THE BIG MELT
FAIRNESS IN FINANCIAL MARKETS THE EVERYWHERE WAR
International Roundtable Discussions UBC Visiting Scholar Abroad French Lecture Series
Distinguished Visiting Professor International Visiting Research Scholar Major Thematic Grant
Programs FALL 2012
Programs Distinguished Professor Distinguished Scholars in Residence The Wall Exchange Exploratory Workshops Early Career Scholars Theme Development Workshop Associate Forums The Wall Hour Lunch Forums Scholars CafĂŠs Colloquia
International Exchanges Wall Colloquia Abroad
G E T
K N O W
T H E
W A L L
03 Canada must position itself to attract top Asian students and researchers 04 Making our city work for older adults 05 The big melt and its global implications 07 Global financial crisis interpreted through dance and dialogue 08 Battlespaces of the 21st century take on new modes of war
EARLY CAREER SCHOLARS
WRITINGS ON THE WALL
DISTINGUISHED SCHOLARS IN RESIDENCE
10 When science imitates plant life
15 Sir Martin Rees: Despite risks, Astronomer Royal remains a techno-optimist
18 Virtual-reality robot-assisted rehabilitation
11 Predicting the human behaviour behind each google search 12 Water quality determines political persuasions in the global south
16 Solidarity in the streets: An interview with Judith Butler
19 We need to empower ordinary parliamentarians 20 Pioneering research may lead to easing severity of multiple sclerosis and leukemia in patients
13 Sufferers of chronic conditions feel less able to give to others
THE BACK PAGES
13 Coupledom is a determining factor of individual health and well-being
14 Composer takes interdisciplinary approach to music
21 The Wall of Fame
14 Pop Rocks exhibit embodied Vancouverâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ambition to become greenest city
22 Special Events
The Wall Papers is published by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of British Columbia. This issue is the first of The Wall Papers magazine, which will be published twice per year in the fall and spring. Since its founding two decades ago, the mission of the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies has been to create collaborative, interdisciplinary, basic research programs for scholars at all stages of their career. It is one of only 24 similar institutions worldwide, based on the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton and devoted to the pursuit of learning and research at the highest levels. Institute Director: Dr. Janis Sarra; Editor: Nicola Johnston; Art Director: Gregory Ronczewski; Photography: Sarah Burke, Eddy Carmack, Callista Haggis, Leila Harris, Krista Jahnke, Jean Lemire, Diane Newell, John Steeves, Cylla Von Tiedmann, Stock; Contributors: Sadiya Ansari, Erin Moravetz, David Moscrop, Kim Nursall, Jimmy Thompson, Samantha Sarra. Please write to us at: Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, University Centre, University of British Columbia, 6331 Crescent Road, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2, Phone: 604 822 9575 or contact us by email firstname.lastname@example.org. Printed at Hemlock Printers.
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CANADA MUST POSITION ITSELF TO ATTRACT TOP ASIAN STUDENTS AND RESEARCHERS IN JULY, DR. STEPHEN TOOPE, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA AND CHAIR OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES, PETER WALL INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED STUDIES, WROTE A REPORT FOR THE CANADIAN COUNCIL OF CHIEF EXECUTIVES AS PART OF A SERIES AND CONFERENCE ON “CANADA IN THE PACIFIC CENTURY.”
Education, innovation and knowledge are key drivers in the world economy. Led by China and India, the emerging economies of Asia have placed a premium on investing in higher education and on building academic and research links around the globe. Canada must do the same, embracing an international education strategy that recognizes the importance of education as a way of deepening our relationships with Asian countries. Canada must brand itself as a partner of choice in higher education and research, and recruit Asian students and researchers to come here to study. At the same time, we must invest more in study and work-abroad programs for Canadian students, and must be deliberate about fostering research collaboration with Asia through joint academic programs, joint supervision of PhD students, and faculty mobility. We need to find new ways to export our expertise in higher education and leverage our alumni networks, making Canadian expatriates and former international students ambassadors for Canadian higher education. The personal connections made by Canadians who study in other countries, and by foreign students in Canada, can result in long-term economic, social and cultural ties. The private sector can play a leadership role in this process by providing internships and funding for student mobility. Canada’s universities are often at the forefront of engagement with developing economies. As such, they are an asset that both government and the private sector can work with to advance our country’s place in the world. To read the full report, visit: www.pacificcentury.ca. Dr. Stephen Toope is an international law scholar who represented Western Europe and North America on the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances from 2002-2007. President Toope’s academic interests include public international law, legal theory, human rights, international dispute resolution, and family law.
PETER WALL INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED STUDIES
MAKING OUR CITY WORK FOR OLDER ADULTS “WE WANT TO UNDERSTAND WHAT MAKES A NEIGHBOURHOOD A GOOD PLACE TO GROW OLD.” Older adults, a growing demographic, are often at risk of age-related health issues and can face increasing mobility challenges. Dr. Heather McKay, Peter Wall Institute Associate and Professor in the UBC Faculty of Medicine, with researchers at Vancouver Coastal Health, SFU, and partners at the City of Vancouver, are investigating how features of the built environment impact the mobility, social connectedness, and ultimately, the health and well-being of older adults. The ‘Active Streets, Active People’ project is supported by the Peter Wall Solutions Initiative at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. “We want to understand what makes a neighbourhood a good place to grow old. What features of the built environment help or hinder older adults’ health and mobility? We will share this information with our stakeholders and networks so as to influence neighbourhood design and related policies in future,” Dr. McKay explains. The City of Vancouver has embarked on a major Greenways project to design and construct “safe and nature-rich paths” to encourage walking and cycling, as well as to create social spaces that build a sense of community. The next phase of this program, to begin in 2013, features a redesign of downtown Vancouver streets along the ComoxHelmcken corridor. In partnership with the city, Dr. McKay and her team are conducting a ‘natural experiment’ in the West End neighbourhood, to evaluate the process of gathering community feedback in designing and creating physical spaces and to measure their impact on mobility and health outcomes of older adults. “The response from the community has been extraordinary. People care about where they live and are interested in their health,” says Coinvestigator Dr. Joanie Sims-Gould. In celebration of World Health Day, the research team hosted a neighbourhood walking tour in the spring called ‘Walk in My Shoes’. This year’s World Health theme was “Good health adds life to years.” The walkabout in Vancouver’s West End neighbourhood included seniors from the community and highlighted features of the area that either
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support or inhibit mobility and access. These features included more parks for intergenerational interaction, safer street crossings, improved lighting and visibility at intersections, controlling overgrowth sections on sidewalks, pleasant landscaping to encourage walking, ample seating and washroom access, and a diversity of destinations and services to make the area more interesting and ‘friendly’. The project is recruiting up to 200 study participants living along the Greenway. Older adults will complete a range of questionnaires about their neighbourhood, their health, well-being and activity preferences. They will be equipped for one week with accelerometers (to measure physical activity levels) and GPS units (to map where they go). The research team has already completed walkability and environmental audits of street features along the proposed Greenway, and will be conducting in depth interviews with participants. “The topics of mobility and the built environment as they relate to the health and well-being of older adults resonate beyond the West End of Vancouver. It is about finding ways for the burgeoning population of older adults in BC and Canada to live independent, healthy lives in their own homes for as long as possible,” states Dr. McKay. Similar challenges are faced by families with young children, and people living with a disability; communities with fewer physical obstacles will also benefit these residents. The project will generate a document to outline processes and lessons learned to guide cities that wish to make ‘age-friendly’ built environment changes. To learn more, please visit www.hiphealth.ca/ our_research/research-programs/ASAP. The Peter Wall Solutions Initiative supports UBC researchers actively working with community partners to develop practical solutions through innovative research. Research projects may address environmental concerns, language and literacy, health care delivery, housing justice, population health and wellness, or any other issues that affect our community. Photos courtesy of Callista Haggis, Centre for Hip Health and Mobility.
THE BIG MELT AND ITS GLOBAL IMPLICATIONS “THERE IS A DANGER IN WAITING TOO LONG TO BEGIN NEW POLICIES,” WARNED DR. EDDY CARMACK
CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent in the Northwest Passage.
The Arctic Ocean is in the midst of major climatic change, with its once robust sea-ice cover visibly receding more and more every year. As that ice melts, chemistry and circulation patterns are shifting, and scientists are just beginning to understand how serious the consequences may be for the rest of the world’s oceans. “We have a marine arctic that is not simply passive – it will kick back,” warned Dr. Eddy Carmack, Senior Research Scientist Emeritus at Fisheries and Oceans Canada. “It is to our own good to explore effects that might lead to regime changes.” Dr. Carmack was one of a leading group of Arctic scientists who took part in a 3-day workshop titled, “An Interdisciplinary Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on the Arctic Ocean,” hosted by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies in May 2012. The workshop was envisioned by Institute Faculty Associate, Dr. Philippe Tortell, and UBC Professor in Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Dr. Roger François, as a way to discuss strategies for monitoring the Arctic Ocean that take into account the importance of both terrestrial and oceanic fields of scientific research, and the unexpected rapid pace of changes occurring in the Arctic. Dr. Carmack described the rapid pace this way. In 2007, he took to the sea in the “Canada’s Three Oceans” project, travelling by icebreaker
along the entire coast of Canada in order to establish a baseline for future effects of climate change. This baseline would be revisited in 2050, or so went the original plan. “It’s changing so fast,” he said, “there are things they can already say.” Climate change impacts, such as increased stratification, shifts in population structure among plankton and bacteria, and ocean acidification are already becoming apparent in the Arctic. Dr. Carmack laid out an extremely complex set of findings presented in a series of diagrams showing how physical circulation in the Arctic connects various flow paths between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. More needs to be explored regarding the biogeochemical distributions in the Arctic Ocean to better predict potential cascade effects and unintended consequences of these changes. “There is a danger in waiting too long to begin new policies,” he warned. Researchers travelled from all over the world to attend the Institute’s workshop, covering everything from glacier melt in Greenland to trace metals in estuarine systems in Russia, to warming experiments in the Canadian tundra. Part of the impetus for the workshop was to underscore the importance of and cooperation around the new GEOTraces initiative, a monitoring system set up to better understand the distribution of various trace metals and isotopes that provide information into key chemical, physical and biological oceanic processes and provide
PETER WALL INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED STUDIES
Skiplane operating out of the Polar Continental Shelf Program carrying team from the Institute of Ocean Sciences to collect wintertime data in the Northwest Passage.
A team of researchers working from the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent to collect snow and ice data in the Canada Basin.
indicators of past and present climate change. The collection of these data requires ship charters, international permits, and significant funding sources; some working groups were therefore devoted to addressing these logistical challenges facing researchers. Many of the researchers pointed out that the Arctic is “not just about bears, pteropods and seals, it’s about the people.” To that end, the workshop also featured a public panel, appropriately titled, “The Big Melt” at the Vancouver Aquarium. Moderated by former Yukon premier Tony Penikett, the panel discussion featured Dr. Carmack, UBC Professors Dr. Michael Byers from Political Science and Dr. Candis Callison, Assistant Professor at UBC’s School of Journalism. The panelists each shared their unique experiences on the most significant implications of climate change for the Arctic. Each coming from a different perspective, nevertheless the panelists had much in the way of common ground: the need for more international cooperation, inclusion of northern communities, and proper communication of these issues to the public. According to Dr. Callison, science can often only be expressed to the public by portraying it in human terms. “Facts and information become meaningful when they intersect with ethical and moral codes,” she explained. “After listening to an Inuit person
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With the rapid pace of Arctic warming, magnificant animals like this polar bear will be forced to adapt more and more to open water conditions.
talk about changes they’ve witnessed, passing off climate change as a somehow normal and natural occurrence is not possible.” Encouraging interaction between scientists from a diversity of nations is a valuable part of the process of bringing the world’s northern nations together to address the multitude of changes occurring in the Arctic. As Dr. Byers noted, “an organization is only as important as the people in the room.” Conferences like this one are a vital step in continuing to bring high calibre researchers into the room to advance the international dialogue regarding arctic climate change. The international gathering was representative of the way forward in understanding its future impacts, he added. Moving forward, Dr. Tortell, who spends 4-6 weeks a year living on research vessels in Antarctica, will be submitting a major $5 million proposal to NSERC for a ship-based study of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. “This will be a Canadian contribution to GEOTraces, mapping the spatial distribution of trace elements and isotopes in Arctic waters in order to better understand physical circulation, biological productivity and contaminant distributions in this fragile and rapidly changing system.” Photos courtesy of Dr. Eddy Carmack and Jean Lemire.
GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS INTERPRETED THROUGH DANCE AND DIALOGUE
“THERE IS A MISPERCEPTION IN CANADA THAT WE WERE NOT AFFECTED BY THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS,” SAYS DR. SARRA. “BUT IN REALITY, A NUMBER OF REPERCUSSIONS HAVE BEEN FELT HERE.”
The global financial crisis and its aftermath have left individuals and countries around the world devastated financially and economically, but new research conducted by Dr. Janis Sarra, Director of the Peter Wall Institute and Law Professor at UBC, sheds new light on the causes and implications of the crisis, examined through the lens of “fairness”. “Banks were undercapitalized, derivatives traders received large bonuses based on deals that created incentives for them to pursue short-term profits to the detriment of long-term sustainability of the financial system and retail investors were directed towards investment products that were far beyond their risk capacity, creating losses of life savings,” observes Dr. Sarra. The proliferation of credit default swaps (CDS), designed originally to manage risk, created a highly speculative market, she explains. Unlike home insurance, where one can only insure to the value of the home so that there is no incentive to burn it down for the insurance money, there is no requirement that the purchaser of a CDS actually invest in the company and no limits on the size of payoff. Hence, financiers were speculating on the failure of companies, in some cases precipitating their failure, in order to be paid out 20 times the value of the firm while thousands of workers were losing their jobs. “There is a misperception in Canada that we were not affected by the global financial crisis,” says Dr. Sarra. “But in reality, a number of repercussions have been felt here.” In Canada, 400,000 jobs were lost the first year of the crisis and structural losses are continuing. The number of housing foreclosures has increased significantly since 2008. Individual bankruptcies and business failures have risen dramatically, including bankruptcies among people age 55 and older, with many living in severe poverty. Canadian ratio of household debt to disposable income is 148%, one of the highest in the world. Sub-prime credit cards proliferate in Canada, with interest rates up to 35%. As one provincial government has observed, some provinces have allowed payday lenders to charge annual interest rates of 540% to consumers. With the decline in pension programs, most people will at some point use financial markets to invest their funds, yet the markets are designed for investors who have the capacity to suffer losses, not for individuals trying to ensure their long-term economic security. Dr. Sarra has drawn on research from philosophy, economics, law, political science and anthropology to deepen understanding of the causes and impact of the financial crisis and the great unfairness it highlighted. Her research draws on cognitive neuroscience to examine why financiers cared little about the harms they created, and why globally, there has been a visceral reaction to the unfairness of the massive loss
of homes, jobs and economic security. Dr. Sarra has also drawn on the performing and visual arts to communicate her research in a visual and compelling way. Dr. Sarra understands fairness as the capacity to take the perspective of another, and to adjust to our conduct and decisions to take account of others’ perspectives to work towards more equitable outcomes. From this vantage point, she says that financial markets are important drivers of unfairness. “Complex derivatives, sub-prime mortgages, expensive credit, and securitized loans work to disadvantage ordinary people while earning millions for a select few that were disregarding of other perspectives and were indifferent to the harms they inflicted.” Yet Dr. Sarra suggests that we do not have to accept that markets go unregulated and wealth disparity unchecked. Policy-makers can be engaged to change laws and practices to reduce interest fees, protect savings and adequately fund pensions. Collectively, a financial system can be developed that supports both individuals and society as a whole. Dr. Sarra’s efforts are currently aimed at expanding public policy discussion about the structural problems with the financial system and possible structural changes that could prevent future crises. Having previously been invited to present her work on financial markets to the United Nations and the World Bank, she is now engaging scholars from fifteen disciplines and six countries in a deeper discussion of fairness. Her current goal is to make the issues accessible to a broader public. In a recent interpretative performance of Dr. Sarra’s research project, High Level Principles, On the Ground Change, Oversight of Structured Financial Product Risk in Global Capital Markets, worldrenowned dancer Margie Gillis, performed Fairness in Financial Markets – Dance and Dialogue in Montréal, New York and Vancouver: a dance she choreographed to music created by Wall Institute Composer in Residence, Alfredo Santa Ana. “The dance between entities of lesser and greater strengths, range and suppleness can easily be achieved using rigour that enhances awareness, safety and nuance,” says Gillis. “The body and spirit in the dance can energize and uncover hidden aspects of self, community, modelling health engagement, facilitating solution.” Fairness in Financial Markets – Dance and Dialogue was performed in Vancouver on October 25, 2012. Video footage and photos of the event are available via our social media channels by visiting our website, www.pwias.ubc.ca. Photo courtesy of Cylla Von Tiedmann.
PETER WALL INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED STUDIES
BATTLESPACES OF THE 21ST CENTURY TAKE ON NEW MODES OF WAR “VIOLENCE CAN ERUPT ANYWHERE – ON A COMMUTER TRAIN IN MADRID, A SCHOOL IN GAZA CITY, A POPPY FIELD IN HELMAND, A COMPOUND IN WAZIRISTAN OR A STREET IN CIUDAD JUAREZ.”
In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the world turned, but for those outside the United States, it was really a climactic summation of a history of American imperialism, writes Dr. Derek Gregory, Distinguished Professor at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies and UBC Professor of Geography. In his upcoming book, The Everywhere War, Dr. Gregory agrees with Tom Engelhard’s statement that “it remains difficult for Americans to understand that Washington is a war capital, that the US is a war state, and that the norm for us is to be at war somewhere at any moment.” For Dr. Gregory, the everywhere war is non-territorial. It is not limited to conflicts between uniformed, professional combatants in the service of states seeking to defend or seize territories. Rather, it is multi-sited and non-linear, he argues. In his book, he shows that the conduct of war is shaped by the spaces through which it is conducted, ranging from the global war prison at Guantanamo Bay through counterinsurgency in Baghdad and the drone wars in Afghanistan/Pakistan to other ‘small wars’ fought in the shadows of 9/11 in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. According to the author, while others have decried 9/11 as the last war of the twentieth century, this century might be more accurately characterized by new modes of war, such as President Obama’s preferences for covert drone strikes, special forces operations and cyber-attacks. US military presence across the globe is prolific, he adds. Divided into six geographical defined unified combatant commands, whose areas of responsibility cover every region on earth, the US military operates through a global network of bases. Officially the US has over 190,000 troops and 11,500 civilian employees at approximately 900 bases in 46 other states and US territories, excluding all bases in Afghanistan and Iraq and a host of secret or ‘sensitive’ locations. Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Pakistan, Somalis and Yemen are among the zones in which military violence still falls, he notes.
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“Violence can erupt anywhere – on a commuter train in Madrid, a school in Gaza City, a poppy field in Helmand, a compound in Waziristan or a street in Ciudad Juarez,” he says. In these spaces, the distinctions between “our war” and “their war” are blurred and one of the defining characteristics of these late modern wars, as he calls them, is that military, paramilitary and terrorist violence can, in principle, occur anywhere. It is therefore not surprising that modern warfare has taken advantage of cyberspace – “an ambiguous domain, where virtual space and physical space, online and offline worlds, intermingle, support and transform one another,” he notes. After all, the internet has its origins in a protocol devised for the US Defense and Advanced Research Projects Agency. “The possibility of cyber warfare was latent within the system from its very beginning,” he states, citing the deliberate disabling of server systems as the core of cyber warfare. “Neither will it be – nor is it clear where the battlespace begins and ends.” Nevertheless, Dr. Gregory says he is encouraged by the organic nature of the Arab uprisings. In their beginnings, they showed that it is possible for repressive political formations to be overturned without military intervention by the United States, he explains. “I was watching events unfold on the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities, just weeks after similar scenes in Tunisia,” he writes. “I hope that the real, lasting counterpoint to 9/11 is to be found in those places, not in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iraq…and that ordinary people can successfully rise up against autocratic, repressive and corrupt regimes - including those propped up for so long by the U.S. and its European Allies.” You can read more from Dr. Derek Gregory by visiting his blog at www.geographicalimaginations.com and you can listen to his fall 2011 Wall Exchange lecture at www.pwias.ubc.ca and click on “Podcasts.”
FEATURING THE PETER WALL INSTITUTEâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S EARLY CAREER SCHOLARS
2010-2011 Early Career Scholars Photo courtesy of Dr. Dianne Newell
At UBC, the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies is the intellectual centre for exchanging ideas and supporting and funding fundamental discoveries in basic research involving the full range of disciplines, professions, and the creative arts. The Institute plays a unique role in providing truly interdisciplinary opportunities for UBC scholars in their early careers, who are likely to make breakthrough discoveries over the long-term future. It funds interdisciplinary projects that might otherwise fail to meet the criteria of regular award programs.
WHEN SCIENCE IMITATES PLANT LIFE DR. SARAH BURKE IS LEADING A RESEARCH TEAM TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO CREATE ORGANIC SOLAR CELLS IN ORDER TO PRODUCE A NEWER, MORE EFFICIENT SOURCE OF ENERGY
Dr. Sarah Burke with a Scanning Probe Microscope operating in ultrahigh vacuum.
Scanning Tunnelling Microscopy images of model molecular solar cell materials.
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Dr. Sarah Burke has always been inspired by nature. So much so, in fact, that she now runs a lab that is trying to imitate nature. Dr. Burke, an Early Career Scholar at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies and an assistant professor at UBC in both the Physics and Chemistry departments, is leading a cutting edge research team to figure out how to create organic solar cells in order to produce a newer, more efficient source of energy. “The exciting point of making organic — or essentially “plastic” — solar cells is certainly the promise of inexpensive, light-weight solar panels that don’t require large amounts of energy in production or transport,” Dr. Burke says. To make organic solar cells, Dr. Burke and her team are manipulating polymers — plastic molecules — to be able to convert light into electrical charges, just as plants convert light to energy. “Plants do this amazingly efficiently,” Burke says. “Photosynthetic light harvesting … is incredibly efficient for transferring energy because plants have an exquisite control over the Nano scale, which is something that we don’t really have yet.” But that is exactly what Dr. Burke is trying to achieve, by looking at the characterization of polymers on the Nano scale in order to figure out what exactly goes on when they interact with light. “We’re very much in the beginning stage,” Burke says, but adds that some preliminary results make her team really excited. “We’ve been able to look at some of these model systems and been able to image them,” Dr. Burke says. “We want to build up the design rules for how these materials should look and find ways to structure them accordingly.” Building molecular systems to observe on a scale that small — 1 nanometer (nm) is 1 billionth of a meter — is delicate work. But Dr. Burke knows that there are “important processes that happen on the Nano scale to generate charges.” It is this generation of charges from light that Dr. Burke is trying to understand, as well as find ways to more efficiently extract those charges. Burke says the success of this process will make a huge difference in terms of energy production on an everyday level, because the efficiencies of organic solar cells are not yet competitive with standard solar cells, such as the ones we see on rooftops today. “The efficiency differences come down to some really fundamental differences in how these materials convert light into electrical charges,” Dr. Burke says. Hopefully soon, Burke will be able to build materials with control over light conversion processes, just as plants in nature do. Dr. Sarah Burke is a recipient of the Peter Wall Institute 2011-2012 Early Career Scholar award. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.
PREDICTING THE HUMAN BEHAVIOUR BEHIND EACH GOOGLE SEARCH
Most people do countless Google searches a day, without even thinking about it. Yet Dr. Kevin Leyton-Brown knows there’s much more going on behind the white screen and multi-coloured letters than meets the eye. Dr. Leyton-Brown is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at UBC and an Early Career Scholar with the Peter Wall Institute, where he conducts research on competitive multiagent systems and empirical algorithmics, focusing on game theory. “Game theory is a mathematical model of what happens when multiple self-interested people interact,” Dr. Leyton-Brown explains. “Math for modelling human behaviour.” Game theory, Dr. Leyton-Brown says, has long been studied in microeconomics. It’s only recently that it has become a hot topic of study for computer science, both because electronic markets give rise to computational problems and because the internet puts self-interested computer users into contact with one another. “The internet is really a multi-agent system,” Dr. Leyton-Brown says. “You interact with many people through a computer over the course of a day.” One place where game theory and the Internet come together is around auctions. “Auctions are a much broader class of interaction than you might think,” Dr. Leyton-Brown explains. “They are not just a man standing in the front of the room wearing a funny hat and holding a hammer, but they’re really any situation that has rules to determine how to allocate scarce things.” Dr. Leyton-Brown currently has a grant with Google to study their auction, which is what determines the ranking of results on the righthand side of the search results page. “An auction is actually held every time you do a search, and the ads are ranked based on how much each different bidder was willing to pay,” Dr. Leyton-Brown explains. “Advertisers bid for clicks on ads on particular keywords—as little as pennies or as much as dollars per click.” Dr. Leyton-Brown says that auction design started to involve computer scientists as well as economists about a dozen years ago, when he was completing his PhD. A key turning point was auctions that were used to sell rights to the cell phone spectrum. “It used to be that these rights were just given away to whoever wrote the best proposal,” Dr. Leyton-Brown says. But Dr. Leyton-Brown says that these auctions are a lot more complicated than one might expect.
“It turned out that when you looked at how to do the auction design properly, even deciding who won the auction after everyone had bid was a difficult computational problem,” he says. “You can’t just solve problems like that on the back of an envelope; you really need to use a computer.” Another element in Dr. Leyton-Brown’s research is what’s called behavioural game theory – not a new concept, but one he has been expanding on recently. Behavioural game theory looks at how actual people behave in strategic situations, going beyond the simplistic and unrealistic “rationality assumptions” that underpin standard game theory. “Game theory is based on pretty idealized models of how people behave,” Dr. Leyton-Brown says. “It makes a so-called rationality assumption, which is that people will always do the best thing.” “This assumption is a bit too simple and a bit too strong to be realistic,” he adds. “A lot of my work has been to enrich game theory models to be more realistic and thereby to make better predictions.” Leyton-Brown and his PhD student have been conducting a meta-analysis – making statistical arguments by looking at data from other studies – to find models of human behaviour that outperform the standard game theoretical model. The data is based on experiments with real people, and the results lead Dr. Leyton-Brown to question elements of the game theoretic orthodoxy. “People don’t always do the best thing, but they do the things that look similar to the best thing more than they do horrible things,” he notes. “They don’t care much about small differences in payoff, which is different from what the theory says.” Dr. Leyton-Brown’s ultimate goal is to build a computational framework that would let someone describe an auction design problem, and then would answer questions about how people would behave if this auction were deployed in the real world. “Such a system would offer an alternative to the pen-and-paper analysis that most researchers do today, and would let us study much more complex settings, like Google’s ad auctions.” Clearly, despite its simple layout, Google Search is anything but. Dr. Kevin Leyton-Brown is a recipient of the Peter Wall Institute 2011-2012 Early Career Scholar award. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PETER WALL INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED STUDIES
WATER QUALITY DETERMINES POLITICAL PERSUASIONS IN THE GLOBAL SOUTH Accessing water for daily needs in Teshie, Accra Ghana
When Dr. Leila Harris was a child, she would often swim in the Sea of Marmara near Istanbul, Turkey. The temperature was perfect, the setting beautiful—the ideal place and water to swim in. But by the time she was a teenager, she could see the difference in the quality of water, due in large part to the sewage overflows from rapidly growing Istanbul. Several times she was unable to swim due to microbial contamination alerts, and when she was able to swim, she increasingly had to avoid the trash bags and water bottles that were floating through the water. It was this experience that led Dr. Harris, now Assistant Professor at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at UBC and recent recipient of the Early Career Scholar award at the Peter Wall Institute, to her career in researching water quality and access in different areas of the world. “It struck me that with the rapid population growth in cities such as Istanbul, they don’t have the adequate infrastructure,” Dr. Harris says. “I just became very interested in how Southern contexts, in the developing world, would deal with water issues.” Although her initial interest was spurred by general water quality concerns, Dr. Harris has gone on to study drinking water, irrigation water, and other issues related to water use, access, and quality. After doing much of her research focusing on these issues in Turkey, Dr. Harris has changed gears somewhat, and is now conducting a comparative study between Cape Town, South Africa and Accra, Ghana, focused on water governance, accessibility and affordability in informal settlements. But Dr. Harris goes beyond the numbers. She says this particular project is aimed at what water access – or lack there of – really means to people. “There is a lot of interest in looking at aggregate shifts such as the number of people connected to a water system in a broad sense, but we’re more interested in the everyday senses in terms of what water access means for people and the everyday negotiations around this,” Dr. Harris says. “We’re trying to think through the meaning people attach to water, the importance it has to their lives beyond bodily well-being, including notions of political identity and social belonging.” In brief, Dr. Harris says she is most interested in “what it actually means to access water for peoples’ lives, their sense of identity, or the important daily social processes around inclusion and belonging, or exclusion.” Dr. Harris chose to compare South Africa and Ghana because of their stark differences. “I did a general survey on what’s happening in multiple countries,
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both regionally and globally, and … Ghana and South Africa stood out,” Dr. Harris says. “There are some pretty marked differences between them… in terms of wealth and income, but also in terms of their water situation.” South Africa, says Dr. Harris, has taken some very intentional, pronounced efforts to make water available, by instituting a constitutional guarantee for water and by making a certain amount of water per household available free of charge. While Dr. Harris’ data already shows that a majority (83 per cent) of surveyed residents in Cape Town’s informal settlements find water to be readily accessible, many note that they spend significant time accessing water. Few note that they participate in water governance mechanisms. For Accra, a key issue is affordability. Over half of respondents say they buy their water from a vendor, at a much higher cost than those who enjoy direct access to the piped network. “If half the people don’t have municipal water, what does that actually mean?” asks Dr. Harris. “There’s not enough work done on the actual meaning that water holds for people, or what one must go through in terms of time, cost, or social negotiations to access it.” In Ghana, Dr. Harris wants to learn more about the privatization of water. “In the global South, in developing contexts, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have been requiring privatization as part of granting loans, so it’s fostered a lot of resistance,” she explains. Together with local partners, Dr. Harris has already surveyed 500 people in the two countries, and is returning this summer for more fieldwork as part of the UBC Visiting Scholar Abroad Program, awarded by the Peter Wall Institute. She wants to focus on peoples’ stories and narratives, how they experience water access in their everyday life, something that she noted to be of striking importance in her research in Turkey. In that work, in the primarily Kurdish southeast region where there has been much conflict and significant challenges to the Turkish state, Dr. Harris noted that increased access to water made a large difference in terms of state-society relations. “As people were accessing more services, including irrigation, they seemed to be expressing an increased sense of legitimacy of the Turkish state,” Dr. Harris says. “Something as basic as access to water can shift people’s senses of themselves and their political sensibilities, including their notions of citizenship and belonging.” Dr. Leila Harris is a recipient of the Peter Wall Institute 2011-2012 Early Career Scholar award. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.
SUFFERERS OF CHRONIC CONDITIONS FEEL LESS ABLE TO GIVE TO OTHERS When Dr. Laura Hurd Clarke set out to talk to people with multiple chronic conditions about their experiences, she didn’t realize she would hear so much about death and dying. Associate Professor in the School of Kinesiology at UBC and recent recipient the Peter Wall Institute’s Early Career Scholar award, Dr. Hurd Clarke has spent many years studying aging, and what impact the aging of the body has on an individuals’ sense of identity and body image. Her most recent research focused on asking 16 men and 19 women, who were aged 73 to 91 and had three or more chronic conditions (an average of six), what life was like, living with these conditions. She heard about death. “We didn’t ask people to reflect on death and dying … and yet a lot of people had something say about that as part of their experience of having multiple chronic conditions,” Dr. Hurd Clarke says. She says many of her interview subjects discussed with her their funeral plans, their living wills, and, in some cases, an exit plan. “If their health became so bad, a number of them had made plans for how they wished to end their lives,” Dr. Hurd Clarke says. “It was a way of maintaining control in an often uncontrollable health situation.” As a sociologist, Dr. Hurd Clarke looks at socially constructed ideals of aging, including what it means to be masculine, feminine, and what the “perfect” body is. She began her studies of older adults when she conducted research at a seniors’ centre, and found that many of the women she talked with spoke about body image, a topic of which, for older women, there had been very little research done. According to Dr. Hurd Clarke, there should have been. “Why would we expect that a person would go to bed one night and care about their appearance and their weight, and then all of a sudden not, just because they’ve reached a certain age?” Dr. Hurd Clarke mused. Moreover, when Hurd Clarke spoke with people who had multiple chronic conditions, in addition to reflections on death and dying, she heard many things that, she says, reflected masculinity and femininity norms. “Men are taught from a young age that they’re supposed to be stoic and strong and use their bodies as a tools of action,” she says. “To experience multiple morbidities and functional losses can be quite threatening to a man’s sense of self and masculinity.” “Women are taught very different messages,” she says. “Women are supposed to be really sensitive to the needs of others and nurturing, and they’re the ones who primarily take on roles of caregiving in all stages of life.” “So for women, losing the ability to walk or engage in valued activities is often about femininity ideals.” Dr. Hurd Clarke recalls one such woman, who expressed that the worst part of living with eleven chronic conditions was that she was unable to continue her volunteer work or care for others. “She’s becoming increasingly dependent on others and she doesn’t like that,” Dr. Hurd Clarke observes. “Not so much because she feels less powerful but because she’s less able to give to other people.”
Dr. Hurd Clarke says many of her interview subjects talk about loss: loss of masculinity, loss of femininity, loss of life. It is this despair, this anguish, that she is hoping will become more apparent as a result of her research, for the sake of her participants. “It’s very rewarding and a huge privilege to sit and talk with someone and have them share such personal stories,” Dr. Hurd Clarke says. “I’m hoping for greater understanding for what it means to grow older.” Dr. Laura Hurd Clarke is a 2011-2012 recipient of the Peter Wall Institute’s Early Career Scholar award. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COUPLEDOM IS A DETERMINING FACTOR OF INDIVIDUAL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING Dr. Christiane Hoppmann, a Peter Wall Institute Early Career Scholar and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at UBC, has spent a considerable amount of her career looking into psychological predictors of well-being and health – and in particular, the way that health is tied within couples. For example, in a collaborative research initiative with faculty members at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Washington, Dr. Hoppmann found that happiness within couples is incredibly co-dependent. “You have husbands and wives, and their health, well-being, and lack of well-being … waxes and wanes together over time,” Dr. Hoppmann says. “What it really demonstrates is how closely tied spouses really are.” This project used longitudinal data covering more than three decades. The parent Seattle Longitudinal Study, spearheaded by Dr. K. Warner Schaie and Dr. Sherry Willis, looked at the life span of the same subjects. For Dr. Hoppmann, this data, while not intended to look at couples, presented the perfect opportunity. “None of these data sets were designed to answer any couples related research, but kind of serendipitously included simultaneous information from both partners,” Dr. Hoppmann explains. “What we can do with this approach is move beyond how health and well-being play out at the individual level and take into account that couples really are a unique social system.” Dr. Christianne Hoppmann began her career as a developmental psychologist in Germany. She came to UBC as a health psychologist, and began this line of research about five years ago. She says that as a scholar of aging, she has always been at the crossroads of lifespan research and health psychology. “This research is important when you think about treating couples in old age or treating older Canadians,” she notes. “It is important to take a broader perspective and look at the social context.” “Health issues in one spouse may impact the other who shares the life with this individual,” she says. While she found the results of her research to be intuitive - that whatever happens to one spouse impacts the other - she was surprised by how profound it was. “To some extent, there is a general perception that your own actions
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determine how happy you are,” Dr. Hoppmann points out. “Really, happiness can be so tightly knit with others.” “It shows … how important it is to work on your relationship,” she surmises. “There is potential for happiness and stress to spill over.” Dr. Hoppmann concludes that “we need to look at how the problems of one spouse spill over to the other, so that from an intervention perspective, we have a better idea of what we need to teach spouses to do better.” Dr. Christiane Hoppmann is a 2011-2012 recipient of the Peter wall Institute Early Career Scholar award. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.
WALL ART COMPOSER TAKES INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACH TO MUSIC For composer Dr. Alfredo Santa Ana, choosing his favourite piece is an impossible task. “Every piece that I finish says something about my practice,” he says. “It’s a little bit like leaving a part of who you are a few years back with a piece.” “Trying to play favourites with the pieces, I don’t know if I can do that,” he concedes. As the first composer-in-residence at the Peter Wall Institute of Advanced Studies, Dr. Santa Ana is constantly creating new music that can fit in with the interdisciplinary mandate of the Institute, something that comes naturally to him. “To me, music itself is not just about music, it’s always about something else,” he said. “It’s always pointing towards… different disciplines.” His interest as composer in residence is increasing the presence of the performing arts at the Institute. One way of integrating the arts is through a series of talks and musical performances. The first of these, Musical Dialogues: Hearing the Conversation Unfold, was held by the Peter Wall Institute at the UBC in May 2012 and featured Dr. Santa Ana’s Eleven Dialogues for Violin and Cello, the winning piece in the Canadian University Music Society composition competition in 2008. In keeping with Dr. Santa Ana’s interdisciplinary approach to music, the piece is based on Plato’s 11 dialogues. “The philosophical dialogue is this written document where two people are debating ideas,” Santa Ana said. “I wanted to communicate my reaction to reading the dialogues when I was actually reading them.” The piece - intended for one violin and one cello - consists of 11 movements, some one to two minutes, others four to six, for a total of 15 minutes. But Dr. Santa Ana notes that its short length should not be confused with simplicity. “In one dialogue, I used the whole pitch collection of 12 possible
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notes,” he explains. “Despite the brevity of some of these dialogues, they are packed with a lot of content in terms of what they mean and how they are constructed and how they are designed.” Dr. Santa Ana told audiences in May to feel free to walk around the space and engage with the music however they chose. “That was part of the idea; that everyone could experience the piece from a different perspective,” he adds. This series of talks and performances will happen twice a year, each in a different venue. But there is much work in between for Mexican-born Santa Ana, who studied music in the United States before coming to UBC in 2003 to complete both his masters degree and his doctorate in music composition. Dr. Santa Ana envisions working with UBC faculty across the disciplines. “If people are doing a project about economics, maybe they want the input of a composer to see where that takes them,” he explains. Dr. Santa Ana is open to anything, which is one of his favourite aspects of his career. And Dr. Santa Ana is open to anything, which is one of his favourite aspects of his career. “It’s not really a defined profession,” he says of composing, which he got into after years of playing the piano. “It’s completely what you make it. Being a composer-in-residence means that you share the artist’s voice out in the community.”
Photo courtesy of Krista Jahnke.
POP ROCKS EXHIBIT EMBODIED VANCOUVER’S AMBITION TO BECOME GREENEST CITY
Pop Rocks, an exhibit in downtown Vancouver put on from late August to early September by one of the Wall Institute’s Early Career Scholars, Joe Dahmen, deployed fifteen large pillow-like forms across an entire city block to create a soft landscape that offers comfortable seating while creating a monumental presence at the centre of the city. “Pop Rocks is radically sustainable,” write the creators, Joe Dahmen and Matthew Soules from UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and Amber Frid-Jimenez from Emily Carr University. “It embodied the City of Vancouver’s ambition to become the greenest city in the world by 2020.” The installation is constructed entirely from reused materials that were recycled at the end of the project. Each of the soft forms is made from fabric using Vancouver’s Canada Place ‘Sails’ – which became available after the recent tensile roof refurbishment. Pieces of the roof were sewn by a local sailmaker into shapes that were filled with recycled polystyrene beads provided by Mansonville Plastics, a company that recycles polystyrene from throughout Metro Vancouver. The designers’ plan was to reuse the fabric of the installation into bags and other objects and return the polystyrene collected from venues beads to the recycling stream, but due to high level interest, they are now exploring other options for future installations. Pop Rocks is a joint project by AFJD Studio (Amber Frid-Jimenez and Joe Dahmen) and Matthew Soules Architecture.
Wtiting s ll a W e h t on DESPITE RISKS, ASTRONOMER ROYAL REMAINS A TECHNOOPTIMIST
A mere four days before the death of famous American astronaut Neil Armstrong, Lord Martin Rees, world-renowned astronomer, made reference to Armstrong’s moment in history, which changed the study of space. “We all – if we’re middle aged – remember Neil Armstrong’s “one small step” on the moon in 1969,” Rees said. “We also know no one’s been back to the moon for 40 years.” In an interview prior to his Wall Exchange talk, A Cosmic Perspective for the 21st Century, at the Vogue Theatre on October 15, Lord Rees, UK’s Astronomer Royal, former president of the Royal Society, and Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge, spoke about climate change, space exploration, technology, and what just might happen to the world as we know it. Lord Rees said this century is the first in history when one species, human beings, has the future in its hands – and this is not necessarily a good thing. “We can now collectively do so much to the atmosphere that we can change the climate,” he explained. “In the long run, we’re going to have to depend less on fossil fuels, and the sooner we can make that transition to renewable energies, the better.” Lord Rees observed that it will be another 10 or 20 years before scientists are able to determine whether climate change is something we can cope with and adapt to. But while Lord Rees calls himself a “techno-optimist”, meaning he believes technology will continue to improve human capacity, he sees himself as a “political pessimist”. For example, he said that climate change needs to be on the agenda of all governments – and actually be kept a priority. “There’s a risk, of course, that urgent issues always trump the longterm and important issues,” he noted. “So we need to keep bagging on to ensure that governments don’t forget this very important, though very long-term and global, issue.” Something Lord Rees is positive about is space exploration, especially in light of the recent landing of NASA’s rover, Curiosity, on the surface of Mars.
“Space exploration has been crucially important,” he said. “Space probes have been able to go to the neighbouring bodies of our solar system,” he added, noting that Curiosity is the most ambitious mission thus far. “I certainly hope that within a few decades, robotic probes like Curiosity will have been to all the planets and major moons of our solar system and we’d understand it a lot better.” Bringing him to his comment about Armstrong, Lord Rees said “the practical case of sending people back into space is getting weaker all the time, as robots get better.” However, Lord Rees does see – and hope for – an evolution of space tourism. “I hope that people will eventually go into space simply as a human adventure,” he said, pointing out that they would “have to go in the spirit of high risk pioneers.” For his part, Lord Rees acknowledges how far science, and in particular, his science of astronomy, has come because of advances in technology. But while he applauds technological efforts that have resulted in such things as the Internet, mobile phones, and increased medical knowledge, he said a lack of political will and decision-making is causing the divide between the rich and the poor, and between rich and poor countries, to widen. “There are still a billion people who are living in abject poverty, and even though this could be cured, it’s not,” he asserted. “I’m pessimistic about that even though I’m optimistic that science will provide the potential for a population of nine billion people by midcentury to live a far better life than they do today.” Still, Lord Rees points out several risks: the risk of a global disaster, such as a nuclear explosion; the risk of irreversible damage to our global ecosystem; and particularly worrisome to Lord Rees, the risk of too much information finding its way into the wrong hands. “I do worry about how we’re going to cope with the risk of widely accessible knowledge which does empower individuals…with such great power,” Lord Rees said. “I think it’s a real challenge to governance to ensure that we don’t destroy privacy or freedom too much but at the same time safeguard against this growing risk.” Lord Martin Rees was this fall’s Wall Exchange lecturer, hosted by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced studies at the Vogue Theatre in downtown Vancouver on October 15, 2012. To listen to his fall 2012 Wall Exchange lecture, please visit at www.pwias.ubc.ca and click on “Podcasts,” or for more information please visit www.pwias.ubc.ca/thewall-exchange/2012-fall.php.
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Twice a year, the Peter Wall Institute hosts the Wall Exchange in downtown Vancouver. The Wall Exchange is a community program created by the Institute to provide a public forum for the discussion of key issues that impact us all. SOLIDARITY IN THE STREETS: AN INTERVIEW WITH JUDITH BUTLER
For Judith Butler, the student demonstrations in Montréal in the spring and summer of 2012 were not just a far removed display of protest – she has been part of protests her whole life. Award-winning author and prolific feminist scholar, Dr. Butler, gave the spring 2012 Wall Exchange lecture at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver entitled, A Politics of the Street, in which she examined the different forms of public resistance, protests and their implications for contemporary politics. The event, presented by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, sold out 1100 tickets in just three hours.
Media and the new student movements “We are all drawn to think about what is going on,” says Dr. Butler, who has had a close eye on various protests around the world, including the student demonstrations in Montréal. “I think the Montréal protests are very powerful. It is getting global attention and raises fundamental questions about whether students in Canada have a right to an affordable education. It has been powerful enough to cancel classes and stop business as usual. Sometimes you have to bring the machinery to a halt to make a difference.” “Media is very important in making certain links. News made through social media can be relatively uncensored and it undercuts or contests the more dominant media representations,” explains Dr. Butler, who sees protests in one part of the world having an effect on what is happening on the other side of the world. “I think there was a successful movement on the part of the Chilean students last year opposing tuition. Their success has been an important point of reference for Berkeley, Athens and Montréal. People in Cairo are watching us in the U.S. and people in Chile are watching Athens. The world has been more connected in the last year and a half. There’s an increasing understanding of global dependency and new forms of global alliances.” Dr. Butler received a PhD in philosophy from Yale University and is the Maxine Elliot Professor at the University of California, Berkeley
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and the Hannah Arendt Chair of Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. There, she saw the student movement fighting budget cuts and defending students against police brutality, even condemning the University administration for allowing it to take place. “I have been part of protests my whole life,” says Dr. Butler, who also visited the Occupy Wall Street movement. “What interests me is what happens when people get together and find themselves standing next to someone they don’t know. Communities of people gather in the streets, they don’t know each other and yet they overcome differences and are all brought together in sudden alliance.” “Outside of our local groups or identity-based communities, we are figuring out what is our obligation to the stranger. Our commonality, whether it is anti-racism or radical democratic ideals, insists that we have obligations to one another that are not based on shared language or religion or even beliefs about humanity. Views do not have to be the same to sense that something is profoundly unjust and have strong ties of solidarity.”
Strong bonds of solidarity needed Earlier this year, Dr. Butler was in Switzerland where she presented at a conference at the University of Geneva on the topic of coalitions. She recently returned from a visit to Israel and Palestine where she met with several different groups. She now has a new book entitled Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism. “There are activists in Palestine struggling with some very brutal aspects of the Occupation. The problem with living under occupation is that you can’t just assemble in public or you may be risking immediate imprisonment. I think there is great courage and dignity among Palestinians who are facing indefinite detention. Israeli security forces are able to put a Palestinian in jail without reason.”
‘Not hopeful, but not devastated either’ When asked if she is hopeful about the state of the world, Dr. Butler answers “I am not hopeful, but I am not devastated either. I find instances of hope.” “I am discouraged by the wars that the U.S. has undertaken in the last years, discouraged that President Obama hasn’t shut Guantanamo, that acts of torture happen, that people in the U.S. alone are losing their homes and dropping out of school.” “But meeting some of the people in Palestinian prisons, affirms life and our connection with others. There are ways for people to maintain dignity even under extreme conditions of injustice, these are moments of hopefulness.” To listen to Dr. Butler’s spring 2012 Wall Exchange lecture, please visit at www.pwias.ubc.ca and click on “Podcasts.”
“PROVIDING RESOURCES FOR CAPABLE AND COMMITTED INDIVIDUALS TO FOLLOW THEIR INSTINCTS LEADS TO THE BEST OF ALL DISCOVERIES, THE TOTALLY SURPRISING, THE MOST UNEXPECTED, AND THE MOST USEFUL ONES.”
DR. MICHAEL SMITH, NOBEL LAUREATE, PETER WALL DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR 1995-2000
FEATURING THE PETER WALL INSTITUTE’S DISTINGUISHED SCHOLARS IN RESIDENCE
NEW RESEARCH USES GAMING TO HELP PATIENTS RECOVER FROM SPINAL CORD INJURIES THE VIRTUAL REALITY EXERCISES PROVIDE A MORE ENTERTAINING ENVIRONMENT FOR REHABILITATION
Dr. Steeves and others are exploring the potential of “virtual-reality robot-assisted rehabilitation” to complement current rehabilitation practices.
For Dr. John Steeves, rehabilitation therapies can be fun and games. During his year as a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, Dr. John Steeves has combined typical rehabilitation therapies associated with hand and arm function following spinal cord injuries with assistive robots and video games. Virtual reality exercises provide a more entertaining environment for rehabilitation, while simultaneously tracking a patient’s abilities and challenging them to improve on their accomplishments. Dr. Steeves and others are exploring the potential of “virtual-reality robot-assisted rehabilitation” to complement current rehabilitation practices. While patients are recovering strength and independence, robotic-assist enables them to complete a movement that they would otherwise not be capable of. “It’s not meant to supplant or replace therapists, it’s meant to augment their abilities and approaches in the treatment of people living with disorders like stroke, brain or spinal cord injury,” says Professor Steeves. Additionally, these devices will allow therapists to train and monitor multiple patients at once. “Therapists undergo incredible amounts of training--decades of experience-and when it’s limited to a one-on-one situation, you’re really limiting access to a growing patient population,” he says. Dr. Steeves has over 35 years of experience studying spinal cord injury. He was the Founding Director of International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD), an interdisciplinary centre at UBC and Vancouver Coastal Health that investigates a broad range of issues and research questions in the field of spinal cord injury. These questions include preclinical scientific research, clinical trials and the development of rehabilitation strategies, as well as studying the challenges associated with ongoing care and integration back into the community after a spinal cord injury.
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Professor Steeves’ research during his year at the Wall Institute also explored the protocols, challenges and philosophy of clinical trials; namely, how scientists and researchers best translate discoveries to an applied clinical setting. It is an international initiative led by Professor Steeves that has included the ongoing development and refinement of protocols for clinical trials and reliable clinical trial outcome measures. According to Dr. Steeves, one of the challenges facing the adoption of virtual-reality, robot-assisted rehabilitation training is the fast-paced nature of technological development, which is not easily nor quickly incorporated into a clinical setting. Dr. Steeves says he has “an attention span of a four-year old”, which leads him to constantly change his research. “Once you start down that road, you start realizing there are many opportunities. Not just personally, but there are more opportunities … for a better solution, because you’re approaching it from a different or new perspective.” But he recognizes that such an approach requires him to “be very comfortable with flying on a trapeze without a safety net,” he says laughing. Dr. Steeves observes that his tendency to reinvent and change his research program made him feel very at home at the Institute. “A lot of the people in the Peter Wall Institute, past and present, have reinvented themselves many times over, and that’s the attraction for being a member of it. You get exposed to a variety of different perspectives that you might not have been aware of beforehand, and you’re surrounded by people who have a similar sort of approach to life,” he says.“It’s very comforting to be around people like that.” His biggest regret looking back on his year as a scholar? “I can’t stay.” Dr. John Steeves can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WE NEED TO EMPOWER ORDINARY PARLIAMENTARIANS “ONE OF THE REASONS GOOD PEOPLE CHOOSE NOT TO GO INTO POLITICS IS BECAUSE THEY DON’T WANT TO PRETEND TO BE SOMETHING THEY ARE NOT,” WRITES DR. CAMERON
Dr. Cameron says that independence in the House of Commons should be rewarded and celebrated rather than punished.
For Dr. Max Cameron, while partisanship is an intrinsic part of modern democracy, it also lends itself to alienating “good people” who run or might consider running for office; and it encourages Members of Parliament to tow the party line. Dr. Cameron, Peter Wall Institute 2011 Distinguished Scholar in Residence, political science professor and Director of the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions (CSDI), applies notions of practical wisdom to understand people in politics. Aristotle used the term ‘practical wisdom,’ or phronesis, to refer to the moral skill and will to know how to deliberate and act at the right time - and for the right reasons - for the good of oneself and community, explains Dr. Cameron. It often requires balancing different goods, like having the compassion but also the honesty to be a good friend, or having the empathy as well as detachment to be a good doctor, according to Dr. Cameron. By extension, “one of the reasons good people choose not to go into politics is because they don’t want to pretend to be something they are not,” writes Dr. Cameron. After joining the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies in 2011 as a Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Dr. Cameron organized a conference at UBC to ask “Why Don’t (More) Good People Enter Politics?” The two-day event included a public conversation with former Prime Minister Paul Martin and a series of roundtables with former and current politicians, academics, and journalists, including Ian Hanomansing, Carole Taylor, Anne McLellan, Sam Sullivan, Gordon Gibson and Mike Harcourt. They discussed the alleged shortage of “good” leaders, as well as some feasible solutions for a future of better politics and politicians.
“The purpose and role of Parliament and parliamentarians in our constitutional system needs to be re-examined,” writes Dr. Cameron. Its essential function is the separation of powers, not only as a check on the executive, but also as a way of ensuring deliberation in the general interest and judicial review of particular actions, he explains, which will guarantee that all actions by state officials are publicly defensible. To do this well, ordinary parliamentarians need to be empowered: independence in the House of Commons should be rewarded and celebrated rather than punished. In addition, less centralized decision-making ought to be encouraged. “With the caveat that disciplined parties are essential in a parliamentary democracy, there is scope within the political process for more free votes and stronger, more autonomous, committees,” he notes. Finally, the nomination process needs to be better regulated and less controlled by the party leadership to allow individual Members of Parliament to act as powerful and responsive representatives of their constituencies, he adds. Dr. Cameron is drawing from, and adding to, his year at the Wall Institute in his upcoming book tentatively entitled, Between Rules and Practice: Why We Need Practical Wisdom in Politics. During his year at the Peter Wall Institute, Dr. Cameron has been able to conclude that the skills, disposition, or virtues of practical wisdom are found somewhere between rules and practice. Rules and incentives are often insufficient to ensure that we deliberate and act in ways that benefit our communities. Without moral character or virtue, good rules or laws will often be inadequate; but without good laws and institutions, moral character and virtue will rarely flourish. Dr. Max Cameron can be reached by email at email@example.com.
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PIONEERING RESEARCH MAY LEAD TO EASING SEVERITY OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS AND LEUKEMIA IN PATIENTS THIS YEAR, DR. ROSSI’S RESEARCH HAS UNCOVERED ONE OF THE CAUSES OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS AND HE IS WORKING ON A WAY TO REDUCE THE SEVERITY OF THE DISEASE.
There is hope on the horizon for sufferers of multiple sclerosis and leukemia. New research conducted at the University of British Columbia has found a method of extending the life of those who suffer from leukemia. UBC professor and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, Dr. Fabio Rossi, conducts research on tissue responses to degenerative disease. This year, his research has uncovered one of the causes of multiple sclerosis and he is working on a way to reduce the severity of the disease. His work has shown that certain blood cells entering into the nervous system are responsible for the progression of multiple sclerosis and that if blocked, prevent the severity of the disease. Similarly, Dr. Rossi’s work has also found one potential cause of leukemia and he is currently testing a drug that may extend the life expectancy of leukemia patients. The protein that wraps around DNA is crucial for the survival of leukemic stem cells, and if eliminated, it can prolong the life of animals in which leukemia has been induced, explains Dr. Rossi. The drug has yet to be tested on humans, and Dr. Rossi says it may still take years before we know how it will impact the life of patients with leukemia. “The issue is now to see if the drug will be tolerated by animals, whether it will cure their leukemia, be tolerated by patients, make a difference to their survival, and whether or not it is the best drug to prescribe,” he warns. Dr. Rossi is considered a pioneer in tissue regeneration and his work is recognized for its new and holistic approach to regeneration. As Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the Wall Institute, Dr. Rossi examined the ethical and practical implications of recent advances in stem cell research.
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Dr. Rossi is considered a pioneer in tissue regeneration and his work is recognized for its new and holistic approach to regeneration.
His greatest satisfaction, he says, with his year as a 2011 Distinguished Scholar, was opening his mind to humanistic sciences and scholars. “The Institute exposed me again to a whole chunk of scholarship that I didn’t have any exposure to for quite some time and I think that enriched me very much,” he adds. Dr. Rossi first came to UBC as a Visiting Junior Scholar at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies before becoming full Professor and Research Chair in Regenerative Medicine at the university. Dr. Fabio Rossi can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cult Cinema: an Introduction Wiley-Blackwell, April 2011 By Ernest Mathijs and Jamie Sexton Ernest Mathijs, former Early Career Scholar at the Wall Institute and UBC Film Studies Professor, along with co-author Dr. Jamie Sexton, presents the first in-depth academic examination of all aspects of the field of cult cinema including audiences, genres, and theoretical perspectives. This book represents the first exhaustive introduction to cult cinema and offers a scholarly treatment of a hotly contested topic at the centre of current academic debate. It covers audience reactions, aesthetics, genres, theories of cult cinema, as well as historical insights into the topic.
Professor of Sociology at UBC, explores the influence of migration on changing cultural conceptions of race—for the newcomers, for their host society, and for those who remain in the countries left behind. Just as migrants can gain new language proficiencies, they can pick up new understandings of race. But adopting an American idea about race does not mean abandoning earlier ideas. New racial schemas transfer across borders and cultures spread between sending and host countries. Behind many current debates on immigration is the question of how Latinos will integrate and where they fit into the U.S. racial structure. Race Migrations shows that these migrants increasingly see themselves as a Latino racial group. Although U.S. race relations are becoming more “Latin Americanized” by the presence of Latinos and their views about race, race in the home countries is also becoming more “Americanized” through the cultural influence of those who go abroad. Ultimately, Roth shows that several systems of racial classification and stratification co-exist in each place, in the minds of individuals and in their shared cultural understandings of “how race works.”
Global Capitalism and the Future of Agrarian Society
Stanford University Press, 2012 By Wendy D. Roth In this ground breaking study of Puerto Rican and Dominican migration to the United States, Dr. Wendy D. Roth, former Early Career Scholar at the Peter Wall Institute and Assistant
The Institute has copies to give away. To come pick up your free copy at the Institute, please contact email@example.com.
THE WALL OF FAME Peter Wall Associate receives award from Canadian Pain Society
For more information, visit www.sup.org.
For more information, visit www.ca.wiley.com.
Race Migrations: Latinos and the Cultural Transformation of Race
in the People’s Republic of China which have had a major impact on contemporary transformations globally. Case studies from South and Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America in turn place these transformations in a comparative global perspective. The contributors include distinguished scholars from the UN, PRC, India, Zimbabwe, and Latin America who are also active in policy issues.
Published by Paradigm Publishers in collaboration with the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies Edited by Dr. Arif Dirlik, Associate Professor Roxann Prazniak and Dr. Alexander Woodside This book offers historical and comparative analyses of changes in agrarian society forced by the globalization of capitalism and the implications of these changes for human welfare globally. The book gives special attention to recent economic development and urbanization
Dr. Kenneth Craig, Peter Wall Associate and Distinguished Scholar in Residence, recently received the Outstanding Pain Mentorship Award from the Canadian Pain Society last spring. Throughout his career at UBC, dating back to 1963, he has been a sought-after supervisor and mentor. His trainees speak enthusiastically about his commitment to advancing pain research and management, as well as his ability to serve as an excellent role model. His numerous PhD students, postdoctoral fellows and research associates can be found at hospitals and clinics across the country, as well as at leading Canadian universities. Prior to becoming Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UBC, he served as Director of the Graduate Program in Clinical Psychology and was Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. He has also served as President of the Canadian Pain Society (CPS), the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA), and the British Columbia Psychological Association. -With files from the Canadian Pain Society
PETER WALL INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED STUDIES
EVENTS Distinguished Professor, Dr. Brett Finlay, awarded Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
OCTOBER 2012 International Roundtable public event FAIRNESS IN FINANCIAL MARKETS DANCE & DIALOGUE Dr. Janis Sarra, Director, Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, Margie Gillis, Choreographer and Dancer, Composer in Residence, Alfredo Santa Ana October 25, 2012 from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm Performance Centre-Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre, 181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver
Dr. Brett Finlay, Peter Wall Distinguished Professor, received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal on April 11, 2012. The Medal is awarded to Canadian citizens or permanent residents who have made significant contributions to Canada or for an outstanding achievement abroad that has brought great credit to Canada. Dr. Finlay also recently became an Elected Member of the German National Academy of Science in August, 2012.
Peter Wall Associate wins two awards from American Sociological Association
International Roundtable public event RISING FROM THE ASHES: RESILIENCE, ARTS AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION Dr. Michelle LeBaron, Faculty of Law, UBC, Dr. Cynthia Cohen, Brandeis University International Centre for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, Catherine Filloux, Award-winning playwright, New York, Mary Ann Hunter, Senior Lecturer in Arts and Education at the University of Tasmania, Australia and Dijana Milosevic, Director, Co-Founder of DAH Teatar Research Center, Belgrade October 25, 2012 from 7:30-9:00pm Performance Centre-Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre, 181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver NOVEMBER 2012 The Wall Hour WALL SOUNDSCAPE NO.1 Alfredo Santa Ana, Wall Composer in Residence, and Emily Molnar, Artistic Director of Ballet BC November 1, 2012 from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm The Plaza outside the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre (1088 Burrard Street) Scholars Café “THE MATERIAL ARCHIVE, OR WHY ARE THINGS GOOD TO THINK WITH?” Dr. Neil Safier, History
Assistant Professor of Sociology at UBC and Peter Wall Institute Faculty Associate, Dr. Amin Ghaziani, recently won Best Article Award as well as the Clifford Geertz Best Honorable Mention Award from the American Sociological Association for the article: Ghaziani, Amin and Delia Baldassarri. 2011. “Cultural Anchors and the Organization of Differences: A Multi-method Analysis of LGBT Marches on Washington.” American Sociological Review 76(2): 179-206 [lead article].
November 5, 2012, from 3:00pm to 4:00pm PWIAS Lounge International Visiting Research Scholar “ADDRESSING THE PANDEMIC OF PHYSICAL INACTIVITY ONE PATIENT AT A TIME” Dr. Carolyn (Raina) Elley; Associate Professor, Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Auckland, New Zealand
THE WALLPAPERS MAGAZINE FALL 2012
November 8, 2012 from12:30pm to 1:30pm Neville Scarfe 209. The Wall Hour “WHILE THE OCEANS SUFFOCATE, THE MICROBES WILL PLAY” Dr. Osvaldo Ulloa (International Visiting Research Scholar) University of Concepción, Chile November 15, 2012 from 12:30pm to 1:30 pm Allan Yap Biodiversity Theatre, UBC Beaty Biodiversity Museum Scholars Café “DOES PHYSICS PLAY A ROLE IN SOCIETY?” Dr. Ludovic Van Waerbeke, Physics Astronomy
November 19, 2012 from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm PWIAS Lounge Scholars Café “WHAT IS FAIR IN BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL TRANSACTIONS?” Dr. Ilan Vertinsky, Sauder School of Business and The Institute of Asian Research November 26, 2012 from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm PWIAS Lounge International Visiting Research Scholar public event “THE DISCOVERY OF A NEW STATE OF MATTER: THE TOPOLOGICAL INSULATORS” Dr. Giancarlo Panaccione November 27, 2012 from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm Advanced Materials and Process Engineering Laboratory (AMPEL), Brimacombe Building 2355 East Mall, UBC, Vancouver DECEMBER 2012 International Visiting Research Scholar public event “ESSENTIAL FACILITIES: AN IDEAS IN SEARCH OF A DOCTRINE” Professor Suzanne Scotchmer, University of California December 10, 2012 Location TBD
The 1st & 3rd Thursday of the month from 12:30 to 1:30pm
Join the conversation The Wall Hour is a new program effective September, 2012. The Institute will host one hour lunch time programs across campus and at several UBC affiliated venues on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month, September to May, open to all faculty and students. The Wall Hour offers an opportunity to showcase the research on campus, as well as to provide opportunities to hear about the research of exceptional international visiting scholars.
November 1, 2012 “Wall Soundscape No. 1” The Fountain Square outside the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre, 1088 Burrard Street November 15, 2012 “While the Oceans Suffocate, The Microbes Will Play” UBC’s Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Allan Yap Biodiversity Theatre, 2212 Main Mall
ISSUE 1 / FALL 2012 / PRINTED IN CANADA