Monthly Archives: May 2011

This isn’t surprising, is it?


A new study from UBC has brought results that appear to be surprising, but shouldn’t be to anyone who teaches, studies, or works on a university campus.

Students respond better to interactive and immersive classrooms with smaller class numbers. Any person that has been in a lecture hall of 100+ has known this for many a moon. These “stand-and-deliver” class styles leave students with lots of time to daydream…or, nowadays, go online and play with more interesting things (like Angry Birds). What the professor is doing at the front of the room has always been an important part of the learning environment, and this study articulates a long-known fact understood by faculty and students alike.

Luckily for students, KIAS is working to help with this issue and provide some classes that are interactive, research-intensive, and taught by passionate professors who want to showcase important issues. Our Interdisciplinary Course Seminar grant program (whose winners were JUST unveiled) will work to bring students the opportunity to study and engage on a higher level than they might in their larger classrooms. We hope that students take the chance to challenge themselves through these KIAS-sponsored classes, and that faculty apply to the program next year for their teaching plan.

For the KIAS course winners, go here.

For more information on the study, go here.


Research Cluster Award Winners!

Another round of results announced! KIAS is happy to let everyone know the six awards for the 2011 Research Cluster Grant competition.

For more information on these grants, including a desciption of the project, please visit the KIAS website:

KIAS is excited to announce the winners of the first cycle for the Research Cluster Grants. These grants will investigate and promote important research ideas, working in the KIAS established themes. The outcome of these grants will be interdisciplinary and thought-provoking work, which will be accessible to the university community and the public alike.

These grants advance the KIAS vision of interdisciplinary and comparative research, consistent with the high humanitarian ideals of the institute’s benefactors, Drs. Peter and Doris Kule. They are committed to the study of major issues present in the global community and will impact research, social viewpoints, and policies as they develop and evolve.

The grant winners will be able to utilize the innovative Kule Dialogues program, which focuses on dissemination and outreach to the various publics that KIAS is a part of. The program will provide the award winners with additional funding to get the word out about their research and to involve a variety of groups in the work that they are conducting. Information about the Kule Dialogues events and activities will be available on our website as they present themselves.

KIAS thanks all applicants for their submissions – it was a cmpetitive group of proposals. We look forward to seeing future applications from the University of Alberta research community.

KIAS Research Cluster Grant Awardees, 2011

(alphabetical order, non-ranked)

Isabel Altamirano-Jimenez, Political Science, Faculty of Arts/Native Studies
Indigenous women’s knowledge and stewardship of water

This project asks, among other questions: What kinds of knowledge do Indigenous women hold about water in northern Alberta and northern Oaxaca? How are Indigenous women’s knowledge and livelihood systems connected? How can dynamic and diverse values of water be incorporated within water legislation? How have both historical and contemporary strategies informed law and governance? How can this research inform policies for sharing spaces and places in North America?

To fully address these questions this interdisciplinary research team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars draws upon: 1) accountable collaboration; 2) feminist critical realism; 3) Indigenous legal feminist methodology; and 5) archival research. By comparing these two complex and socio-historical configurations, this project seeks to explore the impact of social, political, and economic factors on the disjuncture between knowledge, gender, law, and governance in two distinct regions.

This eighteen month project is innovative because it aims at creating an interdisciplinary team and international network of Indigenous and non-Indigenous academics and community members. This study will be of interest beyond the academic community and it grows out of the initial steps taken on water policy and the need to focus on specific regions and climate zones to integrate local understanding of water resource. Thus, the ultimate objective of this project is to advance a new water ethics that will benefit all of society.

Diane Conrad, Secondary Education, Faculty of Education

Evaluating Youth Outcomes for the “High Risk Youth Uncensored” Program

High Risk Youth Uncensored: An Educational Exchange, underway since fall 2009, partners not-for-profit arts-based organization iHuman Youth Society; Edmonton and Area Child and Family Services High Risk Youth Unit; University of Alberta researchers, students and other community collaborators. The project also involves a number of youth as key collaborators. The study’s aim is to develop a series of arts-based workshops to educate service providers (e.g. law enforcement, health providers, educators, social workers) through face-to-face encounters with youth and their art-works (storytelling, music, drama, visual and digital arts) about how to best meet the particular needs of the youth populations they serve. Several successful workshops have already been facilitated and an evaluation of the outcomes for service providers is underway.

The focus of the proposed research is a formal evaluation of the positive outcomes for youth involved in developing and facilitating the workshops. Research has shown that arts interventions do have positive effects for youth at-risk. “Uncensored” encompasses many elements of successful arts programs, and goes further by putting youth into the roles of educators and researchers, as well as artists and performers. It is expected that the research will show personal and interpersonal benefits for youth, including greater self-understanding, validation of their experiences, and an understanding of the structural roots of their life challenges. As well as offering concrete material improvements in youths’ lives, “Uncensored” will provide a model for programming in cities across Canada, with benefits for youth, for the service providing community and for the community at large.

Sean Gouglas, History & Classics, Faculty of Arts

The Quest: Creating a gaming community platform driven by students in real world classrooms.

Our project is a collaboration between five UofA researchers, two teachers at Edmonton elementary schools, and a private Edmonton company called Rocketfuel Games. We propose to create a gaming platform and authoring toolset called The Quest to improve the educational experience of elementary students in Alberta. The ‘gamification’ of an elementary school curriculum takes the incentives and play-like structure of computer games (levels, experience points, achievements, etc.) and adapts them to the teaching curriculum. Students advance in levels by completing quests rather than assignments. The curriculum, wrapped in the envelope of game mechanics, motivates the students in novel ways, particularly when they are allowed to develop their own teaching modules. This last point is key to our proposal. Our game authoring toolset will allow students the opportunity to create their own educational games, rather than just play educational games – an important element in constructionist pedagogy.

Gordon Gow, Communication & Technology, Faculty of Extension

Environmentally sustainable farming practices through a technology-enhanced community of practice approach: Establishing a Research Partnership between the University of Alberta and Sri Lanka

The University of Alberta is playing a lead role in bringing together a small team of researchers from Canada and Sri Lanka to explore how low cost, ubiquitous information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can contribute to food security objectives in developing countries by enhancing or cultivating local agricultural communities of practice. The team has begun to explore this community of practice approach with three cross-cutting objectives in sight: (1) Understand the current state of knowledge mobilization among local farming communities in Sri Lanka by studying the informal and formal interactions between knowledge producers and consumers, and especially the role of women in these networks; (2) Articulate how communities of practices (involving farmers, extension officers and other relevant stakeholders) may be developed or enhanced so as to increase information and knowledge sharing across the three identified problem areas whilst ensuring that women can access and reap a fair share of the benefits of these communities of practice; (3) Evaluate the utility of low cost and widely available communication technologies for enhancing the capacity of the poorest and most vulnerable, especially women in agrarian communities, in achieving sustainable agricultural practices and long term food security.

David Kahane, Political Science, Faculty of Arts

“Whose environmental stewardship? Citizen and stakeholder roles in making Alberta climate change policy”

It is important that governments, corporations, and citizens regard themselves as stewards of the planet, but our toughest environmental problems demand more than just an ethical commitment to care for the planet; they require an understanding of whole environmental systems, and action across whole political, social and cultural systems. Climate change is a case in point—the complexity of the problem has so far stymied effective and coordinated action by governments, industries, communities, and individuals.

‘Stewardship’ demands new forms of collaboration. Our interdisciplinary, interdepartmental, research team will analyze the formal public engagement exercises that have been most influential in forming Alberta’s current climate change and energy policies, looking in particular at how organized stakeholder groups and lay citizens have been involved, the specific design of their involvement, and the relative influence of these two groups on outcomes.

Our goal is to understand how well current approaches to public engagement on climate policy in Alberta actually enable collaborative, systems-oriented problem solving. Given this analysis, our work will describe ‘deliberative democratic’ reforms to citizen and stakeholder engagement that would enhance climate change policy making, make these processes and their outcomes more publicly legitimate, and support more concerted public action.

Our research will yield scholarly publications; will be taken out to key civil service, civil society, and public engagement practitioner audiences through a collaborative workshop; and will draw on this workshop to create a practice-oriented report.

Sheena Wilson, Campus Saint-Jean

Petrocultures: The Cultures of Oil in Canada and the World

Petrocultures is a new research cluster at the University of Alberta whose aim is to support, produce, and distribute research related to the socio-cultural aspects of oil and energy in Canada and the world today. The University has developed considerable expertise in the study of the scientific, financial, and environmental dimensions of our oil economy. A growing number of researchers at the U of A are engaged in an exploration of the social and cultural dimensions of oil and energy. The research activities and structures created by the Petrocultures Research Cluster will enhance and expand this research, and position the U of A at the forefront of a growing field of academic study.

With the aid of the KIAS Research Grant, over 18 months (May 2011-October 2012), Petrocultures will a) maintain a website to support and distribute socio-political research on oil and energy; b) produce a special journal issue of Imaginations on topic of “Oil and Water”; c) develop an international and interdisciplinary conference/workshop on the Oil, Energy and Culture, to be held in October 2012;d) organize an application to SSHRC in Fall 2012 for a large group research project.

Funding from KIAS to support the establishment of the Petrocultures Research Cluster will enable research on oil cultures at the U of A and create the framework to help support collaborative research on the topic from multiple disciplinary perspectives. This cluster will also produce scholarship that responds to the U of A’s research focus on water, food and energy.

If you would like to get more information about any of the projects, please contact Gillian Edwards, Executive Manager for KIAS, at

Interdisciplinary Course Seminar Grant Winners!

KIAS is happy to announce the awardees for its first grant program, the Interdisciplinary Course Seminar Grant! These grants will provide students at the University of Alberta the opportunity to learn socially relevant material from interdisciplinary perspectives, while advancing their research skills. The courses will have a strong research component to them, as well as dissemination opportunities for those in the class.

These courses will encourage the cross-pollination of scholarly work at the U of A, while allowing students the opportunity to work with some of the best profs on campus.

More information about the courses will be posted as available.

Awards are listed alphabetically, not in a ranking order.

Wayne DeFehr, English and Film Studies, Faculty of Arts
Advanced Gaming Narrative: Animating Avatars in Virtual Worlds, Winter 2012

Video and computer games enjoy widespread popularity currently, with millions of players participating in a variety of gaming formats. Games offer many connections to the study of narrative, which could complement other approaches to literature studies. These connections include discussions about the meanings of traditional features such as setting, character and plot, and also political elements relating avatar relationships with each other and their virtual environments. Many pre-packaged, and professionally released video games have contributed to classroom activities, where students learn the rules of the game, attempt to meet a prescribed goal, and then report on the learning that took place. This course, however, would utilize a script composition program called ScriptEase to create video games of the students’ own that would explore various saspects of narrative such as genre, politics, and plot development. ScriptEase has been developed at the U of A by professors Fuane Szafron and Jonathan Schaeffer among others. The development team has published their findings on high school student involvement with ScriptEase to demonstrate the possibility of creating video games form scratch by non-code writin students. As well, ScriptEase is currently being used in courses offered by Computing Science as well as Humanities Computing. In the English Department, ScriptEase would have a “literary” focus, where students would be required to construct narratives with some level of sophistication that would qualify as literary merit well beyond the cliched violence of commercial video games.

Patricia Demers, English and Film Studies, Faculty of Arts
Eyes Wide Open: Arts Students and Professors in Film, Literature, and Criticism, Winter 2012

As participants in a faculty of Arts, how do we see and characterize ourselves? Are we articulate champions of what we do? And how effectively do we explain what we do? This course explores and assesses the representation of ourselves, Arts students and faculty, through examining the expressions of experience and knowledge along with the embedded assumptions in three related textualities: films, novels, and disciplinary criticism. By testing disciplinary critiques against embodiments in fiction and film, we will discuss and judge the accuracy, insight and occasional stereotypes of these cultural instruments of writing in various media. By challenging us to think about a disciplinary identity in an interdisciplinary format, the seminar aims to exercise creative and critical faculties laterally, to expand the linguistic tools with which we can speak about our study, and to demonstrate the value of the inquiry through a concluding public seminar.

Natalie Kononenko, Modern Languages and Cultural Studies, Faculty of Arts
Culture, Media, Animation, Nationalism, Globalization, Folklore, Childhood, Cultural comparison, Social manipulation

Animation, especially animation based on folklore, appears so innocent, so timeless, so universal. But modern scholarship has shown that it is precisely this seeming innocence that allows film studios to use cartoons to project their own messages. Most studies (Zipes, Giroux) have focused on cartoons as vehicles for promoting consumerism. This course will examine cartoons as a means of promoting political messages. We will focus primarily on nationalism, although attention to gender and race will also be part of the course. The course aims to broaden students’ cultural awareness by looking at three cultures. Typically the target foreign culture is compared to mainstream North America. We will look at animation in the United States and Canada, but we will compare it not to one culture, but two: France and the Francophone world and the Soviet Union and at least two of its post-Soviet successor states, specifically Russia and Ukraine. By examining how three different world areas use cartoons to convey political messages we will be able to more clearly see how modern media tries to shape world view. Working with cartoons will be an especially effective way to explore media because cartoons are part of the lives of our students. They watch them now and they enjoyed them as children. Thus the course will train students to look at the media with a critical eye.

Scott Smallwood, Music, Faculty of Arts
Sound in the Arts, Fall 2011

During the last sixty years there has been an explosive change in the way sound has been explored in the arts, not only in discipline of music, but in many other disciplines in the arts and humanities. Sound has, perhaps, become a medium in its own right, independent of its role in the history of music. How has the rise of “sound art” changed the way we listen? Is sound art the same thing as music? What does it mean for a visual artist, untrained in the musical arts, to use sound in her work? How has sound awareness affected architecture? What comes first in film: image or sound? How do we evaluate these uses of sound? How have these uses of sound changed the way we critique the arts, and music? These and many other questions will be dealt with as we explore the emergence of sound art as a combined outgrowth of new explorations in music, film, architecture, dance, and the visual arts during the past sixty years? We will explore the evolution of sound as an important medium in the arts, as well as the development of soundscape studies in acoustic ecology. This course requires no specific background or training in the arts, although there will be an expectation that students will engage with artistic works at a critical level, as well as some small-scale creative work.

Guillaume Tardif, Music, Faculty of Arts
Culture and Creativity: Music and Business Perspectives, Winter 2012

This seminar will examine the notions of culture and creativity, first from the separate perspectives of music and business, then toward an understanding of their intersection and joint impact in today’s world. Music and business students will be reviewing and comparing core models used in both fields of study, and will be exposed to conversations with guest lecturers –artists, arts managers, and business professionals known for their initiative and advocacy at the junction of art and business. Students will be required to present their related research findings in the form of an online publication.

Maria Whiteman, Art and Design, Faculty of Arts
Art and Posthumanism, Fall 2011

The discourses of posthumanism constitute one of the most exciting areas of contemporary critical thought. Posthumanism is the name for forms of critical, cultural and social theory that take up the consequences of the myriad challenges made to classical humanism and the divisions (moral, epistemological, political, ethical) that it has supported. Of specific importance to this discourse are those distinctions that have been made between human and animal, flesh and technology, society and nature, and man and his other – divisions that have long defined and delimited the possibilities and responsibilities of human beings towards the rest of the world. Posthumanism seeks to re-define the human in order to help change the character of our relationship to the world, especially (though not only) our relation to the environment—a critical relationship given the ecological crises we have produced, which constitute a threat not only to the earth’s environment but to the human itself.

This graduate seminar/studio-practicum course is designed to allow students to encounter some of the main texts of posthumanism and to consider how these discourses function both in cultural/critical theory and in contemporary visual arts. In addition, this course gives students an opportunity to experiment with the production of visual texts (photography, video, installation, etc.) as a mode of research into and representation of posthumanist themes and concerns. The interdisciplinary character of this course comes both from its subject matter and from the way in which graduate students will be enabled to engage with it: through the creation of visual art in addition to the forms of textual research carried out in most disciplinary fields in the Faculty of Arts.

Countdown to the conversation!

It’s exactly 100 days until the KIAS conference, which is now affectionately being acronymed as TIN, Tomorrow’s Ideas, Now.

100 days until we start a conversation on the U of A campus. Can’t wait. Get your applications in – you have until midnight tonight!

Need a better CV, students?

All U of A students in the social sciences, humanities and fine arts – we better be seeing your application forms and abstracts in the conference inbox ( by Monday night. If not, you are missing out on one of few opportunities to present your ideas to your peers from around the world – and to advanced your own research agenda.

The more students are in university, the more difficult it is to get a job, get scholarships, get into grad school. You have to differentiate yourself from the other applicants or students that you are up against. Here’s where we come in.

Tomorrow’s Ideas, Now will give students a chance to raise the bar for their own work and add to their CV in a meaningful way. On top of that, you will be participating with students from around the world and across their own country, which will give you a chance to broaden your worldview, meet new friends and gain peers from different backgrounds. This type of experience comes around only once in a while for students in their undergraduate programs — grab hold and take advantage of it! The University of Alberta is a top five research school in Canada and your peers are some of the best.

Be a part of the best and get the get…the job, the scholarship, the school. If you don’t, another student definitely will.

For more information, go to the KIAS Conference site here.

Deadline for form, abstract, institutional letter: Monday, May 9th @ 4:00PM MDT.

Questions? Contact Gillian at