Lightning Talks, Week 2

During the second week of lightning talks, B21 scholars came together to share some of the ongoing developments taking place in their projects. Whereas the first week of talks allowed scholars to roughly articulate some of their opening research questions and interests, people began to further nuance these initial inquiries this week. One scholar likened her experience during the first week of the fellowship to that of opening a ‘Pandora’s Box’ of ideas: ideas which she began to further pare down and connect during the second week. After some preliminary reading and conversation throughout the previous week, it seemed that many of the scholars were similarly beginning to approach their projects from new angles, with more subtle and perceptive intentions in mind.

One common thread which ran through several of the talks pertained to the notion of utopia, as many scholars pointed out the ways in which their research might contribute to a more perfected reality. One scholar shared the developments of his project, in which he is seeking to conceive of the most ideal social network platform. This talk sparked a lively discussion among the scholars, as it raised basic and yet potent questions concerning topics such as the limitations of governance, the implications of immortality, and the challenge of distinguishing ‘reality’ from its virtual counterparts. Others seemed to deal with the notion of utopia by considering its shortcomings. In this, some noted their encounters with ideas and questions which they found themselves unable to respond to adequately. This observation brought to mind a new question: what is the ideal way to begin learning about something when the object of knowledge is necessarily indeterminate?

Many talks also converged around the notion of meta-learning, or the idea of learning about the processes by which learning takes place. One scholar commented, “I’m learning how I learn, and I think that the work that I’m doing here will translate back into how I go about my studies at McGill.” This concern differed from the first week of lightning talks, where people seemed to be more preoccupied with the content of their research as opposed to the methods by which they chose to go about exploring it. The question of understanding how one learns in many ways seems to precede the question of what one seeks to learn about, or why one seeks to learn about something to begin with. It is in sitting with this question that one becomes challenged to consider the particular approaches which will prove most conducive to doing rigorous intellectual work: something which in turn creates the possibility for a more thorough and insightful body of thought to emerge.

Post by Ty Cary

Ty Cary