Scholar Spotlight: Monique Kampherm

Hi there! I am Monique Kampherm and I am a PhD candidate in English Language and Literature at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, researching the rhetorical intersection of politics and social media.

1.     Why did you apply to HASTAC? 

I applied the HASTAC scholars fellowship because of the extensive knowledge-network of collaborative thinkers the scholars’ program provides. I like that there is a virtual space where a community of digital enthusiasts from a variety of academic backgrounds can engage in conversation and learn from one another. I first heard about the HASTAC program from my friend and colleague, Devon Moriarty, who is also a HASTAC scholar. I contacted my supervisor Dr. Randy Allen Harris to see if he would be interested in becoming my mentor. He agreed, I applied, and here we are!

2.     What has been your favorite course so far as an instructor or student? Why?

My favourite courses to teach are academic writing courses. I include rhetorical thought in these courses and enjoy familiarizing students with theorists such as Aristotle, Cicero, and Kenneth Burke, showing them persuasive techniques that they can employ in their own writings. My favourite course I have taken during my graduate studies was Transmedia Narrative and Design with Dr. Beth Coleman. It was in this class that I had the opportunity to explore the rhetorical elements of digital design, which helped to shape my interest in the intersection of political rhetoric, elections, and digital technology.

3.     What do you want to do after you graduate?

After my doctorate, I am open to all opportunities. I really enjoy teaching, research, and helping others, so higher education would be a great fit. However, I am also interested in elections, communication, and policy, so public- or private-sector research and administration would also be fascinating, including working with NGOs or pursuing industry opportunities. What’s important for me is that my PhD gives me the chance to work in an area that contributes to the health of our democracy and the future of our citizens.

4.     What’s something that people would be surprised to know about you? 

I was a professional actor in my youth! As part of the Young Performers of Canada, affectionately called “Kids-In-Act-ion,” I trained each week for three years with a group of talented young actors, some of who are now well known in the television and film industry today. Each year we prepared shows for industry professionals, travelling from Toronto to Montreal and Vancouver. I credit this experience as developing my skills in presentation and improvisation, both of which come in quite handy in a classroom setting.

5.     What are some things that you wish you knew before you got into graduate school?

Before entering the PhD program at Waterloo, I had an appreciation of what I was signing up for. I had completed three Master of Art degrees and had employment experience working for a government organization as a Policy Advisor. Returning to academia is what I intended to do. What I wasn’t mindful of however, is the balance and support required to complete this intense program while raising a young family. With family support, Montessori childcare, and a rigorous schedule, a village has enabled this PhD.

6.     How do you envision HASTAC and/or higher education in 10 years? Where do you fit in?

The emergency COVID-19 pandemic has called on educational institutions across the globe to rethink all aspects of their institutional form and structure. Currently, instructors and administrative staff are working around the clock to develop emergency remote teaching solutions for students to continue learning, from preschool years to higher education. Even my little ones are “zoom-ing” with their Montessori class daily learning language and math skills virtually. I envision that in 10 years we will have perfected online teaching and will be seeing a greater reliance on technology for the delivery of content and communication with students, but I am hoping we can integrate it with existing models of in-person teaching, so we retain the best of the pre-covid world, not just replace it with expedience for economic reasons. I welcome being a partner in this knowledge evolution.

7.     How does digital scholarship fit into your research or teaching?

Digital scholarship fits into my research through the lens of social media and rhetoric. My dissertation examines how federal leader debates are evolving because of the rhetorical influence of social media. I also connect social media and rhetoric in my most recently published peer-reviewed article in Rhetor 8 (2019), “Democratic Prosopopoeia: The Rhetorical Influence of the I-Will-Vote Image Filter on Social Media Profile Pictures during the 2015 Canadian Federal Election.” Here I take an ancient concept first explored in the oratory of our earliest democracies, the notion of representative speaking, and show how it explains a very contemporary phenomenon, social media image filters. My research features the “I-will-vote” image filter worn over personal profile pictures in the 2015 Canadian federal election campaign, showing how it leads individuals into becoming a stronger electoral advocate through the process of identification, observed through recurrent political online statements, voting selfies, and the inclusion of political hashtags.

8.     What do you hope to accomplish with your research or teaching?

In democracies, the knowledge and beliefs of voters determine the outcomes of elections, both of which are substantially shaped by media. I hope my research provides Canadian government policy makers, media organizations, and independent regulatory election agencies, the tools to rhetorically identify the suasive methods digital media employs in influencing voters.

9.     What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to?

I listen to a lot of audiobooks. Some of my all-time favourite books are Influence by Robert Cialdini and Propaganda by Edward Bernays which discuss how we persuade and how we are persuaded. I have also recently read Trudeau by John Ivison and Right Here, Right Now: Politics and Leadership in the Age of Disruption, by Stephen J. Harper. Both are insightful books on the Canadian political landscape. If you have any suggestions for books or audiobooks I should check out, I am happy to hear them!

10.  What’s something we should ask you?

Well, the pandemic closures have really interrupted my favourite activity, but I’m always happy to talk about it: I delight in jumping on a plane and exploring new places and experiencing different cultures. Last year I had the amazing opportunity to visit Munich, Germany, for Oktoberfest and then join in celebrating my friend’s wedding in Füssen, Bavaria, with breathtaking views of Neuschwanstein castle. For those of you familiar with Disney’s iconic Cinderella castle, Neuschwanstein was the castle that inspired its architecture. On my way back to Canada, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stop in England and connect with my journalism friends from my days studying at Bournemouth University. We spent our time catching up and strolling along London’s South Bank and somehow stumbled upon an Extinction Rebellion demonstration and the Red Brigade at Trafalgar Square—always an adventure! I value my friends’ outlook on the happenings in the world and really enjoy our conversations.

I would like to thank Adashima Oyo and the HASTAC Scholar Spotlight initiative for this opportunity. I welcome those who would like to connect to add me on Twitter @MoniquePhD and let me know what your research interests are!