2023 Year End Review: Bots, food and cultural festivals

As we bid farewell to another remarkable year, The Source Newspaper takes great pride in reflecting upon the myriad narratives that we have told this year. The Source has always been a platform for stories that celebrate diversity and showcase the unique voices, experiences and contributions of individuals and groups from various backgrounds, fostering a sense of unity and appreciation for the multicultural mosaic that exemplifies our community.

Throughout 2023, our reporters touched on many subjects including the immense influence of artificial intelligence (AI), the cultural significance of traditional dishes and the city’s many music, dance, film and art festivals celebrating people from diverse backgrounds. Before we head into the new year, let’s take a look back at some of those stories we’ve brought you this past year.

Reshaping human living with AI

Artificial intelligence, with its transformative capabilities, has emerged as a game changer across many fields of human life, and reporters at The Source Newspaper have delved into several instances where AI has made a significant impact.

In May, reporter Sava Rozsnyai wrote about OpenAI’s ChatGPT, an online tool able to generate images and text through prompts. The tool has revolutionized the way people research, study and do business but has also raised ethical and practical questions about its place in society. While the educational sector like the Vancouver School Board and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme has accepted and sanctioned ChatGPT’s inevitable presence into classrooms, workplaces like Apple and Citigroup underwent re-evaluations of workflows and employee policies finding concerns about bias and conflicts of interest. Perhaps the biggest takeaway regarding AI would be for human regulators to keep up with – and stay ahead of – fast-moving technological advances in order to regulate it for the common good.

Reporter Ramy Khattab spoke with SFU professor Judith Zaichkowsky in March on the effects AI had on retail and consumer shopping habits. For Zaichkowsky, bots like Google Home and Amazon Alexa capitalized on people’s desire for convenience by automating online ordering and payment and offering next day delivery. As bots continue to make inroads into people’s lives, trust will grow and make shopping experiences feel more intuitive, making purchases seem more natural and credible. But she also cautions that as convenience grows, consumer privacy and choice may be placed in jeopardy.

As people age, bots can not only make people’s lives easier but can also provide companionship and meaning. In October, reporter Katrianna Desante interviewed UBC researcher Lillian Hung, whose Innovation in Dementia & Aging lab has been using social robots in long-term care homes to see whether these robots can help mitigate intense feelings of loneliness. These social robots were very advanced, being able to sense events and respond intelligently like a pet might. Many seniors who interacted with the robots were excited to play with them and were already forming deep bonds and may serve as a promising avenue to alleviate loneliness in the twilight years.

“It’s like a friend to you, and it’s a companion,” Hung said. “There is no doubt that the robot brought joy and happiness to people during the time they were with them.”

Unveiling stories behind every bite

Food holds a profound significance in many cultures, serving not only as vital nourishment but also as a powerful expression of traditions, identity and shared experiences. It intertwines with discussions of food security and sovereignty, emphasizing the link between cultural heritage and sustainable access to diverse and ethically sourced nutrition and brings people together through the shared joy of a good meal.

In July, reporter Martina Petkov examined the topic of Indigenous food sovereignty. Amidst the changing climate and the global degradation of arable land, farming research centres have turned to the Indigenous peoples for ideas to promote sustainable food practices that preserve biodiversity and ecological balance. Petkov spoke with Deanna Miller from the Katzie First Nation who followed in her Indigenous culture’s practice of harvesting flora and fauna to use as food and medicine. Miller believed that preserving traditional Indigenous knowledge of fishing, gardening and farming is an important counterbalance to the encroachment of capitalism and industrialism engulfing the world.

In September, reporter and deputy editor Curtis Seufert spoke with SFU Food Labs research director Tammara Soma who produced a CBC documentary exploring how communities across Western Canada use food to connect with their culture and themselves. For Soma, her journey of learning and teaching about food systems involved a profound process of reconnecting with her culture after initially viewing food as an adversary due to societal influences on body image. In contrast to North America’s commoditized and unequal food system, Soma stressed the importance of food-sharing and building community bonds to shape a more equitable food landscape.

“I see a lot of beautiful ways that different cultures approach food, different community organizations, different leaders. But I don’t often see their voices represented,” Soma said. “I want to give viewers a bit more of that, a glimpse of what we can offer to Canada.”

Diving into cultural tapestries

One of the many benefits of living in a richly multicultural and cosmopolitan city like ours is being able to check out the various vibrant cultural events and festivals that frequently happen in our city. The reporters of The Source Newspaper have covered several of them over the past year.

This past summer, reporter Cynthia Le Taillanter-dos Santos wrote about the Taiwanese Canadian Cultural Festival, whose aim was to increase the public knowledge and appreciation of Taiwanese art and culture as part of an ethnocultural community here in Canada. Paper art, Atayal First Nation dancing, a puppet troupe and ethnic orchestras were hosted at the festival. The festival organizers hope that these and similar festivals build an inclusive event for Taiwanese culture with all the different cultures in Canada.

For Latin American Heritage Month in October, reporter Elaha Amani covered their cultural centre’s program on Chilean culture, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Chilean military coup of Sept. 11, 1973 and recognizing the arrival and contributions of Chileans and Latin Americans in Canada. The Chilean community has a long history in British Columbia, going back as far as the 1860’s, when a Chilean settlement called North Valparaiso was established on Vancouver’s North Shore. Music, film screenings, theatre plays and performances were hosted, including the music and art of the Nuevo Canción movement from the 1960s which reflected the struggles of the Chilean people and the shared ideology of a unified continental identity and solidarity with all movements in Latin American communities around the world, including here in B.C.

Last month, reporter Sandrine Jacquot wrote about Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights celebrated in India and Indian diasporic communities throughout the world, including in the Lower Mainland. The many diverse rituals and festivities held during the festival, such as lighting clay oil lamps called diyas, a ceremony to apply henna and a pre-wedding ceremony that involves applying turmeric paste to a bride and groom, are viewed as opportunities for loved ones to gather and embark on prosperous new beginnings. Events like Diwali are amazing occasions for community members to celebrate their heritage and showcase their talent to the place they now call home.

“There’s a lot of people here with a South Asian background, who have either lived here forever – but didn’t really have a central place to celebrate – or people who are newcomers, who are looking for that kind of connection to festivities back home,” Kriti Dewan, creative director for Diwali Fest said. “It’s an inclusive event for anyone who wants to come and experience the joy of Diwali.”

The Source Newspaper would like to express our gratitude to our readers, contributors, and community for joining us on our storytelling journey. We remain dedicated to being an avenue of knowledge, inspiration and connection, bringing you the stories of the people living, working and creating in our community and we can’t wait to report on the unfolding narratives 2024 will bring. Have an amazing New Year everyone!