Canadian Journal of Communication Vol 45 (2020) 3–5  ©2020 Canadian Journal of Communication Corporation



Chris Russill, Carleton University

In 2020, the Canadian Journal of Communication is publishing research that engages with region, margins, nation, and ruination, and reflecting on the importance of these notions in communication and media scholarship. While these themes shape the Journal’s archive, they have emerged with new intensity across a range of manuscripts submitted over the past year. Perhaps these notions express a collective desire to revisit ideas of Canada within a specifically “Canadian” Journal of Communication.

Pacific Northwest from space 

Source: NASA Earth Observatory (2015) 

In this issue, for example, regional is not a marker of differentiation within the multicultural fabric of Canada, nor is it a rhetorical means of transforming spatial difference into political division. It is a concept for moving research questions beyond the horizon of nation. The cover image participates in these efforts by depicting Cascadia, a vision of life, land, and culture organized by regional commons rather than national demarcation. Envisioned regionally, the urban “centres” are tiny patches of dull grey, scarcely discernable within the vibrant colours of their surrounding region. Can you find Vancouver, British Columbia (where this Journal is printed)?

Regionalism is a fleeting yet persistent presence in the Journal’s archive. Eugene Tate, the second editor, lamented the regional feel of the Journal, an analogy he explored to explain its low status and inability to achieve national scope. Juxtaposed to nation in this way, regional is a term of derision and an undesirable state, reflecting the lack of reputation and resources that are typically associated with claims to national recognition. It is easy to map the anxieties of the field onto this tension, and to lament the inability of the Journal to organize a national conversation on communication and media studies.

Yet, regions exceed nations in profound ways. Regional epistemologies often challenge and correct national expertise, and the trampling of regional history, regional experience, and regional culture by national ambition is perhaps not irrelevant to desires for a Canadian field of communication. The histories of Black experience in the Chatham-Kent’s Settlements and surrounding regions in Ontario, for example, is occluded by a national fixation (and endlessly looped Heritage Minute mini documentary) on the Underground Railroad, as Boulou Ebanda de B’béri, Nina Reid-Maroney, and Handel Kashope Wright (2014) illustrate. The depictions of Atlantic peoples in film and television are first and foremost about projecting an appealing sense of national identity, as the articles in Darrell Vargas’s (2009) collection often document. And, of course, the catastrophic failure of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to accept bioregional knowledge of the Atlantic Ocean intensified the cod fishery collapse, a crisis illustrating the regional interconnections of ecology, labour, and culture (Corbin, 2002).

It is unwise to situate Indigenous life, land, and nationhood with respect to a general conception of region, but research should address aggressive and violent incursions into Indigenous lands by the Canadian state. These aggressions are facilitated by conceptions of the North as “a hinterland of Canada” (van Wyck, 2008, p. 179), a notion that encourages the multiple forms of violence created by uranium extraction in the Great Bear Lake region. The state’s destruction of the conditions of memory, knowledge, and life is contrasted starkly by the approach of the Dene, whose apology to the peoples of Hiroshima enacted a place-based sense of responsibility (see van Wyck, 2008).

Closer to where I reside, the more recent conflict between the Mississauga Anishinaabe and Parks Canada over wild rice in Pigeon Lake in Peterborough, Ontario, is illustrative. Given the prodding of inconvenienced cottagers, the government agency reclassified wild rice as a watery weed to remove it from the lake, an overt violation of treaty agreement and regional understanding (Carleton, 2016). Yet, “recent conflict” is a poor description for the longer history informing this aggression. Might we hear Leanne Simpson’s call to return to the “radiating responsibilities” shaping the Anishinaabe approach to treaties with settlers (Simpson, 2013).

In each of these examples, the importance of place and land is heightened, and this is one reason to gather different histories and experiences together with respect to the ideas of regionalism. The articles and images in this issue extend such considerations by allowing regional understandings to shape their work.

Mark Hayward and Henry Svec, in “THER IS A VERY INSISTENT NOISE FROM THE MACHINES IN HERE”: Theorizing Digital Media through Greg Curnoe’s Computer Journals,” articulate theories of media and technology to situations in London, Ontario, and reflect on how a London School might have complicated our endless fascination with Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, and the Toronto School. Their piece moves deftly between the national and international scenes influencing Curnoe’s aesthetic sensibilities to invite a historiography of computer art that varies between regions.

Rob McMahonMichael McNally, and Kris Joseph, in “Shaping ‘Digital Futures’ in Alberta: Community Engagement for Rural Broadband Development,” bring rural considerations into the foreground. They illustrate how scholars can help constitute the communicative grounds of community at the intersection of local, provincial, national, and global scales. By embedding their account within a deep historical and social understanding of Alberta’s regions, McMahon, McNally, and Josephcomplicate the familiar rhetoric of community engagement with an extended study of what scholars can contribute to deliberative and democratic approaches to telecommunication development.

Benoit Cordelier and Audrey-Anne Desaulniers, in “Équilibres et médiations dans la commandite de productions artistiques: intermédiation formelle ou informelle,” investigate the intersections of art and marketing in Québec’s cultural industries. Using interview data and grounded in the work of French sociologists Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot,Cordelier, and Desaulniers expose the varied types of pragmatic mediation relied upon by artists and industry to produce culture in Québec.

We are also very pleased to publish the second installment of the Data Power articles edited by Tracey Lauriault and Merlyna Lim; it completes their timely intervention from volume 44.3 into the politics of data and communication.

Finally, this issue includes a technical report authored by our publisher (and former editor), Rowland Lorimer, on the Journal’s experiments with a public-facing model of user analytics. Lorimer’s report blends an analysis of the usage of our online archive with an invitation to collaborate in developing non-proprietary alternatives to the extractive modes of data collection driving commercial publishers. It is an important aspect of scholarly publishing, and we hope this report will help engender wider conversations on this crucial subject.

Best for 2020! 


Carleton, Sean. (2016, September 15). Decolonizing cottage country: Anishinaabe art intervenes in Canada’s wild rice war. Canadian Dimension. URL: [January 6, 2019].

Corbin, Carol. (2002). Silences and lies: How the industrial fishery constrained voices of ecological conservation.Canadian Journal of Communication, 27(1), 7–32. 

de B’béri, Boulou Ebanda, Reid-Maroney, Nina, & Wright, Handel Kashope. (2014). The promised land: History and historiography of the black experience in Chatham-Kent’s settlements and beyond. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

NASA. (2015, June 22). NASA earth observatory: Panorama of the Pacific Northwest. URL: [January 2, 2020].

Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. (2013). I am not a nation-state.URL: [January 2, 2020].

van Wyck, Peter. (2008). An emphatic geography: Notes on the ethical itinerary of landscape. Canadian Journal of Communication, 33(2) 171–191.

Vargas, Darrell. (2009). Rain/drizzle/fog: Film and television in Atlantic Canada. Calgary, AB: University of Calgary Press.