Rising Stars: Meet Hortensia Barrios!

Dear Readers,

For this week’s Rising Star, we bring you the amazing work of Hortensia Barrios. She is an MA Student in Applied Linguistics at the University of Calgary and has done extensive work for the Living Migration Community Research Project which is a project that has helped to make the first-person narratives of immigrants a more valid source of data for researchers. Earlier this year she carried out 5 different 2-3 day long Digital Storytelling Workshops where she taught participants how to produce a well-crafted digital story about their immigrant experience. This was quite an impressive amount of work since the participants came from 5 very different countries but she didn’t stop there. After running those workshops, she also hosted two Digital Storytelling Festivals where the work produced in those workshops was premiered in-person and online to an audience of over 100. For this work she was selected as a winner of the Innovation in Communication prize for the Innovation Untold 2020 contest. As usual, the list goes on but let’s get to Hortensia’s piece.

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Hortensia Barrios

As a sociolinguist, I see that there is a transformation in the way people use languages to address changes. We are all finding ourselves in a world which we were not trained for – regardless of place of birth, race or preferences. We are all being forced to revisit ways of communicating in societies that have been for a long time multicultural and diverse, but that are now facing significant and rapid changes that include interconnectedness, changes in dynamics of nation-state and other international actors, and more importantly, minorities raising their voice and claiming spaces that for years were seized.

People are becoming more aware and starting to have a better understanding of the significance language has in their day-to-day. Now, we see an increase of people trying to understand and navigate the “new normal” – this also includes parents learning with their kids, getting interested in, or struggling with, their children’s learning journey, reading to them, and engaging in practices that incorporate both linguistic and language awareness. From my perspective, this is a fundamental shift that will change the way future generations use and learn languages and also the way we do research.

Digital Storytelling Workshop

My current research focuses on understanding the ways minorities construct their multiple selves in socio-cultural situations through the instrumentality of language. I do so assisted by digital storytelling workshops in which I guided participants to craft individual digital stories that blend oral narratives with compelling visuals and sounds. Through this data collection method, I created opportunities for research participants to interpret, analyze and document their experiences. The data collected during our meetings is currently being analyzed using critical narrative inquiry.

I plan to continue engaging in collaborative, action-oriented, and creative forms of scholarship. I believe that through innovative practices, we can hold space to hear the voices of minorities, to give them the tools to speak up, and to engage in meaningful conversations that can bring about change to the people and communities we research.

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— the LL Team

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