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National Science Foundation grant awarded to FLAS fellow on Arctic research


March 30, 2016

In 2015 Jason Young, a current FLAS fellow and doctoral candidate in the Department of Geography, was awarded a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement (DDRI) Grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant, which was awarded jointly by the Geography and Spatial Sciences Program and the Arctic Social Sciences Program, is designed to fund Jason’s dissertation project titled, “Use of Digital Technologies by Inuit for Environmental Activism.” This project examines Inuit use of digital media, from traditional Internet pages to social media applications, to engage in discussions about the Arctic environment as it is increasingly transformed by global climate change. The Arctic is experiencing a period of dramatic physical change, with impacts being directly felt by the animal populations that Inuit have long relied upon for their livelihoods. Unfortunately, policy responses to these environmental changes do not always fully incorporate or represent Inuit knowledge, or Inuit Qaujimanituqangit, of the Arctic. This research therefore asks whether the Internet might provide one stage for Inuit to make their views more globally represented. Early research indicates that Inuit have been using social networking sites, in particular, to connect with one another around issues of regeneration and to organize politically. Jason’s project extends that research to the domain of environmental politics, and to better understand whether the Internet provides a space for discussion between Inuit and other groups (such as scientists, environmental activists, and policy makers).

This year Jason has been working on the first segment of the project, a quantitative and qualitative survey of how a wide range of websites discuss environmental issues in the Arctic. This research will provide a baseline understanding of how the Arctic is discussed online, and whether Inuit views are included in these discussions. The bulk of the NSF grant will be used to travel to Iglulik, Nunavut, Canada this coming summer for research. Jason is excited to speak with Inuit in Iglulik, to find out about how they use the Internet, whether they view the Web as a good resource for educating non-Inuit audiences about Arctic issues, and whether there are certain aspects of Inuit knowledge that cannot be expressed digitally. He also feels quite lucky to be able to talk with members of the Inuit organization Isuma Production, which seeks to spread and reinvigorate Inuit culture through the production and use of new media. Isuma has engaged in several projects, which seek to design Web resources so that they explicitly incorporate Inuit ways of knowing in their design and content. Jason hopes that the project will advance our understandings of the political potential of the Internet for indigenous communities as they react to environmental change. He also can’t wait to be back up in the Arctic!

The Canadian Studies Center is a recipient of a U.S. Department of Education Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships program grant. The grant provides allocations of academic year and summer fellowships to assist meritorious graduate students undergoing training in modern foreign languages and Canadian Studies. The Canadian Studies Center is extremely proud in having awarded several Fellowships in least-commonly taught Canadian Aboriginal languages including Inuktitut, Dane-zaa, Musqueam Salish, and Anishinaabemowin.

The National Science Foundation’s Division of Social and Economic Sciences and Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences award grants to doctoral students to improve the quality of dissertation research. These grants provide funds for items not normally available through the student’s university. Additionally, these grants allow doctoral students to undertake significant data-gathering projects and to conduct field research in settings away from their campus that would not otherwise be possible. Proposals are judged on the basis of their scientific merit, including the theoretical importance of the research question and the appropriateness of the proposed data and methodology to be used in addressing the question.