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Tess Pierce, PhD

Tess Pierce

>> Assistant Professor

Professor Pierce’s research focuses on gender, culture, and the implications of digital technology; especially in the ways we negotiate communication strategies and cultural identities in the production of meaning in our everyday lives.

Tess Pierce is founding faculty and assistant professor in the Communication and Digital Media Studies at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). Before joining UOIT, she was an assistant professor in Communication Studies at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

Tess thinks like a “bricoleur.”

Levi-Strauss described two dominant ways of human thought. The first represents scientific thought or “thinking like an engineer.” The engineer is one who is presented with a problem, asks a question, and then designs a solution. The second represents the “bricoleur.” This term describes those who rely on myths and cultural narratives to explain their worlds. A bricoleur is adaptive, persistent, and sees things from multiple perspectives, and uses the tools on hand in new and inventive ways. Dr. Pierce adapts Levi-Strauss’ term as a metaphor for her academic identity. She builds on the solid foundation of the engineer to evaluate, and envision a world beyond the concrete solution. She is less concerned with theoretical “truths” and more concerned with how humans imagine them, use them, and modify their worlds to adapt to them. This is especially important in interdisciplinary research that crosses physical and philosophical borders to pursue and understand multiple ways of knowing. This acknowledges how multi-perspective analysis adds a richness to, and purposeful tension between, the creative and the conventional.

The overarching theme for Pierce’s research is the rhetoric of everyday life. Specifically she examines how digital communication influences and, is influenced by, the mundane. For example, in her early academic research, Pierce argued that blogging was a valuable tool of resistance, and activists (who she named cyberconduits) used blogging to confront local issues and to connect with global activists to share resources and support. She continued this idea in her article “Singing at the Digital Well: Weblogs as Cyberfeminist Sites of Resistance” (2010) where she discussed the ways in which the blogger Riverbend subverted traditional poetry and song to rebel against the unequal value systems of the fundamentalist Muslim culture in Iraq.

Dr. Tess Pierce is a bricoleur writing as a communication rhetorician, interested in how gender, ethnicity, and culture influence language choices, the ways we understand messages, and how these messages shape relationships and society. Her research has evolved from analyzing activist weblogs to a more focused, yet diverse scope that shares the research thread of life in a digital world. Tess’ most recent research trajectory considers the intersections of gender identity, wearable technology, and (re) enchantment. In a SSHRC funded project in collaboration with CRC (Tier2) Dr. Isabel Pederson, Pierce connects research on rhetoric of spaces and (re) enchantment to the conceptualization of wearable technology.


Pierce, T & Sweet, D. (2014). Magik on the mounds: The (Re) enchanted spaces of House on the Rock. Arts and Sciences Journal 5 (1), doi: 10.4172/2151-6200.10000062.

Pierce, T. (2010).  Singing at the digital well: Weblogs as cyberfeminist sites of resistance. Feminist Formations 22 (3) 196-209, doi: 10.1353/ff.2010.0027.

Pierce, T. (2009). Oh what a gendered web we weave: Deconstructing digital discourse in political web sites. In A. Bammé, G. Getzinger, & B. Wieser (Eds) Yearbook 2008 of the Institute for Advanced Studies on Science, Technology, and Society. A publication of the Institute for Advanced Studies on Science, Technology and Society, Graz, Austria.

Pierce, T. (2009). The evolution of human communication: From theory to practice Oshawa, ON: EtrePress, ISBN: 0981327303, 9780981327303.


Decimal Lab

Courses Taught

  • COMM 3720 Communicating Diversity
  • COMM 3610 Persuasion & Rhetoric
  • COMM 2110 Foundations of Communication Theory
  • COMM 3710 Intercultural Communication

Research Areas

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