To build awareness & resilience, create space for dialogue, and combat online hate
The SOMEONE (SOcial Media EducatiON Every day) initiative, funded largely under Public Safety Canada’s Kanishka (2014-2016) and Community Resilience Fund (2017-2019) programs, was launched in April 2016. It consists of a web-based portal of multimedia materials aimed at preventing hate speech and building resilience towards radicalization that leads to violent extremism.
The materials target youth, school and community members, public policy officials, as well as the broader public by focusing on the development of critical thinking and information literacy skills, and encouraging democratic dialogues in online and offline spaces. Through 11 distinct projects – all of which are led by researcher-practitioners – the initiative has seen the rigorous development and evaluation of curricular activities for elementary, secondary and post-secondary institutions. Such activities include: first-person narrative documentaries, textual and multimedia social media feeds, visual art-based public pedagogical materials, graphic novels, public panel discussions, lectures and workshops, academic articles and conference papers, and descriptions and workshops on novel research methodologies.
The SOMEONE initiative is framed in principles of social pedagogy which encourages the inclusive adoption of mobile and digital media by members of the public to create alternative narratives to divisive and violent messages propagated by hate groups. With the rising presence of hate rhetoric – both in online and offline settings, it has become more pressing to ensure that social, public and curricular policies concerning public safety, rehabilitation, and communal well-being be guided by empirically-driven and theoretically grounded research exemplified by the research team behind the SOMEONE initiative and their growing network of partners.
Knowledge mobilization and transfer
The objectives of our present project are to build capacity for knowledge mobilization and transfer of the existing SOMEONE materials on a national and international scale via the following four mechanisms:
- To co-develop, implement and evaluate multimedia materials and workshops to foster resilience against the ill effects of hate speech and radicalization that leads to violent extremism with social and community organizations that work with disadvantaged communities, at-risk youth, minority communities, and aging populations, both within Canada and abroad.
- To implement curricular strategies developed for the SOMEONE initiative within specific elementary, secondary, and post-secondary scholastic systems in Canada, and to begin exploring options of working with international educational counterparts in Europe and the Middle East to benefit from knowledge exchange opportunities.
- To work with national and international partners in arts, culture and media – including radio, television, newspapers and web-based services – to create public engagement exercises to enable the broader public to contribute to creating alternative narratives to messages of hate and radicalization.
- To engage with expert partners in software development with the objective of creating a framework for an online database which provides rigorous, evidence-based linguistic analysis of the patterns of hate speech which are proliferated across the open online internet.
Our interdisciplinary team
The project is run by Dr. Vivek Venkatesh – associate professor of education at Concordia University. Venkatesh is assisted by the interdisciplinary team of SOMEONE researchers and researcher-practitioners most notably, Ms. Kathryn Urbaniak, Dr. Tieja Thomas, Dr. Nicole Fournier-Sylvester, Dr. Sandra Chang-Kredl, Dr. Jihan Rabah, Dr. Juan Carlos Castro, Dr. Ketra Schmitt, Dr. Jason Wallin, Dr. Jeffrey Podoshen, Dr. Robert McGray, Dr. Ayaz Naseem, Dr. Adeela Arshad-Ayaz, Mr. Martin Lalonde, and Ms. Sarmista Das.
Our team members are from all four faculties at Concordia, as well as Champlain College (Montréal), the University of Alberta (Edmonton), and Franklin & Marshall College (Lancaster, Pennsylvania). Our project brings researchers and practitioners with a wide range of expertise including consumer consumption and cultural theory, peace education, terrorism risk assessment, psychoanalytics, social and public pedagogy, feminism, citizen education, discourse analysis, classroom usage of social media, and art education.