nothing is as simple as science vs. not-science or science people vs. non-science people. Instead it’s a complex terrain with boundaries that are negotiated and fought over but also very real. The topics that I cover here take this view. I’m interested in shining a light on the places where science and education and culture overlap and have to share and negotiate territory. To reflect that aim, my brother Vancouver musician and artist Tony Dubroy created Boundary Vision’s beautiful light bulb header image.