Presenters and Moderator


Vincent Duclos (McGill University)


Vincent Duclos is a Steinberg Global Health Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Social Studies of Medicine at McGill University. He is an anthropologist of medicine, studying digital health systems and practices. His research examines how digital media transform population health management on a global scale. It is inspired by cultural anthropology, media studies and philosophy of science and technology. He has conducted field research in India and West Africa.

Presentation Abstract:

Viral Tracking: Thinking with Flu Trends

From networking theory to everyday public health settings, digital connectivity has become highly correlated with protection against health-related uncertainty. This has translated into a proliferation of disease tracking systems that harvest web data to identify trends, calculate predictions, and warn about potential epidemic outbreaks. A prominent example is that of Google Flu Trends, which used online search queries to “nowcast” influenza activity. However, in August 2015 Google quietly shut down its flagship tracking system. Flu Trends had become the object of mounting criticism, primarily because of prior episodes in which it had heavily overestimated actual flu activity. Put bluntly, Flu Trends had sensitivity issues, as it was susceptible to picking up false signals. This was most explicitly the case in times of epidemics, when unanticipated changes in search behaviour were triggered by heightened exposure to disease-related information. This talk suggests that, on the one hand, Flu Trend can be seen as a (failed) attempt at containing the monstrosity of an open, incommensurable world. On the other hand, this failure also hints at limitations specific to Flu Trend’s algorithmic modelling of viral activity, including its inability to adapt to changing conditions in search behaviour. This talks aims to posthumously “think with” Flu Trends. In doing so, it underlines the relevance of its failure for understanding emergent forms of exposure to, and mediation of health-related uncertainty.


Jennifer Reynolds (University of Toronto)

Jennifer Reynolds

Jennifer Reynolds, M.Ed, Ph.D is a Researcher at the Responsible Gambling Council, currently heading up the MOHLTC youth gambling study, developing best practices for youth gambling prevention and treatment. Jennifer has worked in the area of youth gambling for over 12 years. Before joining the RGC, Jennifer worked at the Public Health Gambling Project, at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, the University of Toronto. She has been Co-Investigator on a number of gambling-related research grants and has authored several peer-reviewed papers on gambling and presented on her work internationally. Jennifer completed her PhD in the fall of 2015 from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, the University of Toronto examining youth gambling on social networking sites, entitled: Youth, Poker & Facebook: Another Case of Candy Cigarettes? Viral Tracking: Thinking with Flu Trends

Presentation Abstract:

Youth, poker and Facebook: Sensing risk and shaping players’ gambling experiences

The proliferation of gambling opportunities offered on social networking platforms has forever changed the experience of gambling. Facebook, as an interactive online platform, has become a sensor that captures, records, and analyzes players’ gambling behaviour, all with the intention of optimizing player engagement and monetization.

This presentation will draw on my ethnographic journey playing Zynga Poker to illustrate how the interconnections between the design mechanics, visual images, and passive monitoring powerfully work together to render a discourse and shape a player’s experience of playing poker on Facebook.

With a minimum age requirement of thirteen to create a profile on Facebook, this inevitably adds a new layer of risk and ethical considerations for public health. This new realm of interactivity challenges our understanding of consent, particularly with respect to the protection and prevention of gambling-related harms to vulnerable populations, such as youth.

Kelly Thompson (Concordia University)

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Kelly Thompson is an Associate Professor in the Fibres and Material Practices and MFA Studio Arts programs at Concordia University, Montreal. Ongoing themes of interest include location, mobility, border theories, travel and material culture, and textiles as cultural signifiers embedded with narrative content. She is involved with working in an expanded field of textiles in art practices, and explores the intersections of digital imagining and material engagement with traditional weave and fibres construction, print, dye and jacquard technologies. Recent work explores ephemeral traces, digital footprints, language, and translation. She has exhibited her artwork internationally in exhibitions, festivals and biennials.

Presentation Abstract:

Material codes: ephemeral threads

Material codes: ephemeral threads is a current research-creation project funded by FRQSC that questions the digital data realm and its fallibility, and aims to make the ephemeral visible in jacquard woven textiles. Conceptually, the project is an exploration of the relationships between the digitally implicit with the materially expressive and how we understand our relationship with various technologies. The ideas converge in new and evolving artwork that utilizes the digital tools available to us while building on the analog materiality of traditional processes. Working with Research Assistants, the project is interested in fostering collaboration with other disciplines, to translate data from your fields into another, that of digitally woven cloth. This talk will present some of the early examples of this process and invite contributions that could help to imagine how risk is digitally woven into everyday life.



Martin French (Concordia University)

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Martin French is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University. His research examines the social dimensions of technology with an empirical focus on communications & information technology and the risks they help to mitigate or aggravate. He is particularly interested in how organizations use surveillance technologies to know and manage the risks they face, and in the potentiality of these technologies to generate unanticipated risks. Dr. French is the Organizer of Concordia University’s Risk Research Working Group, housed within the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture.