Culture | Community Co-Laboration

Interdisciplinary forum brings together different schools of thought

As pre school aged children, we are all taught to share and to cooperate with one another. It seems, however, that once we outgrow the swing set, we also outgrow this sentiment. Being a student in a post-secondary institution can often be a secluded experience, and it’s easy to get caught up in individual work within the confines of our own classes, faculties, and disciplines. The issue, however, may not be that we no longer feel the need to co-conspire and collaborate but, rather, that once we’ve matured past the playground, we are left without a conducive arena in which to do so. After reflecting upon this lack of a space to share, two former McGill students, Leah Pires and Kira Josefsson, decided to take action. Thus, Co-Lab was conceived.

Co-Lab bills itself as an informal idea sharing event, and, after the success of the first installment this past summer, Debbie So and Emily Kaibock have taken the reins to produce a second incarnation to take place on Friday, September 9. “It’s really celebrating people in our [McGill and Montreal academic] community and what they do, and acknowledging that everyone is doing these amazing things,” So told The Daily in a phone interview. The event will feature a series of talks by individuals researching and working in a variety of fields, with topics ranging from Japanese experimental cinema of the sicties, to restorative justice and the prison system, to paranormal activity in Montreal. Discussion will be encouraged, and the entire affair will be served up along with snacks and drinks.

While So describes the first Co-Lab event as a highly successful endeavour, this new episode will have a few minor alterations. So noted, “We had a little tighter submissions process” in order to keep the event to a more reasonable length. Yet even with increased curation, So stressed that they “still want to keep it really open.”

The openness that the organizers are seeking helps illustrate how Co-Lab was, in part, designed to break down what So calls “the isolating structure of school.” In a regular academic context, she posits that after a paper is written, submitted, and filed or thrown away, “that knowledge is kind of lost.” Co-Lab may present a way to help extend the lifespan of the masses of knowledge that students acquire through their enthusiastic academic efforts.

Another primary objective is the forming of interdisciplinary connections, and the opening of discourse among seemingly disparate fields. “I think it’s a great opportunity for people to kind of make links between topics that they didn’t think had links before,” So explained. “There is so much to be gained from thinking in an interdisciplinary manner.”

As a platform for idea sharing, it’s clear that Co-Lab’s success hinges largely on ensuring that people are willing and able to address their peers and present their work. According to Aaron Vasnintjan, one of the individuals behind The Plant, the venue where Co-Lab is held, creating a positive environment is crucial to making this happen. “What we really want is for people to be able to feel good about standing in front of other people, and feeling confident that they can say what they are interested in,” Vansintjan explained in an interview with The Daily. “I think what would be really nice is if the event has a very friendly atmosphere, definitely non-judgmental, and encourages people to talk, and then hopefully people will really start getting excited about each other.”

As grown-up students in the world of academia, it may be impossible to go back to the times of sharing in the sandbox.

However, with events like Co-Lab, we may, in fact, be able to break down our academic boundaries, and just get back to playing together.

Co-Lab will be held Friday, September 9 at 5p.m. at The Plant. Check Facebook for more details.


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