Bringing Peace into Conversations of Technology

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Logo of peacetech
How do peace and technology interact? What are the social and environmental implications of new technologies? In what ways does military research and development undergird technological advancements? These are a few questions that students wrestle with in the PeaceTech Living-Learning Community at Conrad Grebel University College and the University of Waterloo. PeaceTech Living-Learning Community aims to reduce violent conflict around the world at the intersection of technology, media, and data. It is a collaborative environment where students and mentors work together to imagine, develop, and launch tools to implement social change through the fields of peace and technology. PeaceTech Peer Leaders Timothy Peters, Devin Blankespoor, and Hannah Bernstein share how their time in PeaceTech has shaped their understanding of peace and technology in today’s society.

As a Chemical Engineering student, Timothy Peters felt that PeaceTech added a human aspect to technology. “It's easy to just focus on the concepts and numbers that we are taught in class, but being a part of PeaceTech has helped me to see the impacts and the people behind those numbers and add more humanity to my studies,” shared Timothy.

PeaceTech community provides a safe and welcoming space for students to explore and discuss many different viewpoints relating to peace and technology. “The community has enhanced my academic experience by providing an opportunity to connect with a group to discuss topics that I would never cover in my courses,” explained Devin Blankespoor, a Mathematical Physics student. “I believe the unique perspectives brought by each member to discussions is invaluable to opening my eyes to different ways of looking at the world."

The PeaceTech Living-Learning community stands out from other living-learning communities as it is not exclusively for first-year students, and it is not affiliated with one program of study. Therefore, Students from different disciplines, such as Hannah Bernstein, a Nanotechnology Engineering student, can participate in PeaceTech and enhance their learning experience in PeaceTech. “PeaceTech has helped me on my learning journey both in and out of the classroom by encouraging me to think critically about technology, helping me to become a more human-centered designer,” shared Hannah.

The PeaceTech Living-Learning Community enhances in-class learning by organizing conversations, forums, and events on technology, peace, social entrepreneurship, and more. PeaceTech is supported by the Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement. Staff at the Centre offer mentorship to the PeaceTech Peer Leaders and connects the Living-Learning community with experts working at the intersection of peace and technology.

The interdisciplinary nature of the PeaceTech Living-Learning Community facilitates opportunities for participants to network, as well as expand their knowledge about peace and technology through various events such as hackathons, pitch competitions, and incubator programs. “We need interdisciplinary approaches to address the complex challenges created by new technologies, and to find creative ways of using technology to support efforts to build peace.” said Paul Heidebrecht, Director of Kindred Credit Union Centre of Peace Advancement. “Every field of study and practice brings both weaknesses and powerful insights, but when working together, the whole can be more than the sum of the parts,”

“The PeaceTech Living-Learning Community gathers people from all faculties and walks of life to discuss the issues facing our world today from a variety of viewpoints,” said Timothy. “This community has influenced my career goals in such a way that I now look more closely at the impact that my actions are having on the world around me.”

By Ashitha Mantrawadi