Research Matters blog: A look ahead

Greetings.

Patchen Barss here, Managing Editor of the Research Matters website and blog. We’ve been at this for a couple of years now, and I thought it might be time to say hello, and thank you for reading.

Even if you’ve been with us for a while, you might still be wondering, “What is Research Matters?” Fair question, given that there isn’t really anything else quite like it. Here’s the deal: Ontario is home to 21 publicly funded universities. Each of those universities has a Vice President of Research. For years, these VPs have met on a regular basis to trade ideas, discuss emerging fields of research and allow each individual institution to become part of a larger community of Ontario researchers.

This community in itself is unusual: universities compete – for funding, professors and students. But big and small universities alike are increasingly finding that their greatest gains come through collaboration rather than competition. Ontario happens to be ahead of the game on this front.

Research Matters emerged from that cooperative culture: it’s a public outreach campaign that serves not just a single community or city, but reaches out to all Ontarians. This might not seem so surprising – after all, the university system relies on Ontario taxes, and universities are therefore accountable to Ontarians. Nevertheless, no region in Canada, and possibly no region in the world, has ever achieved this kind of deep multi-institutional cooperation on a public outreach initiative.

Research Matters has entered its third year. It’s a multi-platform initiative, designed to give as many entry points as possible into Ontario university research. Today, I wanted to tell you specifically about the plans for the Research Matters blog over the coming year.

(At least) once each month, we’ll release a series of daily blog posts based on a certain theme. The themes we’ve chosen all relate to everyday life – to come up with ideas, we combed newspaper sections, bookstore departments and popular magazines. Starting tomorrow, we’re going to kick things of with the theme, “Your Health.” Of course, this being university research, you’ll get more than just fitness and diet tips – we’ll bring you some of the latest ideas, technologies and theories that are shaping how we understand personal health.

In September, the Research Matters blog goes Shopping. In October, we’re going to explore Spirituality and Personal Belief. We’ve got other sections planned on Business, Better Homes and Gardens, Style, Travel, Romance and more.

We hope you find the blog interesting, useful and fun. We hope you’ll stick around and see what we’ve got on offer this year. And if you want to send us a note and let us know what you think, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line at yourontarioresearch@cou.on.ca

Thanks again for reading.

Patchen Barss
Managing Editor

 

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Blog Posts

Georges Sioui on spiritual ...

Araina Bond | October 24, 2014

Georges E. Sioui studies Aboriginal education, culture and religion at the University of Ottawa. Sioui, who is Huron-Wendat, has recently noticed a resurgence of matricentrist values among young people. read more »
Manipulus florum

From manuscript to search ...

Guest blog by Chris Nighman | October 23, 2014

Long before the advent of the Internet, and well before Gutenberg invented moveable type, medieval intellectuals devised information technologies to take advantage of a growing mass of Big Data repositories known as “manuscripts.” read more »

If you’re happy ...

Cathy Majtenyi | October 22, 2014

Brock University recently launched a series of monthly podcasts covering a wide range of themes. As part of our own package of “Belief” related blog posts, Research Matters is pleased to present this exclusive interview with Brock Associate Professor of Psychology, Michael Busseri. Busseri will join two other colleagues to explore this topic in Brock’s January 2015 podcast, “What gives us a sense of wellbeing?” read more »

Lucid dreaming depends on ...

Trent University Staff | October 21, 2014

New research by Trent University Oshawa Anthropology professor Roger Lohmann and graduate student Shayne Dahl indicates that cultural learning shapes the kind of awareness and control people can experience while dreaming. “Scouring the ethnographic record on dreaming for hints of lucidity under Professor Lohmann’s guidance, I found something surprising: that lucid dreaming is widely thought to have serious consequences,” said Dahl, who completed his M.A. thesis, “Knowing Means Connecting with the Source of Life: Knowledge and Ethics among Blackfoot Traditionalists” at Trent in 2012. (He is now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto.) “As one of my Blackfoot informants put it, ‘You could die in your dream.’” Lohmann and Dahl’s findings were published in the 2014 collection, Lucid Dreaming: New Perspectives on Consciousness in Sleep. Lucid dreaming – waking consciousness arising during a dream – has been a hot topic of scientific research in recent years. According to Lohmann and Dahl, the common assumption that dreams are products of isolated imaginations has distorted our understanding of lucidity’s variation in form, function, and real-world outcomes. Pop culture portrayals in films such as Avatar and Inception present fantasies where lucid dreaming enables marvelous real-world powers. Many traditional and religious cultural worldviews take the relationship between waking and dream worlds as reality rather than fantasy. Lohmann’s fieldwork in Papua New Guinea among the Asabano people explored how they used dreaming as evidence for and contact with supernatural beings. “Asabano converts often told me that seeing dreams of Jesus or Heaven convinced them that what the missionary told them was true,” said Lohmann. “It struck me that they had to believe their dreams were more than figments of their own imaginations to reach that conclusion, and that I, for example, would not be convinced by the same experience because of my different cultural background.” Similarly, Dahl’s fieldwork in Alberta included encounters with Aboriginal medicine men who practiced lucid dreaming. “Shayne’s field experiences and his search of ethnographic literature brought home to us that lucid dreaming has profound potential for people who think it’s more than just a fantasy. We found that descriptions of lucid dreams are radically different in form, function, and outcome depending on the cultural assumptions of the dreamer,” said Lohmann. Their research revealed evidence that in some cultures, lucid dreaming is unknown, while in others it is a commonly taught skill. In some, lucidity is tacit rather than acknowledged, but people nevertheless believe that they actively undertake goals in their dreams. Lohmann and Dahl found that this implicitly lucid “volitional dreaming” commonly appears in ethnographic accounts of dreaming. In cultures where “generative” theory holds sway, dreaming of something is understood to cause it to happen in the waking world. This leads people to experience lucid dreams as opportunities to create or do magic. By contrast, people who believe dreams are what one sees during “soul travel” use lucid dreams as an opportunity to spiritually visit real places. “Even when we consciously disbelieve our dreams,” Dahl said, “They still affect us at a deeper, emotional level that we can’t easily control with reason.” “All of this shows that cultural dream theories are multiple, that people invoke them in complex ways, and that they are at the very core of what lucid dreaming is and what it makes possible,” said Lohmann. This story was originally published by Trent University on, July 15, 2014. Is has been edited for style, brevity and clarity and appears here with permission.

In money we trust

U of T Staff (With introduction by Patchen Barss) | October 20, 2014

A few years ago, late, late at night, I was tooling around the streets of Ottawa in the back seat of a Jeep being driven by former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge. American economist and Nobel Laureate George Akerlof was riding shotgun. read more »
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