Photo of Kathy Dobson

Kathy Dobson

ALiGN Postdoctoral Research Fellow


An award-winning author, journalist, and scholar, Dr. Kathy Dobson is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Alternative Global Network (ALiGN) Media Lab at the School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University. Kathy Dobson’s research interests are in the area of media, justice, and political action, particularly focusing on political usages and implications of new technologies and media for social justice among marginalized groups, notably those experience homelessness and poverty.

Kathy earned a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Carleton University with a dissertation titled Living in Algorithmic Governance: A Study in the Digital Governance of Social Assistance in Ontario.” It examines the Ontario government’s Social Assistance Management System (SAMS), a type of algorithmically powered software that social assistance agencies use to categorize, sort, and manage the individuals who use social assistance. In particular, she explores how it feels for those individuals who depend on this system to pay for rent, food, and other life essentials.

At ALiGN Media Lab, as a postdoctoral researcher, Kathy Dobson works with Dr. Merlyna Lim in an SSHRC-funded research project on how social media is utilized in the production of alternative spaces for activism and counter-hegemonic movements. Further, drawing on the empirical research and informed by existing theories/concepts, Kathy is also leading the production of a handbook/toolkit to support activist groups in thinking through their social media-based communication strategies in supporting activism/movement building. Beyond research, at the Lab Kathy also is acting as a managing editor, writer, and podcaster.

During her doctoral study at Carleton University, Kathy Dobson was awarded multiple distinctions and scholarships, including the prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship (2015-2018), Robert McKeown Doctoral Scholarship (2015, 2018), and Joseph-Armand Bombardier Graduate Scholarship (2015). In 2017, she was also named Carleton University’s “CU75 Winter Hero”.

Kathy has taken a circuitous route into academia, working as a journalist for over twenty years and raising a family while undertaking her BA, MA, and Ph.D. Therefore, she brings a wealth of life and professional experiences into the academia and journalism worlds. As a journalist, Kathy Dobson’s work has appeared in the Globe & Mail, National Post, Ottawa Citizen, Canadian Living, Chatelaine, Maclean’s magazine, and more. A former news stringer for the CBC, Kathy also produced numerous documentaries for CBC Radio.

Kathy has utilized her lived experiences in multiple forms—from journalistic essays to creative non-fiction to academic writing—to engage, connect, and even mobilize audience/readers. Growing up in an industrial slum of Montréal with her five sisters and their single mother on welfare, Kathy’s work has been focused on issues of representation, especially of those who live in or have experienced poverty. Kathy shared her journey of growing up in an area of Montréal that was once described by the National Film Board as “the toughest neighbourhood in Canada” in her first and second books. The first book, With A Closed Fist: Growing up in Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood (Véhicule Press, 2011), is about to go into its third printing and is also undergoing translation into French. The Globe and Mail described it as a great work, illustrating the divide between the classes with the sly observations of an eight-year-old child growing through the pages, these insights drenched in authenticity and moral ambiguity… Dobson has enormous talent.” The Montréal Gazette described it as “Canada’s Angela’s Ashes.” Kathy received an Ontario Art Council grant to work on her second book, Kicking and Punching: Leaving Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood. It has been a best-selling book on Amazon in Québec since its release. Currently, Kathy is working on her third book (under contract), The History of Whistle Blowing, with Véhicule Press in Montréal.

Selected publications:

Books (creative non-fiction)

  • Dobson, Kathy. (2018) Kicking and Punching: Leaving Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood, Véhicule Press, Montréal.
  • Dobson, Kathy. (2011) With a Closed Fist: Growing up in Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood, Véhicule Press, Montréal. (Still in print).

Peer-reviewed journal articles

  • Dobson, K. (summer 2024) The Failure to Communicate: How News Media Contribute to Negative Stereotypes about Homelessness and fail to address the Systemic and Structural Causes. International Journal on Homelessness.
  • Dobson, K. (2019) Welfare 2.0? Using Big Data to Surveil, Stigmatize, and Criminalize the Poor. Canadian Journal of Communication. Vol 44:3.
  • Dobson, K., Knezevic, I. (2018) ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that!’: A case study in framing and stereotypes in legacy and social media. Canadian Journal of Communication. Vol 43:3.
  • Knezevic, I., Pasho, J., Dobson, K. (2018) Of “Bigots” and “Barbarians”: Debating rights with #Sealfie. Canadian Journal of Communication. Vol 43:3.
  • Dobson, K., Knezevic, I. (2017) ‘Liking and Sharing:’ the Stigmatization of Poverty and Social Welfare: Representations of Poverty and Welfare Memes on Social Media. Triple C: Communication, Capitalism & Critique, 15(2).
  • Dobson, K., Hunsinger, J. (2016) The Political Economy of WikiLeaks: Transparency and Accountability through Digital and Alternative Media. Studies in Communication and Culture, 7(2): 217-233.

Book chapters

  • Dobson, K. (2019) Connecting, Bypassing, and Networking: Analyzing Idle No More’s Online Activities. J. Hunsinger et al. (eds.), The Second International Handbook of Internet Research,
  • Dobson, K. (2015, 2018) In their own words. In N. Ives, M. Donov & T. Sussman (Eds.), Introduction to Social Work in Canada: Histories, Contexts, and Practices. Oxford University Press. Page 134.
  • Dobson, K. (2013), “Accessibility and Validity of Truth: Is WikiLeaks a vehicle for transparency and fact, subverting traditional social structures by presenting alternative and suppressed information Journalism Interest Group Proceedings. 284-290, Victoria, B.C.
  • Dobson, K. (2010) How to Avoid the Two Biggest Costs of University. In M. Holloway, G Holloway & J. Witte (Eds.), Individuals and Families: Diverse Perspectives. McGraw-Hill. Page 153.

Awards and Distinctions

  • Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship (Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada), $150,000 (2015-2018).
  • Awarded Carleton University’s “Favourite Faculty 2021/2022 Certificate” in recognition of “Outstanding efforts as a Professor.”
  • Awarded and named one of Carleton University’s ‘CU75 Winter Hero.’ (2017).
  • Dean of Graduate Studies Entrance Scholarship, Carleton University, Graduate Scholarship, and Research Bursary, $75,000 (2014-2018) Carleton University.
  • Robert McKeown Doctoral Scholarship in Communication (for experience as a professional journalist), Carleton University, $30,000 (2015, 2016).
  • Joseph-Armand Bombardier Graduate Scholarship, $120,000 (2015).
  • Ontario Graduate Scholarship, $15,000 (2015).
  • Ontario Arts Council Award, $12,000 (2015).
  • Ontario Arts Council Writer’s Reserve Grant, $1,650 (2015).
  • Graduate Entrance Scholarship, Wilfrid Laurier University, $12,800 (2012).
  • Nominated for Wilfrid Laurier University Gold Medal for Academic Excellence (Master’s level) (2012).
  • Peter McGregor award for “Lecture on Social Concerns,” Algoma University (2012).
  • Reader’s Choice Award, one of the National Post’s “Best Books of 2011” for With a Closed Fist (2011).
  • Research Assistant for ALiGN Digital Media Lab (Dr. Merlyna Lim) Carleton University, $10,000 (2015).
  • Positive reviews of With a Closed Fist published in the National Post, Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Sun, Montreal Gazette, Good Reads, and other online media.
  • Nominated for a Governor Generals Literary Award (long listed) for “With a Closed Fist: Growing up in Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood” (2011).