Knowledge Synthesis Grants - Emerging Asocial Society

Description

Before the emergence of COVID-19, a number of observers were raising the alarm over a different public health crisis, one characterized by reports of higher levels of social isolation and loneliness, as well as increased rates of mental illnesses and antisocial behaviours. Dubbed the “loneliness epidemic,” the crisis has been attributed to a number of recent features of modern life, such as urbanization and the rise of one-person households. Social media, video games and virtual communities have also come under scrutiny, as questions are asked on why the loneliness epidemic is occurring at a time when people are more connected than ever before by technologies.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this societal crisis and much of the discourse surrounding the pandemic has centred on the importance of social connections. For some, the introduction of physical distancing measures has underscored the importance of shared rituals that reinforce intergenerational and community bonds and generate a sense of belonging. For others, the pandemic has shaken their belief that individuals could depend on increased social cohesion in times of crisis. Although its impacts have been felt differently across populations, the pandemic has increased awareness that loneliness, isolation and a sense of detachment from society are widespread challenges with profound health and socio-economic implications for individuals at all stages of life, as well as for society at large.

The social sciences, arts and humanities are ideally situated to address concerns about loneliness, isolation and extreme individualism. These subjective concepts can be experienced and expressed in a variety of ways at the societal and individual levels, and social constructs such as family and community often have specific cultural significance that evolves over time. To develop new tools and approaches that can foster and support relationships in the rapidly changing socio-economic landscape, a nuanced understanding is needed of the ways in which people have established and maintained connections in the past and the ways in which individuals now turn to technologies to express themselves, cultivate identities and seek out a sense of belonging.

The Emerging Asocial Society is one of 16 future challenge areas identified through SSHRC’s Imagining Canada’s Future initiative. These complex issues, identified in 2018 following an extensive foresight exercise, reflect key challenges that Canada is likely to face in an evolving global context over the coming decades. All of the challenges cross multiple sectors and research disciplines, and require broad collaboration to address.

SSHRC is launching a Knowledge Synthesis Grants funding opportunity to foster a deeper understanding of the state of knowledge regarding the growing sense of disconnection, isolation and loneliness in Canadian society. The resulting syntheses will identify roles that the academic, public, private and not-for-profit sectors can play in promoting more connected and resilient communities, and inform the development of effective tools, robust policies and sustainable practices required to support the transition to a more equitable, healthy and prosperous future.

Themes

The themes below illustrate the many interconnected issues that encompass the global challenge of the Emerging Asocial Society. The themes are intended to provide guidance to applicants, but proposals on other issues relevant to the challenge of the Emerging Asocial Society are also welcome.

Researchers are encouraged to consider the issues below through an intersectional lens, resulting in a better understanding of how these themes can affect different communities and populations in rural, remote and urban settings.

  • Historical context: Concepts such as community and family have evolved over centuries, and the past continues to influence the understanding of identity and social connections. How does the past continue to inform social behaviours, government policies and laws? What lessons can be learned from previous eras of social upheaval?
  • Physical surroundings: The world around us both reflects and influences how we interact with others. How does the physical landscape shape communities and social interactions in urban, rural and remote environments? What steps are being taken in Canada and the world to create safe, accessible spaces that bring people together through education and work, or through recreational and social activities such as sports and artistic performances? What might the blurring of boundaries between physical and virtual spaces mean in terms of loneliness and isolation?
  • Technologies: Technologies such as social media, virtual reality, gaming, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are increasingly mediating human interactions. How are technologies bringing people closer together and/or pushing them further apart? What role are digital communities playing in the lives of individuals? How might the use of new technologies promote healthy connections between individuals and create a more equitable society? How might they exacerbate existing inequalities?
  • Prosocial and antisocial behaviours: An increasing emphasis on individualism, a growing lack of trust in others, a decreased sense of connection and belonging—all are factors contributing to the decline of prosocial behaviours, such as volunteering, and the rise of radical antisocial behaviours. How are these behaviours being expressed, and what are the wider implications for Canadian society? Who is particularly vulnerable to antisocial influences, and what can be done to reach out to those engaged in such behaviours? What can be done to promote prosocial engagement and behaviours?
  • Expressions of belonging: Concepts such as loneliness and isolation are subjective and can take on different expressions in both public and private spheres, across all ages and communities. What rituals and practices are used to create and reinforce social connections and cultural identities? How are public gatherings changing as a result of technologies? How can visual and performing arts, film and literature contribute to the understanding of loneliness, isolation and belonging?

Eligibility: Applicants must be affiliated with an eligible Canadian institution. Postdoctoral researchers are eligible to be applicants if they have established a formal affiliation with an eligible institution at the time of application and maintain such an affiliation for the duration of the grant period. For more information on eligibility, please visit the agency website.

Website

December 17, 2021: Full Application Deadline. SFU signature sheet and application in “submit mode” are due to ors@sfu.ca no later than 3 business days before agency deadline.

Upcoming Deadlines

External
Internal
December 17, 2021December 17, 2021 Verified Date
December 14, 2021 Dec. 14, 2021 December 14, 2021 16:00:00 December 14, 2021 16:00:00 America/Vancouver Application Deadline: Knowledge Synthesis Grants - Emerging Asocial Society Before the emergence of COVID-19, a number of observers were raising the alarm over a different public health crisis, one characterized by reports of higher levels of social isolation and loneliness, as well as increased rates of mental illnesses and antisocial behaviours. Dubbed the “loneliness epidemic,” the crisis has been attributed to a number of recent features of modern life, such as urbanization and the rise of one-person households. Social media, video games and virtual communities have also come under scrutiny, as questions are asked on why the loneliness epidemic is occurring at a time when people are more connected than ever before by technologies. .

x