Matthew Mitchell, a Vancouver native and Team Fox member, recently completed a volunteer opportunity at MJFF before heading back to complete his masterís degree in media and global communications in Helsiniki, Finland.†Matthew shared the following insights from his time at MJFF with the communication students at St. Johnís University:
Research should be something you are passionate about.† This may be idealistic, but it is possible.† Such as it is, Iíll share with you my example.
For the past 4 years Iíve raised funds and awareness for The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinsonís Research.† This organization is at the forefront of some of the most innovative collaborative work ever.† My connection to the cause is a personal one.† My father lived with PD for 12 years before passing away in 2010.† In November of that same year I ran my first marathon on his behalf, and just a couple weeks ago I ran my fifth, also in New York City, nearly 30 minutes faster than my first (3hr/1min).† Running is at the heart of my contributions to the PD cause, but my involvement goes beyond this sometimes very solitary pursuit.
Perhaps more important is the connection forged with others in the community, and awareness built amongst the broader public.† Social media/new media/web 2.0, however we want to name them, are tools that amplify our interactions.† They do not replace the unique benefits of the tangible, but they can instigate unprecedentedly strong and valuable relationships.† I have borne witness to this first-hand through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in particular.
In 2012, I began my Masterís studies in Global Media and Communication in Helsinki to contribute to and understand better the potential of new media to facilitate social change.† Over the course of the past few months (July to November) I have spent time working with and conducting research at The Michael J. Fox Foundation, as well as within its larger community in the time leading up to the NYC Marathon.† I conducted an ethnographic (and auto-ethnographic) study of individual cause-champions, their social media and offline interactions.† I wanted to know more about how and why social media and these particular individuals are contributing to the goals of a non-profit.
This ethnographic study has provided me with the depth and intimacy rarely applied to new media and to a topic and even a cause I am passionate about.† Understanding my own biases is important to ensure this study can be objectively communicated and understood and that the knowledge and perspective that a researcher-participant can bring to a project is a powerful thing.† I am fortunate to be in a program with the freedom to dig into a topic with not only academic but also personal and professional relevance.† Some of this is luck, some of it is following your heart, most of it is work.