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New interdisciplinary forum will WIDEN perspectives


An art historian’s interest in colour is obvious. But how does it differ from a biologist’s? Or a neurologist’s? A new discussion forum at UTSC will allow university community members to share their perspectives across disciplines on a series of topics.

“We think the series has enormous creative potential,” says Barry Freeman, professor of theatre and performance studies. Freeman and Alen Hadzovic, lecturer in chemistry, are organizing the series, called WIDEN UTSC.

Twice a session, the forum will bring together three UTSC speakers from different disciplines and ask them to talk about a general subject in a way that relates to their field of interest. Speakers will be drawn from faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students, and alumni.

“I think that there’s a real benefit to seeing a subject from a different angle, described with different language,” Freeman says. “We’re not often asked to speak outside of our disciplines.”

Freeman was introduced to the idea of the forum while a graduate student at the St. George campus, where fellow grad student Jessica Duffin Wolfe had organized the original WIDEN (Workshops For Inter-Discipline Exchange & Novelty) events. WIDEN groups have since sprung up at Massey College, Ryerson University, York University and for the city of Toronto.

Freeman came to UTSC in 2010, and in September 2011 was giving an orientation talk to new faculty. Hadzovic had just been hired, and after the talk the two began talking about their interest in a forum for interdisciplinary discussion. So they decided to found the WIDEN UTSC chapter.

The themes are intentionally broad, says Hadzovic, and are intended to give speakers a point of departure to discuss an interesting issue within their field.

The first forum will be called “On Colour,” and will feature an art historian, a neuroscientist, and an ecologist.

Erin L. Webster, UTSC lecturer in art history, will talk about the problems of colour in reproductions of art works, and how art historians develop an ability to ignore colour in assessing a work in reproduction.

Anosha Zanjani, an undergraduate in mental health studies and neuroscience, will discuss the role that “warm” and “cool” colour schemes have in how people feel about residential spaces, and the ways manipulating these colours in computerized “walkthroughs” affects our perception of the spaces.

Cindy Bongard, a graduate student in ecology, will discuss how invasive plant species such as purple loosestrife can literally change the colour of a landscape. She will also talk about possible solutions to the problem of invasive species.

The forum will take place Monday, February 27 from 2-3:30 pm in the Leigha Lee Browne Theatre. Those interested in attending should RSVP

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