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CBC News, CBC Radio, 630CHED (Global News) & two Globe & Mail Opinion Pieces

by Kean Birch, Director of the Institute for Technoscience & Society

Thursday, 22 March 2024 (update 6 April 2024)

630CHED (Global News) Radio (5 April): Is generative AI a waste of our time and money?

Globe & Mail (4 April): Generative artificial intelligence is simply a waste of our time and money.

Globe & Mail (21 March): Canada needs a sovereign wealth fund – built by monetizing our personal data

CBC News (21 March): Interview about US Department of Justice antitrust lawsuit against Apple Inc.

CBC Radio (21 March): Interview about US Department of Justice antitrust lawsuit against Apple Inc.


In celebration of Black History Month

Building Black Worlds: Making Black Spaces in Digital Gaming Places

Tuesday, 27th February 2024 @ 1.00-2.30pm

CANCELLED (due to industrial action)

Join us for a talk by Dr. Akil Fletcher (Princeton University). In this talk, Dr. Fletcher will share his new work on Black intermediality, exploring how Black computer game players take existing game environments for their own use, going beyond the intentions of developers to create new social worlds of experience and being.

About the speaker: Dr. Akil Fletcher is an anthropologist who researches race and video games at Princeton University. His work lies on the boundaries of Anthropology, African American Studies, and Game Studies.


Seminar 3: Technoableism Seminar Series

CANCELLED (due to industrial action)

Monday, 4 March 2024 @ 3.00-5.00pm

Join us for a talk by Michelle Friedner (University of Chicago) and Fulden Arisan (University of Chicago) with discussion by Michelle Charette (York University) & Gabi Schaffzin (York University). This is the final event in a three-part series about technoableism, organized by the ITS Technoscientific Bodies & Minds cluster.

About the speakers: Michelle Friedner is a medical anthropologist and professor at the University of Chicago researching how deaf and disabled people navigate complex social, political, and economic structures in urban regions of India, interested in how questions of stigma and value can be related. And Fulden Arisan is a PhD student in the Department of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago, whose research focuses on the trajectories of cochlear implant technology in Turkey. Fulden investigates the social and political entanglements of CI technology and its relation to emerging notions of subjectivity within the context of authoritarian populism.


Seminar 2: Technoableism Seminar Series

Monday, 15th January 2024 @ 3-5pm


Join us for a talk by Prof. Ashley Shew (Virginia Tech) with discussion by Jorge Antonio Vallejos (York University) & Emilia Nielson (York University). This is the second event in a three part series about technoableism, organized by the ITS Technoscientific Bodies & Minds cluster.

About the speaker: Ashley Shew is an Associate Professor at Virginia Tech, where her research focuses on philosophy of technology, disability and technology, and ethics and the body. She coined the term technoableism, explored in depth in her upcoming book Against Technoableism: Rethinking Who Needs Improvement.


ChatGPT: One Year Later, A Roundtable Discussion

Hybrid event: Zoom and In Person in the Lassonde Research Center (LRC) Room 102

Registration link HERE.

Directions to reach LRC102 will be provided upon registration

Thursday, 30 November 2023 @ 12.00-1:30pm

Convening on Nov 30, the one-year anniversary of ChatGPT’s launch, this roundtable brings together a diverse group of scholars to reflect on the promises and perils of generative AI in the context of higher education. Turning their eyes to the future, each of our panellists will bring forward a topic or concern they see as being underexplored, laying the groundwork for future conversations and collaborations as we continue to make our way
in this new educational landscape.

Dr. sava saheli singh

Assistant Professor of Digital Futures in Education

Dr. Kelly Bergstrom

Assistant Professor, Department of Communication & Media Studies

Ryan Collis

Doctoral Candidate, Graduate Program in Education


Seminar 1: Technoableism Seminar Series

Wednesday, 25th October 2023 @ 3-5pm

ZOOM LINK HERE (Passcode: 369828)

The first talk in the Technoableism Seminar Series is by Professor Kelly Fritsch and Professor Anne McGuire, “Crip Maintenance / Maintaining Crip: On Making and Breaking with Disability”

Discussants will include Nicole Winchester & Professor Melanie Baljko.


Nicholas Surber

Visiting Graduate Student, Institute for Technoscience & Society

PhD Researcher, Division of Science, Technology and Society, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden

Who’s who and where: Papers and patents in the evolving European nano-race 

NEW DATE! Thursday, 28th September @ 3.00-4.00pm, 305 York Lanes, York University (in-person only)

Nanotechnology can be seen as an example of the ongoing economization of science and technology. Its development has even been characterized as a “nano-race” to a nano-enabled technoscientific future. Bibliometric studies show that the literature focuses on both nanotechnology’s internal (reflexive) and external (societal) consequences, having commenced in the 1990s with a predominant focus on the (positivist) technoscientific content. Using a bibliometric approach, I pivot from ‘content’ (questions of what) to normative issues surrounding justice and safety through two core research questions: who is developing nanotechnology recently in Europe and where (which countries) is this development taking place? These questions are addressed by enlisting multiple Espacenet and Scopus searches of nanotechnology patents and papers in the sample time period (2010-2018) to collect, clean, code, and analyze metadata from the most prolific patent applicants, publishing (paper) institutions, and funding organizations. Normative concerns are highlighted by comparing the four trajectories of (neutral) nanotechnology, the (moot) nanomaterial groups of carbon nanotubes and nano-silver, and with the (good) research area of nanosafety, in terms of individual entries, stakeholder groups and the affiliated European countries. Across these samples, the resulting distributions reveal substantial concentration, especially regarding funders, and significant repetition of applicants, institutions and funders. Instead of seeing precautionary reprioritization away from the moot nanomaterials, nanosafety institutions represent the most divergent inventory, suggesting that longstanding environmental concerns have not disrupted the place of these nanomaterials in the nanotechnology canon. The overarching question of who’s who in nanotechnology thus allows for an assessment not only of who benefits from its development, but of the prioritization of safer nanomaterials in the context of safe-and-sustainable-by-design and specifically regarding the European Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS).


Book Launch

Dr. Lee McGuigan's Selling the American People: Advertising, Optimization, and the Origins of Adtech (MIT Press, 2023)

Thursday, 14th September 2023 @ 6-8pm

The book launch will include a presentation by the author, followed by an interactive Q&A session with the audience. The event is in-person, free, and open to the public.


Algorithms, data extraction, digital marketers monetizing "eyeballs": these all seem like such recent features of our lives. And yet, Lee McGuigan tells us in this eye-opening book, digital advertising was well underway before the widespread use of the Internet. Explaining how marketers have brandished the tools of automation and management science to exploit new profit opportunities, Selling the American People traces data-driven surveillance all the way back to the 1950s, when the computerization of the advertising business began to blend science, technology, and calculative cultures in an ideology of optimization. With that ideology came adtech, a major infrastructure of digital capitalism.

To help make sense of today's attention merchants and choice architects, McGuigan explores a few key questions: How did technical experts working at the intersection of data processing and management sciences come to command the center of gravity in the advertising and media industries? How did their ambition to remake marketing through mathematical optimization shape and reflect developments in digital technology? In short, where did adtech come from, and how did data-driven marketing come to mediate the daily encounters of people, products, and public spheres? His answers show how the advertising industry's efforts to bend information technologies toward its dream of efficiency and rational management helped to make "surveillance capitalism" one of the defining experiences of public life.

Lee McGuigan is Assistant Professor in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and an associate at Cornell Tech's Digital Life Initiative. He is a coeditor of The Audience Commodity in a Digital Age.

Organized by the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology (ICCIT) at University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM).

Cosponsored by the Canadian Communication Association (CCA), the Communication and Digital Media Studies Program (CDMS) at Ontario Tech University, and the Institute for Technoscience & Society (ITS) at York University.


Globe & Mail Opinion Piece

by Kean Birch, Director of the Institute for Technoscience & Society

Netflix’s desperate crackdown on password sharing shows it might fail like Blockbuster

Wednesday, 15th February 2023

"Netflix is changing its subscription setup, testing it out in Canada and three other countries before, presumably, rolling it out across the United States, their more lucrative market. Described as a 'crackdown' on password sharing, this change will stop us accessing Netflix from devices not associated with our home network. It does make you think about whether it’s worth paying that subscription fee any more. There are also broader questions that this change raises. Most specifically, whether the business models and monetization strategies of digital firms like Netflix are viable in the long-run."

The Globe & Mail


Edemilson Paraná

Assistant Professor, Department of Social Sciences/Graduate Program in Sociology, Federal University of Ceará, Brazil. 

Bitcoin as a digital commodity (with Tomás Rotta) 

Tuesday, 14th March @ 2.00-3.30pm, 305 York Lanes, York University (in-person only)

In this talk, we argue that Bitcoin is not money but rather a digital commodity that has value but no value-added. We show that both the production of and the speculation with Bitcoin draw from the existing global pool of value-added. By extending the Classical Political Economy approach and the New Interpretation of the labour theory of value to the domain of digital commodities, we argue that Bitcoin mining is an automated reproduction process that requires no direct (living) labour and thus creates no new value. Bitcoin, in this regard, is not ‘digital gold’. Between sectors, Bitcoin mining redistributes wealth and value-added already in existence, while Bitcoin miners with more computational power compete to appropriate the mining profits within the blockchain. The Bitcoin blockchain then creates rivalry in both the ownership and the use of the digital commodity through non-legal means. Our approach can be further expanded to the larger domain of automated digital commodities that are reproducible without the expenditure of direct, living labour. 


Franziska Cooiman

PhD Researcher, Weizenbaum Institute,Germany & Roskilde University, Denmark

Imprinting the economy: The structural power of venture capital

Tuesday, 6th December @ 2.00-3.30pm, 626 Kaneff Tower, York University (in-person only)

In this talk, I analytically link asset management and the digital economy by analyzing the structural power of venture capital (VC) investors.I propose the notion of imprinting, which describes how financial actors, enabled by the structural position, shape businesses according to their specific logic.Concretely, I argue that VCs’ logic is one of assetization, whereby VCs turn startups into assets for themselves and their capital providers. To do so, VCs seek hyper growth, selecting only companies with the potential to grow fast and large and decouple financial value from business fundamentals. Instead of the threat of exit, VCs establish direct and indirect channels of control: legally, via preferred shareholder rights, board seats, and payout conditionality; and as participatory capital, offering operational advice and access to their network.Through this approach,I aim to contribute to a nuanced understanding of financial sector power in contemporary capitalism.