SSHRC Imagining Canada's Future: Dialogic Design Co-Lab

"In the face of intensified urbanization worldwide, what do we see as the highest impact social and human challenges for Southern Ontario, now through 2030?"

Southern Ontario is witnessing increasing urbanization, and with it a host of changes, challenges and opportunities.  For example, younger people are known as early adopters of new technologies, yet older people are experiencing technologies and their consequences in surprising ways. By 2050, we expect a third of Canadians to be older than 65.  What kinds of services, societies, and care do we envision to support our communities in the face of these changes?  

In an unprecedented study, Canada's research council for social science and humanities, SSHRC, has commissioned six regional panels to understand and imagine possible futures for the country in a global context. Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab) at OCADUniversity is leading University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), Ryerson, Windsor and York universities and our combined intellectual communities.

sLab's participatory action research engages a diverse panel of academics, professionals, and students for a Co-laboratory workshop organized and facilitated according to principles of the Structured Dialogic Design methodology.  Dialogic Design is a multi-technique methodology based on human and computer-facilitated structuring of inquiry for a complex social or civic concern. Democratic by design, SDD produces strong consensus while avoiding cognitive biases, by adopting a series of language structures that conserve participant autonomy, authenticity, and shared commitment while mitigating group cognitive bias, power bias, and content complexity. 

The OCAD U-led project centred on an Expert Panel structured as a Dialogic Design (DD) Co-Laboratory to gather primary data, together with an Online Survey, a Public Workshop, and documentation of these activities on the Web. 

Focusing on urbanization as a key regional and global driver of change, the Expert panel was asked:

In the face of increasing urbanization worldwide, what future challenges
do we anticipate for Southern Ontario, now through 2030?

91 challenges were identified by the Expert Panel. On the Top Ten list are those challenges that are most influential on the other challenges, and highly related to the triggering question:

  1. Advancing a diverse and inclusive society
  2. Enabling equitable access to ICT
  3. Governing ourselves responsively
  4. Designing sustainable cities
  5. Overcoming fear of change
  6. Including indigenous rights in planning
  7. Transitioning to a digital economy
  8. Upgrading transportation systems
  9. Stewarding regional ecosystems
  10. Supporting our aging population

A follow up survey, and a public Design with Dialogue session correlated and expanded on the Expert Panel workshop findings.

In naming and assessing the influence of these future challenges, the expert panel considered both increasing urbanization globally and in Southern Ontario. Though urbanization trends will be most apparent in Canada’s large cities, all cities and communities will be affected by the transitions represented by the challenges.

For more information, please visit


This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

A photograph of Southern Ontario at night taken from the International Space Station
Monday, October 23, 2017 - 10:15am
Lab Member: 
Greg Van alstyne
Peter Jones
Suzanne Stein


A quipu. Photo by David Mcintosh.
Weavers in Peru. Photo by David McIntosh.

David McIntosh, an Associate Professor, Media Studies at OCAD U, is the recipient of a major Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Grant for a major research and creation project he’s leading called QUIPUCAMAYOC. McIntosh's project is a transmedia, translocal digital game that will be played simultaneously within two Andean communities, one in Cusco, Peru and the other in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The grant will fund project development for three years and is valued at $278,690.

McIntosh and his team of researchers are beginning with historical and geographical research into pre-colombian texts and remote communities referenced in those texts. The game concept began with the historical, Andean notion of quipu, a form of record-keeping based on knots in strings that was used in Inca society until the Spanish Conquest in 1532. Like a decimal system, each knot position, colour and twist in the string has meaning. QUIPUCAMAYOC refers to the keeper of these string memories. These were the traditional storytellers of a community, and any quipu that survived the Spanish colonization are sophisticated narrative devices, rich with stories of the past.

The game prototype McIntosh’s team will develop centres around both historical storytelling and contemporary communication between communities in Cusco and a neighbourhood in Buenos Aires. “I spent a lot of time in Cusco and Buenos Aires over the past ten years, and became aware of a large expatriate Peruvian community of textile factory workers in an area in Buenos Aires,” says McIntosh, who describes this neighbourhood as similar to Spadina and Kensington Market in Toronto, insofar as the concentration of immigrants in it has shifted over the years. What interested McIntosh was the fact that the Peruvian expats developed their own communication system back and forth between Cusco and the neighbourhood in Buenos Aires to make it easier to send money back to their families in Peru.

“I thought about the movement back and forth of money and people, and developed the idea of a game structure — a publically performed mix of performance and gaming using wearable game controllers that are also musical instruments that reunites these two Andean communities based on their shared history,” says McIntosh.

In addition to sound, gameplay will also include dancers and performance artists, culminating in a public fiesta which the public will both observe and participate in. In development of gameplay, McIntosh and his team will be working with local Peruvian and Argentinian musicians, choreographers, performers and game specialists and anthropologists.

“A lot of commercial gaming centres around first-person shooting,” says McIntosh. “My goal is to deploy digital media research and creation to push the boundaries of technological innovation in specific contexts. Where we go in our research will be propelled by creative outcomes, historical documents, questions of post-colonial reinterpretation and provocative ways we can engage gaming as a contemporary idiom.”

About David McIntosh

In addition to teaching at OCAD U, McIntosh is a visual artist, film producer, scriptwriter and curator. His PhD from York University focused on the rise of decentralized media structures and distributed networks. His research regularly brings him to Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Mexico and has multiple points of focus, including: globalization and the political economies of audiovisual spaces, network theories and practices, new media narrativity, mobile locative media, game theory, digital documents, Latin American media and queer media.

QUIPUCAMAYOC arose out of an earlier project McIntosh led, a new media documentary called Qosqo Llika, a mobile media documentary that invites participants to travel back in time to experience the cultural life Cusco, Peru in the 1930s.

McIntosh’s research team for QUIPUCAMAYOC includes:

Ricardo Dal Farra, Concordia University
Patricio Davila, OCAD U
Judith K. Doyle, OCAD U
Alan Durston, York University
Dot Tuer, OCAD U
Emma Westecott, OCAD U

The grant is one of two awarded to OCAD U (the other project funded is Richard Fung's RE:ORIENTATIONS).

Learn More

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) 

Original Quosqo Llika project

David McIntosh

Susan Ferguson at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Monday, June 2, 2014 - 4:00pm

Susan Ferguson, Manager of OCAD University’s Writing & Learning Centre and Centre for Innovation in Art & Design Education presented her paper “Embodied Writing and Decolonizing Knowledge Production” at the annual conference of the Canadian Sociological Association last week. The conference is part of the larger Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, held at Brock University.

Ferguson’s presentation was part of a roundtable session featuring contributors to an edited collection entitled Embodiment, Pedagogy and Decolonization: Critical and Material Considerations. The intention of the book is to consider how embodiment and embodied learning are taken up in pedagogical and decolonization theories and practices.

Abstract: “Embodied Writing and Decolonizing Knowledge Production”
This paper explores the possibilities of embodied writing for social research and its implications for decolonizing knowledge production about and of the body. While there has been considerable interest in issues of subjectivity and embodiment in social research, much scholarly writing about the body, health and subjectivity maintains the normative orders of Western academic knowledge production through its reliance upon dominant understandings of embodiment and writing practices that (re)produce disembodied relations to text. Drawing on my research regarding the social production of bodily pain, I will describe how I brought together feminist autobiography, phenomenologically-informed interpretive sociology and mindfulness meditation to develop an understanding of embodied writing practice and consider how it can support a project of decolonizing knowledge production.