Events: Concordia University Risk Research Working Group

2021

Gamebling breakdown – A planning workshop

In collaboration with the Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) Research Center.

Join us virtually (on Zoom) on Monday, December 6, 2021, 2-4pm EDT, for the GameBling BreakDown

We’re gathering TAGsters and a few others in order to collectively think about a free-to-play gambling game. We’ll play the game itself, critically reflect on and break down its design, and take a shallow dive into its ontology. In the end we’ll plan a couple of Winter Term Workshops designed to dig further into the design innovations and implications of GameBling with an eye toward repurposing, remixing, and remaking what we find.

Zoom Registration Info

Please register in advance for this meeting:

https://concordia-ca.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcuc-CvrD8iG9XzW6A_lb74SXs-L0ZJMWGa

Everyone Welcome! Although this event will be primarily in English, French-language participation is more than welcome, and we will have people on hand who can translate back-and-forth.

More information is available on the TAG website

2019

Risk, uncertainty and societies: developments and innovations in the sociology of risk

Coordinators:

  • Mathieu Charbonneau (Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy, Concordia University)
  • Martin French (Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Concordia University)

The sociology of risk is one of the most innovative fields in contemporary sociology. In the context of the crisis of the 1920s, economists Frank H. Knight and John M. Keynes were among the first to develop reflections on risk in the social sciences. It is therefore surprising to see the emergence of the sociology of risk only in the early 1980s, a sociological specialization that is still struggling to gain institutional recognition in the French-speaking academic world. In his presidential address to the American Sociological Association, James F. Short (1984) expressed concern about the fragmentation of sociology and its incapacity to offer a counterweight to the hyperspecialized discourse of the technoscientific management of risk. However, both risk as an object and the sociology of risk as a field of knowledge intersect with an number of sociological sub-disciplines: science and technology, environment, social movements, work individuation, organizations, health, crime, sports and leisure, markets and finance.

Despite the publication of reference works and limited syntheses, French-speaking sociology has been slow to systematically invest in the sociology of risk, but also in some of the most fertile subfields cleared by this contemporary sociology, such as insurance, surveillance and catastrophe.

Objectives – By contributing to the synthesis of knowledge, this colloquium aims first of all to clarify the main lines of research in the current sociology of risk in order to foster theoretical and empirical innovation, while highlighting the “discursive swelling” of risk and the limits of the sociological concept of risk. The sociology of risk is itself part of the context of the “social question of risk”, which emerged in the 1950s and 1960s with the opposition movements to nuclear energy, which developed in the 1970s around the global environmental question and the ecology movements, and which finally grew stronger around the controversies on biotechnological innovations. This colloquium also aims to reflect on the position and orientations of the sociology of risk in the face of the monopoly of techno-scientific and probabilistic management and of economic sciences on knowledge and public policies of risk management.

2018

HIV AND THE CRIMINALIZATION OF SICKNESS

TREVOR HOPPE, UNIVERSITY OF ALBANY, STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK

From the very beginning of the epidemic, AIDS was linked to punishment. Calls to punish people living with HIV – mostly stigmatized minorities – began before doctors could even name the disease. Punitive attitudes towards AIDS prompted lawmakers around the country to introduce legislation aimed at criminalizing the behaviors of people living with HIV. Punishing Disease explains how this happened and with what consequences. Now that the door to criminalizing sickness is open, what other ailments will follow? With lawmakers moving to tack on additional diseases such as hepatitis and meningitis, the question is more than academic.

Discussants:

Alexander McClelland, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture Concordia University

Léa Pelletier-Marcotte Avocate & Coordonnatrice – Programme Droits de la personne et VIH/Sida COCQ-SIDA


WHY DO WE HURT OURSELVES?

Why does a significant part of the general population intentionally and repeatedly hurt themselves? What are the reasons certain people resort to self-injury as a way to manage their daily lives? In Why Do We Hurt Ourselves (published in English and French), sociologist Baptiste Brossard draws on a five-year survey of self-injurers and suggests that the answers can be traced to social, more than personal, causes. Self-injury is not a matter of disturbed individuals resorting to hurting themselves in the face of individual weaknesses and difficulties. Rather, self-injury is the reaction of individuals to the tensions that compose, day after day, the tumultuousness of their social life and position. Self-harm is a practice that people use to self-control and maintain order—to calm down, or to avoid “going haywire” or “breaking everything.” More broadly, through this research Brossard works to develop a perspective on the contemporary social world at large, exploring quests for self-control in modern Western societies.

Biography—Dr. Baptiste Brossard
Dr. Baptiste Brossard is a Lecturer with The Australian National University (ANU) School of Sociology. He completed his Ph. D. in Sociology at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) and the École Normale Supérieure de Paris and worked as a Post-doctoral Fellow at the University of Montréal before taking up his current position with the ANU.

Discussant—Professor Valérie de Courville Nicol
Dr. Valérie de Courville Nicol is a Professor with Concordia University’s Department of Sociology & Anthropology. Her risk-related research examines the social processes by which collective fears and desires come into being, with a focus on processes of emotional socialization, forms of emotion management, popular forms of literature on moral and emotional danger, and psychological and other therapeutic discourses and practices pertaining to emotional health. She is interested in what is socially construed as emotional risk, in how emotional risk is collectively experienced, in what affective signs are attached to emotional risk, and in how emotional risk orients individual and collective action through its association with particular capacities and solutions.


RISK AND RUMOR: MEDIATING PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE ABOUT COMMUNICABLE DISEASE

Zika Virus Cross-Section

Marcelo Garcia—The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) & Visiting Scholar (2018-2019), Sociology & Anthropology, Concordia University

Risk, rumors, and production of senses about 2015/2016 zika and microcephaly epidemics on social networks (Garcia and colleagues)
The epidemic of zika and microcephaly occurred in the summer of 2015/2016 was one of the most critical public health emergencies in Latin America in this century and had as a striking feature the wide circulation of virtual rumors, impacting the public policies and actions. We analyzed the main narratives that circulated in Whatsapp during the acute phase of the epidemic, from November 2015 to February 2016.  After that, we studied how three Facebook’s page registered the epidemics (of a national distributed journal, of a local newspaper of the state most affected by the epidemic, and of one of the public health institutions that were most prominent in the episode). We also studied the public participation in comments on posts published by these pages and related explicitly with hoaxes. We observed that the production of an environment of high uncertainty was related with three main factors: 1) the lack of knowledge about the disease, 2) the imaginary of risk related to the development of science, and 3) the political and institutional crisis in Brazil. Two points served as fertile substrate for rumors: why an epidemics of microcephaly like that were never registered before and why the microcephaly cases were concentrated just in the Northeast of Brazil. Our findings raised some issues, for example, about the ambiguous relationship with the scientific authority established in the rumors and about the different temporalities between the science under construction, the press routines and the population immediacy. As final reflection, we highlight that the confluence of an era of mediatization and risk culture, where science loses its status as truth and the truth itself becomes more fluid, post-truth, the social networks kind of “institutionalize” diffuse and confusing places of speech, where comments circulate almost in equality with more qualified discourses, that’s proper for the dissemination of hoaxes.

Ketra Schmitt—Associate Professor with the Centre for Engineering in Society in the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science

Communicable Diseases and Vaccine Hesitancy (Schmitt and colleagues)
It is well established in the epidemiological literature that individual behaviors have a significant effect on the spread of infectious diseases. Agent-based models are increasingly being recognized as the next generation of epidemiological models. In this research, we use the ability of agent-based models to incorporate behavior into simulations by examining the relative importance of vaccination and social distancing, two common measures for controlling the spread of infectious diseases, with respect to seasonal influenza. We modeled health behaviour using the result of a Health Belief Model study focused on influenza. We considered a control and a treatment group to explore the effect of education on people’s health-related behaviors patterns. The control group reflects the behavioral patterns of students based on their general knowledge of influenza and its interventions while the treatment group illustrates the level of behavioral changes after individuals have been educated by a health care expert. The results of this study indicate that self-initiated behaviors are successful in controlling an outbreak in a high contact rate location such as a university. Self-initiated behaviors resulted in a population attack rate decrease of 17 % and a 25 % reduction in the peak number of cases. The simulation also provides significant evidence for the effect of an HBM theory-based educational program to increase the rate of applying the target interventions (vaccination by 22 % percent and social distancing by 41 %) and consequently to control the outbreak.

2017

What is “Open Science” Supposed to Fix?: A Philip Mirowski Talk

A talk organized with the Milieux Institute

Openness was supposed to save science. Heralded as modern science’s saving grace, the “open science” movement had its debut among the scientific and general community in the last 15 years, reputedly to render the field more accessible and democratic.

In this talk, historian and philosopher of economic thought Philip Mirowski deconstructs the emergence of and current craze for “openness.” Starting with the work of some historians of science, he explores the indictments of the older regime of science by its advocates, and then outlines the neoliberal realizations of the program. The proper frame of understanding involves the quest to have the market validate truth and to Taylorize the scientific process.

More information available here.


Surveillance Studies and Blackness: A Field Guide

A talk organized in collaboration with Concordia University’s Black Studies Event Series

This talk situates blackness as an absented presence in the field of surveillance studies, and questions how a realization of the conditions of blackness—the historical, the present, and the historical present—can help social theorists understand our contemporary conditions of surveillance.

Simone Browne is Associate Professor in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She teaches and researches surveillance studies, digital media and black diaspora studies. Simone is an Executive Board member of HASTAC. She is also a member of Deep Lab, a feminist collaborative composed of artists, engineers, hackers, writers, and theorists.

More information available here.

2016

SENSING RISK SYMPOSIUM

Keynote Address: Dr. Mark Andrejevic (Professor, Chair of Media Studies, Pamona College, USA)

“I’m not sure if something is wrong with the sensor. Is there a way to reset or recalibrate the device?”— Recently this question was posted on Reddit in a forum for people who use mobile self-tracking devices. These devices, usually worn on the wrist, sense the wearer’s movements and, depending on the device, heartbeat. The question was asked by the husband of a device user, who noted that his wife had “logged 10 hours in the fat burning zone, which I think would be impossible,” given that she was working at her desk all day. It turned out that his wife was pregnant, and the self-tracking device had, by sensing her elevated heart-rate, provided the first clue to this possibility.[1] This example is just one instance in a much wider range of circumstances where always-on sensing devices are producing new forms of knowledge about everyday risks. It suggests that data produced by always-on sensors is automatically and algorithmically processed in ways that may be obscure to users.

Sensors yield rafts of information about everyday events and risks. When decontextualized, this data may be meaningless; when correlated with other information, however, it can quickly take on new meaning. A key question that arises in such circumstances has to do with how people are made subject to diverse forms of risk detection and management via what has come to be known as the “sensor society.” Andrejevic and Burdon define the sensor society as one in which “the interactive devices and applications that populate the digital information environment come to double as sensors.” The concept of the sensor society directs analytic attention to “the costly infrastructures that enable data collection, storage, and processing as well as to the advantages that flow to the institutions that own, operate, and access them” [2]. It highlights the fact that people are commonly enrolled into diverse forms of risk management, often without their knowledge or consent.

The purpose of the Sensing Risk Symposium is to explore the implications of emergent and pervasive forms of risk management in the sensor society. Drawing on, and contributing to, the activities of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture’s Risk Research Working Group (CISSC RRWG), the Symposium will bring together risk researchers from across Concordia University and beyond with the aim of developing new conceptual frameworks for analyzing the dynamics of risk in the sensor society. A core focus will be upon the implications of risk sensing techniques for citizens as they transit through urban spaces of consumption.

[1] News, February 9, 2016, online at: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/fitbit-fitness-tracker-tells-woman-shes-pregnant/

[2] Andrejevic, M. and Burdon, M. 2015. “Defining the Sensor Society,” Television & New Media 16(1): 19-36.

More information available here.


Financialization and Wars: Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality and Subjectivity

A talk organized with the Concordia University Research Chair in Media & Contemporary Literature

Maurizio Lazzarato is a famed sociologist and philosopher noted for his writings on immaterial labour and semiotic capitalism. His most recent book is Signs and Machines: Capitalism and the Production of Subjectivity published by Semiotext(e)/The MIT Press.

In this talk, Maurizio Lazzarato will present an overview of the main themes of his upcoming book Wars and Capital, co-written with Eric Alliez. Building on both Carl Schmitt’s argument that the economy is the continuation of war through other means and his previous work on debt economy, Lazzarato will particularly interrogate the pivotal role of financial capitalism in indexing race, class, gender, sexuality and subjectivity to the logics of both military and non-military warfare.

More information available here.


RISK, CREATIVITY and circus: A conversation on research possibilities

An event co-sponsored by The Center for Circus Arts Research, Innovation and Knowledge Transfer

Louis Patrick Leroux, Martin French, Alisan Funk and Patrice Aubertin will feed and guide the discussion and exchanges involving teachers and students from National Circus School, members of the Working Group on Circus Research, as well as members of the Concordia University CISSC Risk Research Working Group. This joint meeting will bring research cultures and practices, academic, pedagogical and experiential perspectives together.

What types of risk are identified in contemporary circus and how is management of those risks taught? What research trends and methodologies are investigating the intersection of risk and creativity? What is some of the current research telling us? Articles will be circulated for discussion. Presentations will be brief and will allow for discussion.


The algorithm of addiction: A peek inside the world of slot machines

A documentary screening organized with the Research Chair on Gambling

Featured for the first time in North America, the documentary Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation is a ground-breaking expose in which trade insiders break the silence around this highly secretive industry to explain how Pokies (ie. slot machines and video lottery terminals-VLTs) are rigged to keep people hooked. Presenting a powerful case that Pokie machines are programmed to be addictive, it reframes the way we view “problem gambling” shifting the focus off the “problematic” individuals and onto the predatory machine design.

The screening of the documentary will be followed by a panel discussion with Dr. Natasha Dow Schüll and Dr. Magali Dufour.

Dr. Natasha Dow Schüll, an international expert featured in the documentary, is a respected and highly accomplished scholar in the field of gambling addiction and current professor at New York University (NYU-Steinhardt). Her most recent book, Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas, draws on extended research among compulsive gamblers and slot machine designers to explore the relationship between technology design and the experience of addiction.

Dr. Magali Dufour is an associate professor at the University of Sherbrooke, and an expert on the treatment of gambling addiction. She is active in the research on internet gambling, and has published extensively on youth gambling. She is a senior researcher at the University Institute on Addictions at the research center of the Charles Lemoyne hospital.  

More information available here.


The movement to end criminalization: A panel discussion

Beginning in September 2016, RRWG Faculty Members and Students collaborated with the Concordia HIV/AIDS Community Lecture Series to put on a panel examining the criminalization of HIV and its attendant risks. Entitled The Movement to End HIV Criminalization, this panel featured the world premiere of the documentary film HIV is Not a Crime (2016), along with presentations by Edwin Bernard (HIV Justice Network), Laurel Sprague (HIV Justice Network), Andrew Spieldenner (Hofstra University), and RRWG member and HUMA PhD Candidate Alexander McClelland.

More information available here.

2015

BIG DATA AND RISK

Today, a post-theoretical, collect-it-all mentality seems increasingly pervasive. For example, organizations like the Canadian Communications Security Establishment sift through massive amounts of communications metadata in an effort to identify and neutralize national security risks. Insurance companies now offer preferential rates to clients who equip their cars with trackers that gather detailed data about their driving habits. New forms of mobile entertainment gather geolocational data and merge it with data on user behaviour to try to make mobile games more enticing (and profitable), potentially creating new risks for users who may struggle with addictive gaming and gambling habits. In these and many more examples, big data analytics promise to yield novel insight. They enable new understandings of risk, yet they may also generate new risks for individuals and organizations. They may disadvantage some who run afoul of algorithmically shaped decisions about who or what is risky. And they may make organizations appear as privacy-violating players in a broader surveillance-industrial complex.

How, then, do big data analytics mediate risk? This is a key question taken up in the events promoted on this website. Supported by several stakeholders across Concordia University, as well as by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, these events build on the activities of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture’s Risk Research Working Group (CISSC RRWG)

We had the great privilege of welcoming globally renowned scholar, Dr. Deborah Lupton for our opening keynote.

More information available here.


THEORIZING RISK: EXPLORING COMPETING EPISTEMOLOGIES

In this introduction to one of today’s major sociocultural concepts, Deborah Lupton examines why risk has come to such prominence at this particular point in history. She traces how risk has been constructed over time from pre-modernity to the modern era and provides an introduction to the main theories surrounding the subject. This talk emphasizes some of the ways in which risk is experienced in everyday life.

Deborah Lupton is Centenary Research Professor with the News & Media Research Centre in the Faculty of Arts & Design at the University of Canberra, Australia. Professor Lupton’s research and teaching is multidisciplinary, incorporating sociology, media and communication and cultural studies She is the author of 14 books and over 140 journal articles and book chapters on topics including the social and cultural dimensions of medicine and public health; risk; the body; parenting cultures; digital technologies; food; obesity politics; and the emotions.


CONNECTIONS AND DIRECTIONS IN RISK RESEARCH: AN INTERDISCIPLINARY DIALOGUE

Risk seems to be omnipresent in contemporary everyday life. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep (and even when we are asleep!) we may be engaged in some form of risk-taking or risk-management. What to wear, what to eat, who to befriend, what to watch online, how fast to drive, how long to put off that assignment, how to feel, how much to drink at the pub—in all of these decisions we may make more or less conscious calculations about the kinds of risk we will take, and their consequences for us down the line. To better theorize and understand the dynamics of contemporary risk, the CISSC Risk Research Working Group brings together scholars and students from across several disciplines.
Founding members are from anthropology, applied human sciences, geography and sociology, with additional faculty and student members coming from these and other disciplines in the fine arts, humanities, and the social sciences. Join us for our inaugural interdisciplinary dialogue.

Speakers:

2014

Risk is said to saturate everyday life. Yet, as an object of research, the everyday experience of risk is not always clearly ‘sensed’ within the extant theoretical frameworks. For example, when people engage in so-called risk-taking behaviours, they may rarely have in mind the cool calculus embedded in the actuarial logics, algorithms, and systems of classification that organizations use to identify and manage risks. This gap—between everyday lived experience and the organizational systems that ‘sense’ risk—provokes a range of interesting questions for risk research. For example, what emergent conceptual tools are useful for thinking about the contemporary dynamics of risk in everyday life? (How) Do they address the disjuncture between peoples’ lived experiences and organizational determinations of risk? Which milieu are best suited to empirically analyzing these dynamics? To begin addressing these questions, this roundtable will discusses how sociologists and anthropologists are thinking about—and sensing—risk in their research.

Speakers:

English
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