Kristin Bright is director of The Body Online and a cultural medical anthropologist at Middlebury and affiliated graduate faculty at the University of Toronto. Her research is broadly interested in the ways people imagine and interact with emerging practices of digital health communication and activism. In 2020-21, Bright and her students are working in several areas of applied medical anthropology and digital/design anthropology. Along with the projects on this site, they are experimenting with multimodal ethnographic method under pandemic conditions; exploring strategies for community-engaged digital design with early childhood educators; collaborating on mental health initiatives by/for BIPOC students at PWIs; and advocating for more gender, BIPOC, and queer inclusive fitness/workout spaces. Since 2018 Bright has collaborated on studies about the ethical life of precision medicine in Canada and the US, the sociolegal contours of medical assistance in dying (MAiD) in Canada, the impact of COVID-19 on hospice care, and a new study with Open Door Clinic about immigrant farmworkers’ perceptions and experiences with dental health. To involve students more actively in these projects, Bright founded an ethnographic research lab in 2017 called The Body Online, dedicated to student learning and innovation in digital health settings and applications. In her spare time she enjoys making up corny songs with her daughter and exploring the backwoods of Vermont.
Emma Bernstein is an undergraduate student at Middlebury College, pursuing a dual degree in Anthropology and Chemistry. She is the student manager and coordinator for the Body Online Lab. She is also president of Feminist Action at Middlebury, a Planned Parenthood Generation Action team, which is focused on promoting reproductive justice. She is interested in the impact of digital pornography on our cultural approaches to sex, and the way that porn portrays sex and relationships. Similarly, she is interested in the way that Gen Z creates culture and norms on social media apps such as tumblr and Tiktok.
She is also interested in modalities of care, and early childhood education, as well as how the digital interacts with daycare. In her free time, she likes to sail, do yoga and embroider.
Kaja is a rising senior at Middlebury College, where she is majoring in biology with minors in global health and applied anthropology. She is particularly interested in the benefits of anthropology for public policy, social programming, and medical education. In history and anthropology courses at Middlebury, she has explored these disciplines through the transnational study of maternal health networks. Most recently, she has transplanted her interest in mobile medical discourses to examine travelling clinic services locally in Vermont. Kaja also enjoys volunteering in a microbiology lab on campus and looks forward to pursuing graduate work in public health and biological research. In her free time, you can find Kaja climbing, skiing, sailing, and baking galettes.
Samara is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto with a BA in social cultural anthropology. Her academic interests include humanitarian journalism and digital mental health, the latter of which was the subject of her research project in the 2017/2018 Body Online Collective. She explored how the digital medium of mental health applications impacted the mental state of its users, through digital ethnography. She plans to pursue graduate studies in humanitarian action and journalism, as she is motivated by the desire to fight for access to equal opportunity and education for women globally. Digital anthropology will be an indispensable tool in her research, as she engages with communities of women who are fighting for access to these opportunities, and in sharing their experiences online. She's an actor, dancer, croissant connoisseur and is able to recite every word of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy ( only a slight exaggeration). She is very much looking forward to connecting with others in The Body Online community!
Kayla Buchanan is a Biology major with a minor in Sociology and Global Health at Middlebury College. She hopes to use her biological studies of trauma and mental health to better understand and combat the social implications of racism in academia. She is specifically interested in the rise of “Black at ____” pages that are dedicated to detailing the marginalized and often ignored experiences of BIPOCs in predominantly white institutions. She is also interested in examining digital storytelling methods through podcasting, looking specifically at the BLCKGRLMGC podcast created by two black female students at Middlebury in which they detail how their identity shapes the way they move through their institution. Kayla is a New York native and enjoys playing the ukulele and travelling.
Jessica Bytautas is a PhD student in the Social and Behavioural Health Sciences Division at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. For her dissertation, she is conducting an ethnographic study of legacy work in a volunteer-based hospice palliative care organization in Toronto. She is interested in the ways in which legacy activities support the relational nature of existential suffering and resist or reinforce prevailing norms regarding death and the goals of care at the end of life. She earned her bachelor’s degree in philosophy from McMaster University and master’s degree in health services research from the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto.
Jingyi graduated from the University of Toronto on June 2019. She majored in Economics and Anthropology (Social-cultural and linguistic). As one of many Chinese international students in UofT, she focused on the life of international students and new immigrants, how they adapted the life in Canada, and how their culture is portrayed in mainstream Canadian/ Western society. Jingyi is also interested in all types of advertisements, how they are related to all sorts of cultural and political ideologies, and how images of various subjects are portrayed and distorted on the advertisements, for the purpose of political or economic agenda. She is intrigued by the social impact of such image representation. For the lab project, Jingyi discovered the cultural representation of Chinese New Year on mainstream western media, especially in the luxury fashion industry. She is about to start a master program of Global Media at the University of Westminster. In the future, she is planning to study the intriguing dynamics between capital market, political ideology and media product such as movies, music, and TV shows. Apart from her academic interest, Jingyi enjoys taking photographs and documenting her daily lives, which she is happy to share on her Instagram account.
Shiaoshiao is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto with a major in Contemporary Asian Studies and a double minor in Anthropology and Political Science. She has been involved with The Body Online Digital Health Ethnography Lab since its inception. Shiaoshiao’s research is about Mental Health and its digital expressions in visual media form. Her research has inspired her to pursue a career in Health where she can meaningfully combine her Anthropological training with her interest in biology, health, and wellness. When Shiaoshiao is not pre-occupied with her academic pursuits, she enjoys reading online and offline, drinking tea with family and friends, as well as traveling and meeting new people from different walks of life.
Amun Chaudhary is a rising sophomore and Anthropology major at Middlebury College, with a passion for both Anthropology and the Arts. She is very interested in looking at the way the digital world has allowed a new facet of identity to grow and how this manifests in the world of Artists and Performers, and changes the field as we know it. She hails from Karachi, Pakistan and is based in Dubai, UAE. Amun is trained in the dance form Kathak and wants to develop her knowledge of dance and its history by exploring it through Anthropology, as she has done with her previous research on female identity in Pakistan. Amun is an avid feminist and is very invested in the intersectional movement and its growth in Pakistan, right now she is looking at how the digital world has allowed the movement and icons of it to grow in Pakistan and the rest of South Asia, as well as how digital mediums becoming more accessible has changed perceptions of movements like feminism within these societies.
Tyentyen is a 4th year double major in Social-Cultural Anthropology and History, who recently just finished her final credit during a Summer Abroad course in Berlin. She is looking forward to graduating in the Fall and the freedom this next step will provide for her to pursue other avenues and interests outside of school. Tyentyen has been with the Body Online Lab since its inception and has presented at the Biennial Society for Cultural Anthropology’s first digital conference, Displacements 2018, along with her fellow Body Online members. Her research interests include issues such as the intersections and interactions of class, colonialism, and capitalism with contemporary world experiences and historical memory. She is interested in understanding how historical trajectories and History work to shape our contemporary world, while exploring the consequences and shock-waves of past and ongoing events through the examination of lived experiences worldwide. Her current Body Online project takes these engagements and applies them to modern food trends online and how fashion, food, and lifestyle mix with aspirations for social mobility, individualism, and entrepreneurship to produce these online spaces—and why on these digital spaces in particular. As lab coordinator in 2018-19, she helped to design this website (TBO) and continues to support lab activities, peer mentoring, and workshopsAside from school, Tyentyen loves food, cooking, eating, tea, Chinese calligraphy and literature, reading, and spending lots and lots of time with her family. If you’re lucky, you may even find her playing her highland bagpipes!
Natasha has been an active member of The Body Online Lab since its creation and, along with fellow lab members, has presented at the 2018 Biennial Meeting of the Society for Cultural Anthropology and Society for Visual Anthropology Displacements Conference. Her undergraduate and graduate research in anthropology focuses on exploring the usage and impacts of the YouTube platform, through the intersection of YouTuber experience, personas, performance, personal branding and community. Natasha has completed her master's degree in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto with a research focus on examining how vloggers on YouTube maintain a balance between personal brand stability and coherence while also remaining flexible to change their content to attract viewers. Natasha’s own use of various social media platforms sparked many questions and interest about the role of the digital realm on the creation of the self and the breakdown of the strict division of online and offline existence. In her spare time, Natasha enjoys travel, reading a good fiction novel and watching movies. Her current travel goal is to visit all the capital cities in Canada.
Studying Anthropology and Art History at the University of Toronto as an undergraduate student, Cassandra Gemmel became interested in the theoretical and technicals methods employed by anthropologists, artists and art historians to reflect upon cultural processes. In particular, she has focused on how these cultural practitioners have chosen to approach the distillation of cultural knowledge, whether scholarly or otherwise, into a finished product. In her future research as a Graduate student studying Contemporary Art, Design and New Media at OCAD University she will explore this intersection between Contemporary art, film, old and new media and ethnography. She endeavours to identify or expose the inherited schemata and conventions each anthropologist or artist adhered to when producing their ethnographic work. She will attempt to approach each work or visual product not as static objects but as active social agents capable of producing new meaning. Overall, she seeks to advance the consideration of artistic works to not be interpreted solely as communicators of cultural knowledge to be read by specialists, but as live sites where cultural knowledge can be produced.
Yasmine is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto, who majored in Sociocultural Anthropology and minored in Environmental Anthropology and Diaspora & Transnational studies. Her research interests surround identity, environmental justice, social inequalities, Black-Feminist Theory, Education Policy, Critical Race Theory, Cross-Cultural Relations, Queer Theory, Community Engaged Outreach. Her research in the Body Online Lab focused on Researching how Black bodies are conscripted into contemporary forms of meme life and viralization that contribute to the reification of Jim Crow era blackface caricatures today. She does this by exploring the ways in which digital climates are understood, negotiated, and politically transformed in these digital spaces.
Brooke Gangbar Iwan
Brooke Gangbar Iwan is a 4th year student at the University of Toronto studying Social Anthropology and Women and Gender Studies. Born and raised in Toronto her research is situated within the city itself. Her academic interest include queer geographies, trauma studies, anthropology of affect, and practices of digital and imaginative methodology. Her current work revolves around online queer communities, healing and trauma, as well as sports, gender and play. Likewise she advocates for autoethnography as a tool to 'learn with' or 'beside' rather than 'learn from' as she supports the idea that lived experience, story telling, and imaginative methodologies are valuable to both academic and public progress. She is planning to graduate in the Spring of 2020 and hopes to eventually complete a Masters in Social Work or Public Health.
Grace is a Conservation Biology major with minors in Anthropology and Political Science at Middlebury College. She is fascinated by food systems as a tool for social, environmental, and health-based change. Grace hopes to integrate biology, sustainability, policy, and anthropology to holistically address how humans relate to food and our bodies. COVID-19 offers a unique and fascinating opportunity to look into our society’s relationships to health, medicine, and food as a means of personal and relational care, and is something she looks forward to focusing on in the future. She is thrilled to be joining the Body Online team, and looks forward to pushing the limits of her anthropological study. Aside from academics, Grace is the president of Middlebury’s Dolci Club (the campus’ student-run restaurant) and is a member of the Ultimate Frisbee team.
Modele's interests lay in the realm of Social Cultural Anthropology. He began to want to explore in what ways he could contribute to the field in a creative fashion. With the stark popularity of social media platforms, he began to become interested in how these platforms can be used in a radical way. Specifically how these platforms can help in the fight against racism and better understandings of identity formation. During his final year of his undergrad at the University of Toronto he began working on his research about the online world through the lens of the Afro Latino. His research and part of his mini documentary was presented at the 2018 Displacements Conference. The research he began in his undergrad allowed him to expand this idea into work for his masters at the University of Amsterdam, here he continued to use the lens the Afro Latino identity to explore ideas of “ space and place” and what that means for those who are creating it.
Yiran Li is a recent grad of University of Toronto, double majored in Socio-Cultural Anthropology and Art History. She comes from China and holds an interest in China-foreign communication and the digital culture in current Chinese society, especially how trends on the Internet reflect the hidden concerns among the various social communities. In her spare time, Yiran like to treat everything she noticed online as her “data” and sources of inspirations for the future researches. She is always open to walk out of the “ivory tower” and try to become a person who could deliver her academic knowledge to the wider public. Yiran is also enthusiastic about music and art, which allows her to perceive cultures from multiple views.
Claire Martens is originally from Cleveland, Ohio, where she became interested in the performing arts and studying history. Because her grandmother used to work at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Claire found herself drawn to the paleoanthropology exhibits famous for depicting 'Lucy'. After arriving to Middlebury College, Claire began involvement in the satirical newspaper and one of the campus’s improvisational comedy groups. The first introduction to anthropology was through archaeology, but Claire is now juggling a mix of interest in bio anthropology, archaeology, and sociocultural anthropology. During her academic career, Claire has dived deeper into the contexts of museum and archaeology ethics behavior, providing her an opportunity to 're-learn' facets of the discipline after many lovely visits to museums. Currently, one of her main long-term interests is the process of museum repatriation and restructuring. Her current main research interest relates to ‘Generation Z’s digital behavior, dissent, and comedic nuance/irony. She aims to study the tension that the digital generation faces between the inundation of information and the increased agency to shape self-hood. Surveys that have mapped this generation's consumption habits have acknowledge the immense power Gen Z has on the trajectory of digital capitalism, social media, and political dissent. The project aims to study "what we are laughing at": looking critically at specifically generational digital behaviors validating sociopolitical in-group boundaries (certain meme formats, platforms, performances, 'cancel culture', etc) Ideally, Claire will go to grad school in either Bio, Physical, or Sociocultural Anthropology.
Anneliese is a currently a senior medical student at the University of Toronto (UofT), Faculty of Medicine. She earned an honours Bachelor of Arts from UofT in 2017 (majoring in history and anthropology) and a Master of Arts in medical anthropology from UofT in 2019. Her master’s research focused on allied health professionals’ experience with Medical Assistance in Dying (Canada’s recently-legalized form of assisted death) through the lenses of ethics, narrative, and care. For the summer of 2020, Anneliese’s main research interest is the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis on medical education. Both formal and informal curriculums were adapted for online/distance learning, causing numerous changes in traditional practices such as cadaveric dissections, morning reports, and bedside teaching on the physical exam. Prior to the pandemic, Anneliese played cello with her university orchestra and took lessons for figure skating and trampoline. More recently, in her spare time, she can be found reading, hiking with her standard poodle, and practicing home yoga.
Aida is a born and raised Torontonian, currently completing a double major in Art History and Anthropology at the University of Toronto. Some of her academic interests include Medical Anthropology, specifically, examining rituals surrounding death and mourning in the context of high mortality. Her background and training in the visual arts colours her passion for both art history and cinema. She is a connoisseur of horror, art house and avant garde cinema, and she is interested in the ways film can behave as both a cultural object and subject. In her life outside of academia, she is a bartender/mixologist, an avid runner, and an enthusiastic reader of the modern tragedy.
Emilly is a graduate from the Queen’s University Master of Public Administration and holds a BA(hons) in Sociology and Anthropology from the University of Toronto. She was born and raised in Ottawa, and recently moved back to start a new position as the National Coordinator for Canada Without Poverty. Her research in the digital ethnography lab centered on the emergence of the ASMR community on YouTube as a form of feminized digitized care labour for viewers who are feeling lonely or who suffer with mental health issues. She explored the sexualization of ASMR, how the ASMR community legitimizes their work with scientific paradigms, and cultural constructions of what it means to be comforted and cared for. She always draws upon the critical thinking skills and eye-opening discussions that studying anthropology gifted me in my current work in policy, human rights, and anti-poverty advocacy.
Tamsyn Riddle is a feminist and community organizer in Dish With One Spoon territories. As an anti-sexual violence activist, she has filed a human rights case against the University of Toronto for its sexual violence policies, and is currently working on a mutual aid project to get emergency funding to survivors who need it through the Sexual Violence Survivor Support Network. She is also a recent graduate of the University of Toronto, where she majored in Diaspora and Transnational Studies with minors in Equity Studies and Political Science.
Courtney Tillman is a rising senior at Middlebury College who is currently pursuing a joint major in Sociology and Anthropology. As a previous International Studies major, Courtney developed a passion for learning about different cultures through immersing herself in foreign language and literature. Now, as a Socio/Anth major, she hopes to combine her love for global affairs with her interests in understanding diverse communities and cultural traditions. She is particularly intrigued by issues surrounding mental health in the African American community, sociocultural disparities within the criminal justice system, and the transformative power of words. Her current research touches upon punishment in the age of social media, specifically the ways in which the penal system is digitally reinvented through cancel culture. Furthermore, she seeks to dissect how the usage of social media platforms creates a digital body that exists simultaneously in the past and present, allowing both previous and current actions to be constantly scrutinized and accessible for condemnation.
Nick Smith is a PhD student in the Anthropology program at the U of T. His current work concerns the politics and affects of movement in Greece, and his MA work was about discourses of reconciliation in Winnipeg, MB in the wake of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Report. In both of these endeavours he has been particularly interested in the sensorial aspects of media and the ways media shape apprehensions of the world that are entangled with its symbolic or linguistic contents. He find these questions of media sensorium helpful to think about in practice, that is, by experimenting with different media as a form of ethnographic accounting. For him this has mostly been with “soundscape” exercises, but with the Body Online project he is excited to see what other kinds of playful and imaginative engagements can bring to our understandings of digital social worlds.
Jaya Singh is a Sociocultural Anthropology undergraduate student who has a deep interest in understanding the social implications of Web 2.0-oriented technologies. For her project, “Digital Activism and Socially Conscious Online Entrepreneurship Amongst the #WitchesOfInstagram”, Jaya combined three of her primary research interests to examine the pictorial representations of online communities within social media frameworks. Jaya’s three primary research interests—ritual, social activism and web-based technologies—continue to be the primary foci of her work throughout her undergraduate studies.
While Jaya’s research interests have remained prominent throughout her life, her interests in human-centric design and technology became further augmented when she worked in positions related to social media management and online consumer outreach. When Jaya is not invested in research centred around religious studies and/or technology’s impact on society, she is typically succumbing to her lifelong involvement in arts and culture through research related to material culture.
Anna Wood is an anthropology major at Middlebury College, minoring in global health and Spanish. Particularly interested in medical anthropology, she has studied sociopolitical constructions of health, body plasticity, and medical care under capitalist regimes. After experiencing years of pharmaceutical treatment for a bone condition, she seeks to investigate the individualist, biopowered approach to neoliberal healthcare, specifically in regards to hormonal manipulation. In Middlebury’s Medical Anthropology course, she examined the pharmaceutically regulated menstrual cycle as an artifact of sociopolitical control, complicating the relationship between self agency and institutional hegemony. For the Body Online collective, she is looking at this self-making phenomena in tandem with holistic consumption, unearthing the erasure of traditional context within contemporary wellness blogs. By rejecting institutional healthcare, wellness blogs reposition holistic practices as avenues to self improvement, effectively removing traditional knowledge from the public sphere. As a competitive runner and triathlete, Anna looks forward to interrogating online spaces that produce cultural conceptions of fitness and “good” health; these forms of information have heavily influenced her own lived experiences. Ultimately, she hopes to lay bare the sociocultural situations that dictate meanings of health* in market society. Aside from athletics, Anna is involved in a cappella, journalism, and nutrition outreach programs.
Kathryn van der Merwe
Kathryn van der Merwe is a student at Middlebury College, Class of 2022. At Middlebury, she is majoring in Anthropology with a minor in Global Health. She has become increasingly engaged with medical anthropology during her time at Middlebury, as the perfect marriage between her academic interests. Although she is new to the study of particularly medical anthropology after taking only a single intro class, she is excited to be a part of The Body Online Research Collective to engage with the material that she has so far only skimmed the surface of and to engage with her peers in their shared academic exploration. She is most interested in cross-cultural perceptions of the body and how that affects treatment methods and care for the body as well as the influences that develop those perceptions. Up to date her research on this topic has been focused on eating disorders, but that focus can extend to all aspects of health and the body. Hopefully while participating in this lab, she will be able to gain further insight into the digital world of the body and share that research with her peers.