Jenna Jacobson Social Media Study

Ryerson Professor Jenna Jacobson – How Semaphore Supported her Academic Journey

“You can do a PhD on social media?” Yes…I actually did, and my colleagues at Semaphore researched other non-traditional topics such as video games, 3D printing, touch technologies, and virtual reality.

I’m Jenna Jacobson, an Assistant Professor at Ryerson University in the Ted Rogers School of Retail Management. I’d like to think that it’s the accumulation of various journeys that lead you to your destination, and I am fortunate that the journeys I took have led me down the path to become a faculty member in an area I’m passionate about. My research focuses on social media, branding, and user behaviour. I completed my PhD at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto in 2017. Before beginning my current position at Ryerson in 2018, I was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Social Media Lab in Toronto. 

Undertaking doctoral studies is filled with weird and wonderful adventures. It’s an enlightening journey that is filled with many ups and some downs and countless forks in the road. More accurately, undertaking and completing the PhD is like taking many journeys. 

“One thing that supported me along the way was having a home—an academic home. During my PhD, Semaphore was my academic home. Having this “home” meant I was never alone on my path.”

Some of my best academic memories come from working at Semaphore. My favourite research projects are collaborative and involve working as part of a team that brings together people with different interests and expertise. By combining disciplinary perspectives from business, information, and communication, I worked (and continue to work) closely with Rhonda McEwen at Semaphore to analyze the impact and use of technology in society. As part of a large-scale Networked Individualsresearch project including interviews with 101 people, we analyzed perceptions of risk online and information behaviours, such as what protective measures people take when going online. In a recent publication, we analyzed the use of mobile technologies by seniors and recommended further mobile media literacy programs to ensure seniors’ successful adoption and use of new media. 

From these experiences, I have seen what being a generous academic looks like: Rhonda continues to be a mentor to me. Since beginning my new position as a faculty member at Ryerson, I have tried to express the same traits of supporting and building the next generation of researchers as I continue my academic career. 

I have also learned to embody intellectual curiosity: having intelligible conversations about a research topic that is well outside your own expertise. Because of the diverse research areas at Semaphore including sensory information processing, critical making, and critical games, I’ll now happily have insightful and provocative conversations about topics like the expertise and labour of digital fabrication or kids’ video games.

While I continue to learn about life as a faculty member, my academic experiences led me to where I am today and I am proud to have Semaphore, and the people at Semaphore, as part of my journey.


Twitter: @jacobsonjenna