Winter 2012

Politics, Science and Culture of Hunger

01 - Open Ears: The Art of Science and Listening

02 - Vertical Farming

03 - Dark Tourism: An Immoral Promotion of Death and Disaster?

04 - All About Facebook

05 - Making Povery History

06 - Using Stuff

07 - Poetry Through the Eyes of a Scientist

08 - The Lives of Animals

09/10 - Politics, Science and Environment

11 - Politics, Science and Environment

12 - Building Deep Community to Explore Environmental Healing

14 - Good People, Bad Decisions: The Skinny on Workplace Ethics

16 - Cool Heads for a Hot Planet: Canada and Climate Change

17 - Little Germ of Horrors

 

UNIV*1150 DE

Politics, Science and Culture of Hunger

Jacqueline Murray

We will focus on one of the most pressing challenges confronting societies across the globe: the pervasiveness of hunger. We will examine hunger as a lived experience, and the challenges that face those who are working to eradicate it. Topics will include global economic and political forces; science and technology, particularly as they relate to agriculture; the interplay of governmental and non-governmental agencies, along with supra-governmental agencies such as the United Nations, the World Food Program and the International Monetary Fund; and the importance of culture and beliefs in shaping attitudes towards hunger in the developed and developing world. Registration requires instructors consent.
This is a 1 credit seminar.

01 Open Ears: The Art of Science and Listening

James Harley

This course will explore what it means to listen, and will use listening as a means to develop critical engagement. We hear sound all the time, we are surrounded by noise and music. But, how much do we actually listen? We will investigate the physiology of our precious hearing mechanism, the basic acoustics of sound and how sound is transduced, perception, issues of the ecology of our acoustic environments, and the social concerns relating to listening. The course will also focus on sensitizing ourselves to listening through critical study of recordings and studio production, musical structure, relation of music to text. We will develop our awareness of sound in our environment and issues of "noise pollution" through sound-walk exercises. Additional readings pointing to historical representations of listening in a variety of contexts will be assigned for discussion and for contextualizing contemporary practice and awareness.
 

02 Vertical Farming

Vern Osborne

This course is intended to give the student an introduction into the future concept of skyscraper food production. The challenges facing traditional plant and animal production systems will be reviewed and students will be given the opportunity to design an abstract high-rise building that uses sustainable architectural and engineering principles to answer the current and future environmental, economic and social issues facing the agri-food industry.
 

03 Dark Tourism: An Immoral Promotion of Death and Disaster?

Brent McKenzie

We all will die. But why would we want to travel to experience the morbid and the chilling as a tourist? This is the question that is explored in the study of "Dark tourism". Dark tourism as defined by Sharpley and Stone (2009) is "the act of travel to sites associated with death, suffering and the seemingly macabre". Although not new, in many societies, visiting sites associated with death is, and has been, a considerable part of the tourist experience; as this can be seen with the existence of pilgrimage, one of the earliest forms of tourism. However, the commercial marketing of such locations to encourage tourist visitations is justly debated. The focus of this course is to explore the individual and societal motivations and fascinations with such experiences, as well as to better understand the impact that such tourism has on country and city image. This first year interdisciplinary seminar intends to expose the student to both domestic and international sites of "Dark tourism". The expectation is that the student will learn how to frame examinations of a controversial phenomenon in an objective and critical fashion.
 

04 All About Facebook

Serge Desmarais

Facebook has now become an integral component of many people's daily activities. However, research has shown that few Facebook users reflect on the impact of this social medium. Facebook use has been shown to influence various aspects of people's personal and social lives including communication patterns, social identity, popularity, privacy perceptions and social relationships, to name a few. This course will use Facebook as a vehicle for the delivery of knowledge and research skills related to the societal and social psychological impact of social media in our lives. The course will highlight written and oral communication, critical thinking and self-reflection, as well as the acquisition of academic research skills as its main learning objectives.
 

05 Making Povery History

Michael Nightingale

This first year interdisciplinary seminar is designed to give students an introduction to the nature of poverty in developing countries from several perspectives including: political; economic; and social. Students will explore: poverty within and between developing countries, differing opinions on why gaps exist between rich and poor nations; and whether poverty can be made history. During the semester students will complete a group study project on a particular topic (e.g. conflict, gender or environment), or a particular location (e.g. country in Africa, Asia or South America). The seminar aims to engage students in a way that will significantly enhance both students' study skills and a love for learning.
 

06 Using Stuff

Michael Wirth

Life since the dawn of civilization has been driven by moments of ingenious design and majestic failures. Design is all around us, from the grocery store aisle, to the kitchen, the factory floor, and the battlefield. Metal cans to preserve food appeared in the early 1800s, as a way of feeding armies on the move. Before a device was designed to open them (the modern can opener did not appear until 1925), cans were opened with a hammer and chisel, bayonets, even bullets. Yet the can itself exudes usability - in this case a functional means of storing perishable food. So what is usability and how does it influence the design of everyday things? Contemporary usability is associated with the interface between humans and machines, but the concept can be extended to any object. This course explores usability and how it influences the design of everyday things. It investigates the evolution of everyday items and ponders why some have been successful and others not. What makes something usable and how does an item influence the world around it? It looks at the usability of the technology of today, to the devices of yesteryear, and the natural world. It is a course which involves exploring questions related to how humans use "stuff". Is it possible to derive a measure of an items usability related to its functionality, or reliance on external environment? Is there an environmental aspect to usability? What does it mean for something to become a "necessity"? Has consumerism forsaken usability? It explores usability in the kitchen, the office, the workshop, and even the food we eat.
 

07 Poetry Through the Eyes of a Scientist

Madhur Anand

In this innovative interdisciplinary course, the student of science becomes a literary detective and the student of literature learns about the role that scientific thinking can have on creative writing. We will examine individual published poems for the hidden science within. Assignments will include for example an intensive scientific literature review inspired by the poems and a creative writing exercise inspired by science. Guest readings (subject to availability of speakers) by poets who write about science and scientists who write poetry will allow students first-hand interrogation. In the end, the student will gain appreciation of the creative process as it unfolds in a poem or in a scientific discovery and improve communication and writing skills across the broad spectrum of human endeavor. We will meet once a week for 2-3 hours of readings, presentations and discussion.
 

08 The Lives of Animals

Alice Hovorka

Animals are so central to human affairs and tied up with our visions of progress and the good life that we are unable to fully see them. Indeed "everywhere animals disappear" (John Berger 1980). Such centrality and disappearance necessitates a need and willingness to take animals seriously. This course fosters in-depth exploration and appreciation of animal lives.

How do we, as humans, learn about and interact with animals? At the University of Guelph we do so through biological experiments, welfare research, veterinary encounters, health perspectives, agricultural endeavours, philosophical musings, geographical placements, social and historical constructions, literary representations, and artistic expressions. This course features the wealth of multi-disciplinary approaches to exploring animals, their lives, and their centrality to human society. It does so by engaging with scientists, social theorists and practitioners on campus (and beyond) and highlighting their specific research, insights and perspectives on animals.

Couched broadly within the emergent and growing field of human-animal studies, this course offers students an opportunity to learn and think about: (i) how humans imagine, place and encounter animals (ii) what ethical and moral issues arise, and (iii) the implications for both human and animals. An experiential learning approach offers students first-hand engagement with animals and realms of human-animal relations.
 

09/10 Politics, Science and Environment

Jacqueline Murray

This course will provide a thematic approach to the investigation of the way that different societies deal with the environmental issues facing our world. It is expected to raise as many questions about the way we develop and use policy at the national and international level, as it will provide answers. The course is intended to provide research and communication skills to enhance students' ability to debate, analyze critically, and respect diversity of opinions about the environment and the ways that societies have chosen to respond to global challenges.
 

11 Politics, Science and Environment

Alastair Summerlee

This course will provide a thematic approach to the investigation of the way that different societies deal with the environmental issues facing our world. It is expected to raise as many questions about the way we develop and use policy at the national and international level, as it will provide answers. The course is intended to provide research and communication skills to enhance students' ability to debate, analyze critically, and respect diversity of opinions about the environment and the ways that societies have chosen to respond to global challenges.
 

12 Building Deep Community to Explore Environmental Healing

Karl Cottenie and Ingrid Ng

Environmental healing is defined as the process of attaining a well and healthy planet, inclusive of both its human and "more-than-human" components. Many barriers to environmental healing exist; some are obvious, but others are more subtle and perhaps even surprising. We will explore these barriers experientially, through immersion in, and simulation of, a local environmental issue selected by the class. This will be complemented with discussions of readings from a variety of academic disciplines, including environmental philosophy, environmental education, anthropology, conservation biology, and ecology.

Importantly, the instructors and students will work together to transform the class into a deep community. Deep community is a group of people who come together to: i) deepen our knowledge of a shared concern, ii) deepen our relationships with each other and ourselves, and iii) deeply question the assumptions that underlie cultural norms. We do this with the intent of gaining genuine understanding of issues from a variety of perspectives. Thus, our deep community will be challenged to listen to each other, to invest in each other's learning, and to appreciate our differences. We will create a safe space to imagine, identify, and practice potential ways to lift the barriers to environmental healing.
 

14 Good People, Bad Decisions: The Skinny on Workplace Ethics

Kathleen Rodenburg

You're hired!! In this seminar we will examine the workplace environment and provide practical perspectives on best practices in the workplace. We will examine how decisions are made and how they impact various individuals and groups, both inside and outside an organization. Together with a real global company, participants will take on the roles of key decision makers. Our Virtual Company will provide hands on experiences and highlight how ethical and social responsible practices can both enhance our society as well as lead to a business's success. Register early! New employees will be asked to submit application materials for their placement in our company.
 

16 Cool Heads for a Hot Planet: Canada and Climate Change

Ashlee Cunsolo Willox

Have you ever wondered how climate change is impacting Canadians and people around the world? Are you interested in learning more about climate change beyond media representation? Do you wonder what you can do to keep a 'cool head' on a 'hot planet?' This course will introduce students to the complexities of anthropogenic climate change by examining the biophysical, geographical, social, cultural, local, health, and political impacts from climate change, as well as emergent ethical and social justice issues. Particular focus will be given to examining the impacts and effects of climate change in Canada through case studies from Northern Canada, and by hearing and learning from the voices of Canadian Inuit. Students will also have the opportunity to simulate the United Nations Conference of the Parties climate change negotiations, as well as to create a class blog dedicated to sharing climate-change-related information and writings with the public. This course is an excellent introduction for students interested in learning more about climate change and to discovering Canada's roles and responsibilities in an era of a rapidly changing climate.
 

17 Little Germ of Horrors

Julie McDonald & Kathleen Schroeter

Whether we like it or not, we regularly come into contact with thousands of microscopic, unicellular organisms in everyday life. Microbiology is the study of organisms that you cannot view with the naked eye, including bacteria, archaea, yeast and viruses. Microbes have affected, and continue to affect, humanity in very powerful and meaningful ways. Consequently, microbiology is consistently reported in the news, having impacts at local, national and international levels. In some cases the perception of microbiology by the general public does not coincide with scientific research. Oftentimes, events involving microbes are exaggerated by the popular press which has led to the misleading conclusion by society that all microbes are harmful and frightening. Media reports about mysterious diseases and bioterrorism can foster unfounded public panic. Additionally, there are severe social stigmas associated with certain areas in microbiology, for example, sexually transmitted infections. This seminar will challenge common misconceptions in microbiology, as well as examining the psychology involved in the establishment of social norms with respect to microbes. We will examine the impact of microbiology on the economy, history, politics, culture, society and psychology. We will reflect upon and challenge our own understanding of microbiology encountered in daily life and how to recognize and analyze bias, exaggeration, and misrepresentation of scientific news stories in the popular press. We will utilize interactive social media and networking, role-playing games, videos, experiments, show-and-tell, and humour to ensure the seminar is a stimulating experience.