Imagine Canada’s future: what challenges will the country face in the next 20 years? And how can people-focused researchers contribute to better understanding and solutions for those challenges?
Those sorts of conversations happen at Dalhousie all the time, but take particular focus this week as Dal hosts Connecting Cultures, the Atlantic Regional event as part of a series across the country sponsored by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
The public events are part of SSHRC’s “Imagining Canada’s Future” initiative, which has included consultations and events across the country over the past two years. Based on the consultations, SSHRC has identified six future challenge areas and is sponsoring events across Canada to highlight SSHRC-funded research engaging with those areas.
Connecting Cultures focuses on two of these challenge areas: “What knowledge will Canada need in order to thrive in an interconnected, evolving global landscape?” and "How can emerging technologies be leveraged to benefit Canadians?" Three panels are scheduled, each with something different to offer. They bring together researchers from six Dal Faculties to discuss how these questions relate to issues such as the environment, education, social policy and the arts.
Understanding the challenges
Julia Wright, associate dean of research and a professor in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, is the local organizer. She says the events in Connecting Cultures all touch upon how new technologies are changing how people move through world — and the way researchers work.
“We have unprecedented opportunities now to learn about other cultures, both past and present, because of the access that digital technologies give us: images of items in distant galleries and museums, cellphone video of a protest on another continent, rare books that 20 years ago could only be found in a handful of libraries,” she says.
“Access to information is the first step to understanding, but we need to think more about each other and the challenges we face if we are going to use the digital world to make our material world better.”
The panel on Thursday, March 6, “Technology, Development and Environment,” features research on genetically modified crops, the impact of urban sprawl on watersheds and building innovation with local and global impacts. “Agricultural and ecological viability and sustainability are not simply scientific subjects, but also challenges that need to be addressed in relation to public policy, social impact and cultural fit,” says Dr. Wright.
“Digital Cultures” is a roundtable discussion on Friday, March 7, with researchers discussing work on the effect that the digital age has had on medieval musicology, Aboriginal youth and medical education. It also features the work being conducted at Dal’s Social Media Lab.
The roundtable on March 8, “Circulating Knowledge, Crossing Borders,” will respond to International Women’s Day 2014’s theme of “Inspiring Change” with five female panelists, all leaders on large research projects and in other key aspects of Dalhousie University. They will be speaking about their research on migration, borders, education, science in human contexts, and the exchange of ideas.
“Massive amounts of information now lie at our fingertips through the Internet, but data is not knowledge and we need to think about how to effectively analyze and understand that data," says Dr. Wright.
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