Rob McMahon, PhD

Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts - Political Science Dept

Pronouns: he, him, his


Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts - Political Science Dept
12-9 Tory (H.M.) Building
11211 Saskatchewan Drive NW
Edmonton AB
T6G 2H4


Area of Study / Keywords

Community informatics; digital media and infrastructures; digital literacy; communication policy and regulation; community engagement


Dr. Rob McMahon is an Associate Professor in the Media & Technology Studies Unit and the Department of Political Science in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta. He holds a BA (History and Creative Writing) from the University of Victoria, a MJ (Masters of Journalism) from the University of British Columbia, and a PhD (Communication) from Simon Fraser University. His PhD Dissertation received a Dean's Convocation Medal. Prior to joining the University of Alberta in 2015, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher with the First Nations Innovation Project at the University of New Brunswick and co-founded the First Mile Connectivity Consortium, a national nonprofit association of Indigenous technology organizations. He is currently an Associate Professor in Media & Technology Studies/Political Science, and teaches in the Master of Arts in Communication and Technology (MACT) program. In 2020, Dr. McMahon received the Killam Accelerator award from the University of Alberta. He is currently the co-director of the DigitalNWT project, which employs a co-creational approach to strengthen the foundation of community-based digital literacy in the Northwest Territories (NWT).


Dr. McMahon’s research focuses on the development, adoption, and use of broadband and internet technologies by rural, Northern, and Indigenous communities. His approach involves working with communities to ensure that their voices are heard in all stages of research. He and his partners are also involved in efforts to contribute to digital policy and regulation. Dr. McMahon's research, teaching, and community engagement work is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada (Insight grant), the University of Alberta's Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund, the Internet Society's Beyond the Net program, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority's Community Investment program, and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada's Digital Literacy Exchange Program.

Dr. McMahon's research and teaching interests include: community-based technology development; community informatics; digital divides and digital inclusion; Indigenous, rural and Northern communities and ICT; communications policy and regulation; and digital literacy. He is particularly interested in community-based and participatory research and practice.

Current research projects include:

2011 - present: First Mile Connectivity Consortium (Canada) -- Working with First Nations technology organizations to develop policy and regulation to support Indigenous broadband in Canada.

2018 - present: DigitalNWT (NWT) -- Using a ‘train the trainer’ approach, DigitalNWT equips a team of community-based instructors with the skills to offer digital literacy training in communities across the NWT. 

2017 - present: Piikani Cultural and Digital Literacy Camp Program (AB) -- Collaborating with Elders and educators in Piikani Nation to use digital technology to engage youth and preserve knowledge and history.

Past projects include:

2016 - 2018: SweetgrassAR (AB) -- Exploring Indigenous-Settler Relations through Augmented Reality storytelling with Dr. Diana Steinhauer and Stewart Steinhauer from Saddle Lake Cree Nation.

2017 - 2018: Digital Literacy Workshops with Gwich'in Tribal Council (NWT) -- Researching innovation in Gwich’in contexts through workshops and the creation of open educational resources that focus on the development, sustainability, and use of digital technologies.

2015 - 2019: Digital Futures (AB) -- Shaping rural broadband in Alberta and Understanding Community Broadband: The Alberta Broadband Toolkit (with Dr. Michael McNally and Dr. Dinesh Rathi, School of Library and Information Studies)

2016 - 2017 : Community Leadership Mapping Project (with Dr. Mary Beckie and Dr. Kevin Jones)

2016 - 2017: Technology Stewardship to Promote ICT Adoption in Sri Lanka (with Dr. Gordon Gow)


Dr. McMahon teaches graduate courses in research design, strategic communication, community engagement, and digital media. Courses include:

* COMM 597 - “We are all Related”: Exploring Indigenous-Settler Relations through Augmented Reality Storytelling

* COMM 509 - Advanced Seminar in Research Design

* COMM 506 - Strategic Communication

* MACE 501 - Principles and Practices of Community Engagement

Dr. McMahon would like to hear from graduate students interested in community-oriented projects related to communication and technology, communication policy/regulation, digital literacy, and political economy of communication. His expertise is in qualitative research methods.


New article (2022): "Investigating concentrated exclusion in telecommunications development: Engaging rural voices from Northern Canada", in Journal of Rural Studies

New article (2022): "Voices from Northern Canada: Integrating stakeholder expectations in telecommunications policy for rural, remote and Northern regions", in Telecommunications Policy

New article (2022): "Remote and Indigenous Broadband: A Comparison of Canadian and U.S. Initiatives and Indigenous Engagement", in Journal of Information Policy


COMM 506 - Strategic Communications in a Digital World

The conceptual and practical foundations for effective strategic communications management will be examined, providing professionals with the insights and skills needed to integrate digital media into strategic communications planning for a range of organizations including non-profit, education, government, health, and private sector. Restricted to MACT students. Students may not receive credit for both EXT 506 and COMM 506. Prerequisites: COMM 502 and COMM 503 or consent of the Department.

Browse more courses taught by Rob McMahon


Making Sense of Digital Inequalities in Remote Contexts: Conceptions of and Responses to Connectivity Challenges in the Northwest Territories, Canada

Author(s): McMahon, R., Akcayir, M., McNally, M.B. & Okheena, S.
Publication Date: 11/1/2021
Publication: International Journal of Communication
Volume: 15
Issue: 1
Page Numbers: 5229-5251
External Link:

Canada’s Northern Communications Policies: The Role of Aboriginal Organizations

Author(s): McMahon, R., Hudson, H.E. & Fabian, L.
Publication Date: 2017
Publication: The Shifting Terrain: Nonprofit Policy Advocacy in Canada
External Link:

Indigenizing Digital Literacies: Community Informatics Research with the Algonquin First Nations of Timiskaming and Long Point

Author(s): McMahon, R., Whiteduck, T., Chasle, A., Chief, S., Polson, L. & Rodgers, H.
Publication Date: 2017
Publication: Engaged Scholar Journal
Volume: 2
Issue: 1
Page Numbers: 267-284
External Link:

Digital Data Management as Indigenous Resurgence in Kahnawà:ke

Author(s): McMahon, R., LaHache, T., & Whiteduck, T.
Publication Date: 2015
Publication: International Indigenous Policy Journal
Volume: 6
Issue: 3
External Link:

From Digital Divides to the First Mile: Indigenous Peoples and the Network Society in Canada

Author(s): McMahon, R.
Publication Date: 2014
Publication: International Journal of Communication
Volume: 8
Issue: 1
External Link:

Shaping “Digital Futures” in Alberta: Community Engagement for Rural Broadband Development

Author(s): Rob McMahon, Michael McNally, Kris Joseph
Publication: Canadian Journal of Communication
Volume: 45
Issue: 1
Page Numbers: 25-51
External Link:

Sweetgrass AR: Exploring Augmented Reality as a Resource for Indigenous–Settler Relations

Author(s): McMahon, R., Almond, A., Steinhauer, D., Steinhauer, S., Whistance-Smith, G., Janes, D.P.
Publication: International Journal of Communication
Volume: 13
Issue: 1
Page Numbers: 4530-4552
External Link: