Lee Wilson Defends his Master’s Thesis Research on Tidal Power Communication Networks in the Bay of Fundy Region

Lee Wilson, Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) student with the EIUI research program, successfully defended his thesis on 30 November 2015. His research examined several aspects of inter-organizational communication among organizations affected by tidal power developments in the Bay of Fundy region in Atlantic Canada. Capturing tidal energy through the implementation of tidal turbines involves many stakeholders (e.g., municipal, provincial, and federal government agencies; NGOs; environmental groups; domestic and international industry; universities; and community groups), including First Nations communities. As the first research of its kind about tidal power networks operating in The Bay, this study sought to determine if, how, and to what extent communication occurs among stakeholder groups, particularly across sector boundaries.

“Participatory mapping,” a qualitative Social Network Analysis (SNA) technique, was used to survey a wide range of representatives from groups affected by tidal energy implementation, e.g., practitioners, researchers, policy-makers, community leaders, and industry representatives. The participants were asked to draw a map of their organization’s communication in the tidal power network and to comment on variables such as frequency and salience of information exchanges. They were also asked questions about each of the relationships. Several established qualitative research techniques were used to analyze the interview data. In addition, the participant-generated maps were transcribed and imported into SNA software for visual and statistical analysis.

SNA approaches to understanding land use and/or resource management networks often rely on a mixed method approach. However, purely quantitative SNA studies lack the detailed, contextual data required to develop an understanding of complex social and political processes. In contrast, this exploratory, mixed-methods study generated rich contextual insights into why, how, and to what extent organizations are communicating about tidal power. Based on the findings, recommendations were developed about how communication channels might be improved in the region.

This thesis research was supervised by Dr. Bertrum MacDonald, along with advisors, Drs. Peter Wells and Claudio Aporta. The external examiner was Dr. Anatoliy Gruzd, Associate Professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University and Canada Research Chair in Social Media Data Stewardship. Further details about this study are included in the abstract.