Research Project Spotlight: Exploring transatlantic (small town) stories through a range of multimedia and immersive technologies

With an interest in community-based writing and with the goal of offering students opportunities for growth in their storytelling abilities, creative writing prof Michael V. Smith has partnered up with Anna Kiernan from the University of Exeter to run a publishing opportunity for students from each campus.

This collaboration is made possible with funding from the UBC Okanagan-Exeter Excellence Initiator Grant.

“This research and development work seeks to identify the potential for exploring transatlantic (small town) stories through a range of multimedia and immersive technologies,” explains Smith.

Kiernan reached out to Smith to invite him to be part of organizing a cross-Atlantic issue of Exeter’s online magazine The Lit. She was looking for someone to collaborate with at UBCO, and liked that he is a creative writer that had digital media experience.

“I also liked the kinds of work she is involved in that is community focused. I’m interested in building community, and culture, and I’m also interested in diversity and alternative forms. Those are aligned with my interests,” he says.

Smith is interested in media as a low-barrier storytelling tool – as well as storytelling that grows out of a specific place, so their theme issue of “Small-Town Stories” will feature videopoems (experimental films) generated by UBCO students, featured alongside writing by Exeter students. This is a unique opportunity for students from both campuses to connect from different locations across the Atlantic. Opportunities like this opens up new possibilities for students.

“I think there is a shared cultural value and aesthetic between us and England. And these cross-cultural elements can also show students that there are different ways of being, which can help influence and inform their writing,” Smith says.

In the creative writing classes here at UBC Okanagan, he notes that his courses offer readings mostly in a Canadian perspective, so this project is a great way to introduce them to a broader literary tradition and cannon.

This also offers exposure to other ways of doing things. “In our creative writing program, we teach students not only how to make art but to use creative tools to find work in other disciplines. We don’t want to have students graduate and only publish their work, but to be performers, work in film, or find a career in advertising or therapy,” he says.

The hope of this course is that it will open up doors to show our students what else is possible by learning from people in other places in the world.

Kiernan and Smith will showcase their work when visiting each other’s campus in the Spring, to build the relationship across their campuses, and to find other shared projects, such as site-specific work, or collaborative making. If this grows in the right direction, there may be possibilities for an exchange so that our students visit University of Exeter and theirs come here, for an across-the-pond dialogue.

About Ana Kiernan and Michael V. Smith

Anna Kiernan

Anna’s research focuses on questions of participation, identity, community and creativity in relation to writing culture and cultural value and book publishing. Her most recent book is Writing Cultures and Literary Media: Publishing and Reception in a Digital Age, published by Palgrave in 2021.




Michael V. Smith

Michael V. Smith

Michael V. Smith is an interdisciplinary artist, working as a writer, filmmaker, and performance artist. His most recent book is Bad Ideas, published by Nightwood Editions in 2017. He has recently finished a feature documentary, The Floating Man, to be released in 2023.