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running head: USING CULTURAL ASSOCIATIONS TO BUILD COMMUNITY

Sledge Hockey Manitoba’s Website Uses Canadian Cultural Associations to Build a Sense of
Online Community

Janis L. Ollson
University of Winnipeg

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Sledge Hockey Manitoba’s Website Uses Canadian Cultural Associations to Build a Sense of
Online Community
When you see a person making this gesture (✌) with their hand, what does it imply to
you? If may imply the number two, or an insult to the person receiving it. The way you interpret
meaning for this gesture, or image, depends on what community you belong to, and culturally,
what your community accepts this gesture to mean. The processing of visual images requires us
to draw on our prior learning, which has been shaped by the culture we live in, to help us
determine the meaning of the images (Lunsford A., 2013). Messages are conveyed using images
that have known historical or social context, using the associations between the image and its
known meaning (Lunsford A., 2013). As associations between images and their meaning depend
on the culture and community one belongs to, can a sense of community be built using these
known associations? I will explore the Sledge Hockey Manitoba (SHM ) website, and show that
using colours, shapes, and images synonymous to common cultural meaning can enable group
identification evoking a sense of online community.
The SHM website is dedicated to showcasing the adapted sport of sledge hockey, and is
intended for those active or interested in the sport. I chose the SHM website to analyze as I
believe it attempts to build a sense of community around the sport of sledge hockey; I am
defining ‘community’ as a group of people with similar interests, who derive benefit from their
association, and who mutually determine their presence in the group as important to their social
identity.

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I am using the Visual Rhetoric method of analysis to analyze the SHM website. This
method of analysis focuses on how the visual (which Judy Chicago describes as colours, forms,
images textures, and other elements such as text (Goldrick-Jones)) communicates meaning using
the visual model of interpretation (Blakesley, 2001); Blakesley and Brooke (2001) describe the
visual model of interpretation to include words and images that are inseparably bound in an act
of symbolic interpretation and action that direct intention.
The culture associated with the SHM website can be typified as Canadian culture, as
geographically Canada is where the organization operates. For the purpose of my analysis I will
use the associations known to be attached to this culture. My analysis identifies three main types
of communities being represented through group identification; a challenged abilities, a
Canadian, and a hockey community. The most powerful visual arguments that represent these
communities, and influence site visitors’ thinking in respect to group identification are the
colours, shapes, and images of the SHM website. For the purpose of my analysis I will explore
these three key visual elements, and examine SHM website’s logo, main colours used, sponsors’
logos, and photographs used.
The logo for SHM’s website is the shape of a vertical rectangle with a point at the
bottom. The objects featured on the logo are two vertical lines with oblong shapes at their
bottoms, crossed in an ‘X’-like arrangement, and a leaf. The logo includes the words ‘sledge
hockey’ and ‘Manitoba’. The main colours used are burgundy, white, and grey. The sponsors’
logos include the government of Manitoba, Touch Duck, Think Shift, the Society for Manitobans
with Disabilities (SMD), and Hockey Manitoba. The photographs used on the site include (but
are not limited to); a picture of three senior sledge hockey athletes wearing Team Canada jerseys,
two are standing and one is sitting in a wheelchair (pic1); a picture of a junior athlete sitting in

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his sledge (the sitting device used to skate on the ice), wearing a dark red jersey, holding his
hockey sticks (pic 2); a picture of a sledge hockey game in progress which is being played on a
ice rink with a goalie net and referee in the background (pic 3); and three pictures of sledge
hockey games in progress, representing the different levels of SHM teams (pic 4-6).
The SHM organization provides athletes with varying abilities the opportunity to play the
adapted sport of sledge hockey. A challenged abilities community is being represented on their
website using images and text with common cultural associations to differing levels of ability.
Three different levels of athletes are represented textually, and by using photographs (pic 4-6) on
the website. Comparing pic 5 to pic 6 one will notice that in pic 5 there is a single player skating,
where in pic 6 there is several team members in what looks like an aggressive battle; one will
determine that skating is a less advanced skill than competing using teammates and strategy. In
pic 1 two different ability levels are being represented visually as one player sits in a wheelchair,
and the other players stand. The website states textually that programming is geared to
participant’s skill and ability; a culturally accepted tier system. One of SHM’s sponsors is SMD,
which is known for its support to persons with varying ability levels. The reference to varying
levels of ability through text and images are drawing upon know cultural associations to build a
sense of community among persons with challenged abilities on the SHM website.
What images do you think of when you think of Canada as a country? Likely the red and
white Canadian flag with the maple leaf, the different provinces that make up the country, and
maybe even Canada’s favorite pastime, hockey. The SHM website uses all of these Canadian
symbols to build a sense of a Canadian community. The two main colours of SHM’s website are
burgundy (deep red) and white. The SHM logo has a maple leaf on it. The second symbol on the
logo (two lines with oblong ends) would be easily recognizable to Canadians as two hockey

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sticks. The word ‘Manitoba’, as used in SHM’s logo, and within one of their leading partners’
name, is associated with Canada as one of its provinces. In pic 1 the athletes are wearing jerseys
that are well known to be Team Canada’s. The use of all these symbols which are culturally
linked to Canada are ways the SHM website uses cultural associations to evoke a feeling of
Canadian community among its website’s visitors.
The shape of a hockey stick is a unique shape that is easily recognizable in Canadian
culture, and used along with other visual elements to draw on cultural associations to create a
hockey community on the SHM website. Although the sledge is an integral piece of equipment
for sledge hockey, hockey sticks were chosen instead to be part of the logo as they have a clear
association to hockey. The shape of the logo is recognizable as the shape of a championship
banner one would see hanging from the ceiling of a hockey arena. The words ‘sledge hockey’ is
an obvious association to the game and culture of hockey in Canada, where the colour grey, the
background colour of the website, may be a less obvious association as it represents the
requirement of ice. When reading the SHM website you will find many references to other well
known hockey associations which create associations between the website and the culture of
hockey. In pic 3 a typical hockey game is being represented by showcasing all the main elements
of the game (players, referee, goal, ice, sticks, puck). These visual representations draw upon
cultural associations to build a sense of hockey community on the SHM website.
The SHM website uses known cultural associations to successfully build a sense of
online community by enabling group identification to a three main communities including; a
challenged abilities, a Canadian, and a hockey community. SHM uses these associations to evoke
a sense of community among site visitors which combine to create a larger SHM community.
These findings are significant to the construct of online communities as the visual model;

running head: USING CULTURAL ASSOCIATIONS TO BUILD COMMUNITY

including such elements as colours, shapes and images, with known cultural meaning can be
incorporated into a website to enable group identification, which will result in a sense of
community being built around a particular website.

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running head: USING CULTURAL ASSOCIATIONS TO BUILD COMMUNITY

Bibliography
Blakesley, D., Brooke, C. (2001). Notes on Visual Rhetoric. Enculturation, 3(2).
Goldrick-Jones, A. (n.d.). Visual Rhetoric . Retrieved from
http://amandagoldrickjones.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/clustercritappendix.pdf
Lunsford, A., Ruszkiewicz, J. (2013). Everything's an Argument (Vol. Sixth Edition). Boston,
New York, MA, NY: Bedford / St.Martin's.

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