Photo of Kara Brisson-Boivin

Kara Brisson-Boivin

Adjunct Research Professor

Degrees:Ph.D. Sociology (Carleton)

Research Areas of Interest

Digital citizenship and digital equity, digital well-being and online resiliency, digital media literacy education, youth and technology.


Dr. Brisson-Boivin is the Director of Research at Mediasmarts, Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy. Kara is responsible for the planning, methodology, implementation, and dissemination of key findings from original MediaSmarts’ research studies as well as evaluations of MediaSmarts’ programs. Kara researches the various impacts of digital technology and culture on digital citizenship, digital well-being, and online resiliency for Canadians broadly and youth in particular.

Kara works with a number of academic partners on tri-agency funded research projects, private and public sector interest groups, as well as federal departments on online issues including; digital parenting, privacy, online hate, mis/dis information, activism, and algorithms and artificial intelligence. She is the principal researcher on MediaSmarts’ Young Canadians in a Wireless World research project, which has been tracking young people’s experiences with technology since 2000.

Kara brings to MediaSmarts extensive publication experience in academic journals, magazines, news op-eds and research blogs; and a background in presenting research to key stakeholders on parliamentary committees, at academic conferences, invited talks, panels, keynote addresses, and in media interviews.

Current Research Initiatives (with MediaSmarts)

*From Access to Engagement: A Digital Media Literacy Strategy for Canada
(Funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage -Digital Citizenship Contribution Program)
MediaSmarts will convene research and expertise to develop a made-in-Canada strategy for digital media literacy (DML). This strategy will move Canada beyond purely access and skills-based understandings of DML towards critical, ethical, social and reflective practices essential to developing online resilience and digital citizenship. In the first phase of this project, we will complete a review of international DML strategies/frameworks/models and evaluate and review the Canadian DML landscape—including conducting key informant interviews with international DML partners. In the second phase of this project, we will convene a group of stakeholders and community partners in a one-day symposium that takes an intersectional approach to DML, with an emphasis on equity, diversity, and inclusion. Insights from both the environmental scan and the symposium will be used to draft a national digital media literacy strategy for Canada that supports Canadian’s digital resilience, citizenship, and empowerment.

*Algorithms, AI, and Awareness: Conversations with Young Canadians about Artificial Intelligence and Privacy
(Funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner)
Youth participants will work together, in focus groups, to develop a prototype for an interactive, educational game that will be used by MediaSmarts to build awareness among children and youth about artificial intelligence [AI], algorithms, and privacy. The game prototype will serve as a catalyst for discussion and reflection on how youth interact with artificial intelligence in their day-to-day lives and how it impacts their experiences with digital technology, their movement through the online world, and their privacy – both online and offline. The focus group discussions will also give researchers insight into how young Canadians understand the relationship between AI, algorithms and privacy.

*Young Canadians in a Wireless World (Phase IV): To be or not to be Resilient
(Funded by CIRA- Canadian Internet Registration Authority)
This project investigates to what extent (if at all) resilience is adopted by Canadian youth and their parents as a strategy to deal with online challenges, and whether or not, from their perspectives, resilience is a positive quality for young people to have when navigating life online. This project uncovers what changes youth and their parents see as necessary for children’s rights of protection, provision, and participation to be actualized in the spaces and communities they engage in online. The first stage of this project, involved focus group interviews with 40 youth and their parents. We are now entering the second stage of research which involves a national classroom-based survey of over 8000 Canadian students with results expected in 2021.

*Young Canadians Speak Out: A Qualitative Study on Privacy and Consent
(Funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner)
This project gives youth an opportunity to reflect on the ways in which they conceptualize consent online, to design new tools and concrete methods for obtaining meaningful consent, and to assert their rights and share their insights with academics, policymakers and representatives of the online platforms that they use.

*Young Canadians Push Back Against Hate Online
(Funded by Public Safety Canada)
This project addresses a gap in research and resources for countering online radicalization and hate speech by surveying young Canadians about their experiences with casual prejudice (i.e. hate content not directed at a specific target, or perceived as not being malicious in intent), including why they do or don’t intervene when they see it. The project aims to empower youth to push back when they encounter hate content in order to establish tolerance for diversity as a social norm in their online communities.

*DigitalSmarts: Combatting Canada’s Digital Divide
Digital literacy is an essential factor in fostering social inclusion, however, digital literacy divides map onto existing inequalities based on socioeconomic status, ethnicity, education, immigration status and gender. The DigitalSmarts project aims to combat digital literacy divides through the development and delivery of a digital literacy skills program for under-represented populations in Canada with the goals of empowering and supporting these Canadians.

Recent Publications and Presentations

Brisson-Boivin, Kara. (2021). “Digital Media Literacy: Influence and Empathy.” The future of speech online-Balancing free expression and navigating harmful content. The Walrus Talks at Home.

Brisson-Boivin, Kara and Samantha McAleese. (2021). “Young Canadians Speak Out: Considerations for Privacy and Cybersecurity in Canada.” Smart Cybersecurity Network (SERENE-RISK).

Brisson-Boivin, Kara and Samantha McAleese. (2021). “How digital literacy can help close the digital divide.” Policy Options. April.

Brisson-Boivin, Kara and Samantha McAleese. (2021). “Algorithmic Awareness: Conversations with Young Canadians about Artificial Intelligence and Privacy.” MediaSmarts. Ottawa.

Steeves, V., S. McAleese, and K. Brisson-Boivin. (2020). “Young Canadians in a Wireless World, Phase IV: Talking to Youth and Parents about Online Resiliency.” MediaSmarts. Ottawa.

Brisson-Boivin, K. (2019). “Pushing Back Against Hate Online.” MediaSmarts. Ottawa.

Brisson-Boivin, K. (2018). “The Digital Well-Being of Canadian Families.” MediaSmarts. Ottawa.

Brisson-Boivin, K. (2018). “Standardizing ‘Corrections’: The Politics of Prison Expansionism and Settler Colonial Representations of Punishment in Nunavut.” Interdisciplinary Justice Research. (7). 372-405.

Brisson-Boivin, K. (2017). “Institutionalizing Support for Grads Transitioning from Student to Professional.” Beyond the Professoriate Blog. University Affairs. November.

Brisson-Boivin, K. (2017). “The Matter of Penal Standards: An Emerging Scholar’s Research Blog.” Carleton University, Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

Brisson-Boivin, K. (2016). Ph.D. Dissertation: The Matter of Penal Standards: The Material Politics of Penal Government in Haiti and in Nunavut. Carleton University.