Guelph Profs Look Back on 2014, Make Predictions for 2015

University of Guelph professors lend their expertise on the big stories of 2014, what to expect in 2015 and what you can do to make changes in your own life through New Year’s resolutions. Professors discuss the latest trends and make predictions in politics, photography and technology. In addition, tips are given on how to make New Year’s resolutions successful.

Politics

For Prof. Byron Sheldrick, Political Science, 2014 was the year of provincial stories making front-page news.

“The election of Kathleen Wynne with a majority government in Ontario certainly was a huge surprise,” he said.

“But there were big stories coming out of other provinces as well, such as the Parti Quebecois defeat. The collapse of Alison Redford’s government in Alberta, with her resignation and replacement by Jim Prentice, made headlines.”

Sheldrick expects federal politics, with a fall election scheduled, to be more newsworthy in 2015. The Liberals and Conservatives are polling fairly even at the moment.

“The Liberals, under Justin Trudeau, have made inroads and could return to office; Stephen Harper will be hard-pressed to reverse his party’s fortunes,” Sheldrick said.

“At the same time, the NDP under Thomas Mulcair have not disappeared, as many might have expected after the death of Jack Layton. The NDP polls very strongly in Quebec and might build on their stunning electoral result in the last election. The Conservatives may slip up the middle and salvage a victory.”

He expects events around the world, including falling oil prices and conflicts in Ukraine and Iraq, to play a role in Canadian politics and the economy.

“Low oil prices, and a low Canadian dollar, will negatively impact resource-dependent provinces such as Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador, but it will be good news for Ontario manufacturing. Global conflict will be important, but not central to many Canadians. However, our role in ‘the war on terror’ will be one of intense debate.”

Photography

Changes in how photos are created and viewed continue to affect the art world, said Prof. Susan Dobson, School of Fine Art and Music. In 2014, many artists turned to earlier forms of photography.

“The most thought-provoking and widely debated photography exhibition in 2014 was the exhibition What Is A Photograph? at the International Center for Photography in New York City, curated by Carol Squiers,” she said.

“The exhibition examined how artists have responded to the ongoing technological revolution in photography. What may be surprising to some is that many of the artists in the exhibition do not use digital cameras and do not always depict recognizable subject matter, but instead have embraced more abstract and material-based methods of working, which includes the use of old analogue materials and processes.”

Dobson expects to see more photo-based artists using analogue processes and materials in 2015.

She said many amateur photographers will continue to take photos and post them online but not print their shots.

“We are losing the material quality of amateur photography, and the huge volume of images on the Internet points to the clichéd and endless repetition of subject matter. I like to challenge new photographers to use their imagination and photograph the world around them in a new way rather than focusing too much on the technology itself. This is what will make their images memorable.”

Technology

2014 may be seen as the year when digital security breaches made headlines , said Prof. Stefan Kremer, Computer Science.

Security systems on the servers of well-known companies were cracked, leading to private photos of celebrities being posted online, credit card info stolen from retail store servers and confidential information from Sony being in the news.

“People are beginning to wise up about security and privacy after these leaks and breaches,” Kremer said.

“I believe this will cause a reluctance by many people to put data online. At the same time companies are only beginning to understand the legal liabilities as well as the risks to customer trust resulting from this.”

Kremer said companies will devote more resources to establishing best practices for security.

“There will be a focus on improving security, developing contingency plans, investigative measures, and litigation options for responding to breaches.”

Locally, Kremer said he expects the technology industry in the tri-cities area to thrive.

“Lots of smaller scale Canadian tech companies will continue to excel, especially in the area of software,” he said.

“Canada is also great for innovation. Many terrific ideas start here and then get bought or leased internationally.”

Looking more globally, Kremer said smart watches may get some interest from consumers, but adds that “the much more interesting move is with device-based payments.  This is flying under the radar now, but will, I think, become a new revenue source for the mobile industry. “

New Year’s Resolutions

For many Canadians, a new year means a chance to make resolutions. But many of those resolutions fail, says University of Guelph psychology professor Ian Newby-Clark.

“Self-change fails because people focus on changing habits. Habits are ingrained behaviours, and ingrained behaviours are hard to change,” he said.

“One big mistake is being too over-ambitious; we need to make plans that are more realistic. For example, many people look to be healthier, so maybe aim to jog three days a week, instead of all seven.”

Newby-Clark said another helpful tip is to ask a close family member or friend — someone who can be honest with you — to give feedback on your resolutions.

“I would also say that, if you want to make 2015 different, a good step is to make mini-plans. These can be seen as smaller resolutions that help you towards your bigger goal. For example, if you want to save a lot of money, maybe aim to cut back on eating out.”

Newby-Clark said that, while it might be discouraging to fail at resolutions, it still makes sense to make them.

“It’s always good to resolve to improve your life, whether it is at New Year’s or another time. I would urge people, though, to resist feeling compelled to make a resolution simply because the calendar is changing.”

He said the important thing with any resolution is to stick with it.

“Don’t be discouraged by the occasional failure. The important thing is to keep going and not give up. Stick to your realistic plan, and your new behaviour will soon become a habit.”