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On Women & Well-being: My Graduate Research Project

I pursued my M.A. in Communication & Journalism (and graduated Summa Cum Laude two years later) in 2018, driven by my vision to launch a media outlet to disseminate ideas around health, well-being, women’s issues, and culture. As said by Elizabeth Gilbert on Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, I would be “making myself available” to the views of women and well-being that kept galloping toward me. The result: Sula Media, an online platform where I shared 18 interviews of women from 4 different countries.

In short, Sula Media: A digital platform dedicated to sharing women’s inspiring and multifaceted experiences and perspectives on well-being embodied the intersection of research in well-being, feminist narrative inquiry, and multimedia production. Here, I’ll share a few insights of my research experience as a work in progress and an ever-evolving digital creature with its own breath and potential to expand into many more enriching stories, interviews, and content related to women’s well-being.

Last Update (Spring 2021): Sula Media was a wonderful complement to my written research project upon graduation. However, the interviews were only intented for academic purposes, and thus, its dedicated website is no longer available. My intention with this article is to give you a glimpse of what my research entailed and a few lessons learned along the way.


Culture

I started the project by prioritizing and expanding my understanding of research in well-being, feminist narrative inquiry, and multimedia production as a suitable option for publication. My view of being well was informed by a holistic approach that expands beyond mere mental or physical indicators of individual health to a comprehensive and integrative state of feeling and being good. 

I also followed Page-Reeve’s (2019) view that culture is an under-appreciated but central aspect of being well. The need to address culturally interpreted and community-based notions of wellness is vital to foster interdisciplinary thinking and understanding. To examine well-being as a culturally-grounded experience enriches current research and explains sociocultural dynamics that determine personal experiences of living well.


Feminist Narrative Inquiry

A central sociocultural interest was the gendered experience of well-being and the importance of honoring women’s voices and stories. In this sense, the project drew on feminist narrative inquiry as another critical theoretical lens in which women’s storytelling became “a process of co-construction where stories are woven in the interaction of telling, listening, and conversation” (Fraser & MacDougall, 2017, p. 244).

By centering co-creation within the female interviewer and the storytellers in interaction, feminist narrative inquiry allowed for women to become dynamic agents, traversing subjective meanings and experiences that have been ostracized or silenced in society (Holstein & Gubrium, 2011). I believe that women’s embodied knowledge can generate further conversations and inform the social analysis in more in-depth, meaningful ways.


Multimedia Production

I chose a multimedia platform for the production of the project because it offers an opportunity to use creativity to inspire and re-articulate mainstream dialogues of women’s well-being from the ground up and in ways that can propel a shift in understanding—particularly at a time when the roles of media producers and audiences continue to merge.

Multimedia production enabled the communication of ideas through various modalities like video, audio, photography, text, and blogging. Such multimodality contributed to the project’s primary purpose of using creative avenues to share women’s stories of well-being in their terms and thus spark interest and public dialogues that could potentially produce a shift in social consciousness on how women experience well-being.


Why “Sula”

I decided to let the process and participants’ storytelling guide my search for a name that felt accurate and unique, and that’s how the word Sula came to be. 

Sula is a word in Bríbri, the language spoken by the Bríbri indigenous people of Costa Rica, which roughly translates to the origin or center of universal and human creation. Sula represents not only a way to honor an indigenous group from my home country but also a notion that I so much correlate with the project itself: the origin of stories, universal motifs, and healing dialogues on living life well from a woman’s viewpoint.


Final Thoughts

The project underscored the fact that well-being as a construct remains widely significant throughout multiple disciplines. Well-being is a comprehensive experience that supposes interconnection, interdependence, and synergy among the various elements that compose it. However, the academic study of well-being from women’s perspectives is limited but would benefit from more integrative and holistic frameworks, especially the inclusion of social context and culture in the analysis of well-being. More attention to culture and context in scholarly research could generate vital insights into the fundamental qualities in women’s lives that have the most significant potential to enable individual and social well-being.

Attention to individual perceptions, ideas, and experiences of well-being among women of multiple backgrounds was based on the premise that well-being is a multidimensional process that integrates individual and collective, and subjective and objective understandings are grounded in culturally specific and historically situated practices. Sula Media provided abundant evidence of the power of narrative to elicit and co-construct and co-create female memory through the use of stories and descriptions of personal and shared experiences.

Nevertheless, my research experience also confirmed the need to conduct more in-depth analyses of female narratives of well-being—situated in the present time—to gain a more comprehensive view of how women across cultures live and perceive well-being. 

From its inception, this project was based on the belief in the power of women’s stories to shape, redefine, and inspire individual and collective well-being. From a multimedia production perspective, I considered creating a website to be a dynamic and advantageous vehicle for disseminating women’s stories and interwoven, embodied experiences of what it means to be and live well for the flourishing of all.

Admittedly, in the creation of Sula Media, I strived to design a website that was not only dynamic but also engaging, interactive, and appealing to its audience while also focusing on the heart of the project: the women and the interviews. 

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