The Research Triangle Park

Debating at RTP 180

By Oct 27, 2016

We took a break from our usual #RTP180 format this month to host a debate. No, not a heated, name-calling political debate but instead, a nice spirited discussion on a few topics that affect our region and nation as a whole. The three topics included the effects of social media on our culture and communication skills, the transit challenges we face as a region, and the concern over using GMO tactics versus a more organic style of farming. Instead of jokes and one-liners, I played a more serious role this month as the moderator.  A refreshing change I’m sure people enjoyed as they didn’t have to hear me ask questions like, “What type of shoes do bananas wear”? Slippers, of course.

Our first round focused on social media in which we invited Matt Sutor, social media manager for the Durham Bulls and Dr. Mitch Prinstein Director of Clinical Psychology at UNC Chapel Hill. Matt spends most of his days deep in the trenches of the Bulls’ social media accounts (their Twitter account alone has almost 50,000 followers) conversing with fans, foes, and keeping the banter going with folks of all ages. Dr. Mitch on the other hand is busy researching, alongside his grad students, adolescent peer interactions on social media and links with psychological adjustment. Although they mainly agree on most points, there was still a few varying viewpoints on how social media is affecting our culture. Watch the video below to view their entire segment:

  

The second segment for the evening was focused on transit and how we combat the growing number of people moving to our great area. I believe a number of around 300-400 people move to the RTP / Triangle area every week. For this segment we invited Mike Charbonneau, the director of marketing and communications at GoTriangle and Dr. Seth Hollar, an engineer with an extensive background in autonomous vehicle systems and simulation and current faculty member at NC State University. Some of the key take-a-ways from this healthy discussion included the idea that we should have a fee on vehicle usage and that there will be a day where buses will operate autonomously (does this not freak anyone else out?). If you’re even the slightest bit curious about our transit problem and future plans, I encourage you to watch this discussion:

  

Our final segment, on food supply and how to appropriately feed the masses, spurred a little bit more of a debate than our first two segments. Hope Hart who is currently the Technical Leader of the Product Safety Molecular Characterization Team at Syngenta squared off against Leigh-Kathryn Bonner, the founder and CEO of Bee Downtown, a business that combats the dwindling population of honey bees. While both ladies are extremely passionate about the role they each play to combat this growing issue, they kept the debate extremely cordial and professional. One states that a genetically modified organism (GMO) produced crop with the right supervision and processes in place poses no threat to the environment and to us as consumers while the other strongly disagrees and prefers that we stick to a more organic way of producing and consuming food. However, each side of the topic produces a list of pros and cons. Curious as to how they each propose we combat this growing issue? Watch their entire segment below:

  

Overall, we had a fun night filled with varying topics and points of views. It’s great to hear people talk about their passion and back it up when faced with a little push back in the form of a debate. We would like to thank all of our participants for being involved, remaining civil, and providing us with great insight into their world.

We’ll see you next month on November 17th as we discuss Sustainability!

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