News

Upcoming webinar on preventing violent extremism

Conference flyer

Credit: Teaching & Learning Center of the University of Siena and Chaire UNESCO-PREV

Dr. Ryan Scrivens and director Vivek Venkatesh will be participating in an upcoming conference held by the UNESCO-PREV chair in partnership with the Teaching & Learning Center of the University of Siena, titled “Preventing Violent Extremism.” Scrivens will be presenting on research conducted as part of “Insights from Former Extremists,” alongside presentations by Italian colleagues of The Forward Project. Venkatesh will be moderating the discussion.

When: Wednesday, June 23rd, 9-11 am (EDT)

Fill out this form to register.

Project Someone research featured on Canada’s National Observer

protest against anti-asian racism

Photo by Jason Leung via Unsplash

Writing for Canada’s National Observer, Jesse Firempong recently posed the following: what can be done to prevent and address hate, beyond its criminalization? To answer this question, Firempong turned to Project Someone director Vivek Venkatesh for his expertise on building community resilience to hate and radicalization. In the article, Venkatesh advocates for the importance of exclusive spaces for targeted groups to process and heal together, and emphasizes the role of empathy when it comes to unlearning hate. Sharing lessons learned from Project Someone initiatives like “Insights from Former Extremists,” Venkatesh underscores an approach that balances prevention efforts with community support systems.

Read the article.

Director Vivek Venkatesh to participate in community roundtable on urban security

 

Project Someone Director Vivek Venkatesh will be joining a diverse panel of activists and experts in a roundtable on urban security this Thursday––the final event in a webinar series titled “Territories in Conversation: Urban Security.” The series, led by Benoit Décary-Secours and Leslie Touré Kapo in partnership with local nonprofit Paroles D’excluEs, aims to promote critical conversations about popular discourses on issues of urban (in)security. More specifically, it seeks to shed light on how Montreal youth in marginalized neighbourhoods are racialized and scapegoated by the media in discussions on urban safety. Thursday’s roundtable is titled “Trajectoires de lutte : résistances locales et émancipation.” 

When: Thursday, June 17th, 2021 – 6 pm (online via Zoom)

See the event page for more information. 

Watch previous episodes of the series. 

 

New article on the “collateral damage” of COVID-19 in The Conversation, Le Journal Métro

 

From left to right: Dr. Cécile Rousseau, Dr. Vivek Venkatesh, Dr. Ghayda Hassan and Dr. David Morin.

Project Someone director Vivek Venkatesh recently got together with UNESCO co-chairs David Morin and Ghayda Hassan, alongside colleague Cécile Rousseau, to share with the public some key takeaways from their research on the social and cultural impacts of COVID-19 on marginalized communities. Writing for The Conversation, the authors draw connections between a political climate polarized by racial violence, economic precarity, and social isolation, demonstrating how these factors have disproportionately affected those already on the margins. Just republished in the Journal Métro, the article combines the authors’ interdisciplinary expertise to highlight the essential role of social policy, education and the media, alongside public health measures, in responding to the pandemic. “Beyond the physical health impact of COVID-19 on society,” they write, “the related interpersonal and social violence can be devastating, and require immediate attention.” 

 

Read the article here

New study examines link between COVID-related experiences of discrimination and social distancing behaviour

 

Photo: Dollar Gill

A new study, co-authored by researchers from McGill University’s departments of Psychiatry and Epidemiology and Project Someone director Vivek Venkatesh, is now available online in The American Journal of Health Promotion. The open-access article, titled COVID-19 Experiences and social distancing: Insights from the theory of planned behaviour, examines how COVID-related attitudes and experiences impact individuals’ social distancing behaviour. Drawing on the results of an online survey of over 3000 adult Quebec residents, the authors analyze how perceptions of COVID-related discrimination and stigma (alongside such factors as fear of infection and prior exposure to the virus) relate to people’s intentions and actions when it comes to social distancing. The authors contend that COVID-19 prevention efforts should balance campaigns that leverage fear of infection and emphasize social norms with anti-discrimination messaging, so as not to conflate a precautionary approach with a prejudicial one. “Perhaps most importantly,” they write, “our findings are instructive on guiding public health interventions that simultaneously protect people’s lives and develop responses to the epidemic that are inclusive, equitable and universal.”

Read the article here. 

Sorting through the noise: Using computational methods to isolate key themes of online discussions

In the following blog post, Simon Rodier (pictured above) describes his time working with Project Someone on Words in Context and how this work relates to his Master’s thesis.

By Simon Rodier

I came to Project Someone with a background in computer science and an interest in using computational methods to analyze online speech about controversial issues. 

Discussions about contentious issues in online fora are particularly fascinating to me––anecdotally, we have all seen the stark divisions that form when people debate hot topics online. We often see proponents become entrenched in their own positions, essentially preventing any productive dialogue or negotiation from occurring. To complicate matters, online discussion about any given issue often happens over many platforms, between different people, and involves large volumes of text. My goal was to dig deeper into such discussions by sorting through them computationally in order to identify the major themes at play. This approach is useful for community stakeholders seeking to intervene in the larger debate, as it gives them a sense of how the public understands and interprets the issues at stake.  

My work with Project Someone unfolded along two major axes. In the first, I worked on the Words in Context project, where my major contribution was to develop a database and website that would  house and display the results of the team’s research into online speech about contentious issues in Canada and Lebanon. Together, we created a website that allows users to dig into how specific language is used in the corpora we analyzed, which was divided into thematic sections, each represented by several quotes and keywords drawn from the source texts. 

Out of this project I developed the basis of my M.A. thesis in Educational Technology, for which I designed a methodology using topic models to computationally identify thematic groupings in text. The method leverages the statistical co-occurrence of words within documents to group them into latent “topics.” An early version of the methodology was applied to a subset of a corpus used for Words in Context, and was ultimately refined for use in my thesis to identify some of the major themes of the controversy surrounding Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018.

Taken together, both axes of my work encourage readers and communities to engage more critically with trends in online discussions about contentious issues––an important step towards more effective interventions in public debate. 

Project Someone featured on Purposeful Empathy

Project Someone Director, Vivek Venkatesh, recently joined Anita Nowak on an  episode of Purposeful Empathy where he discussed Project Someone, Landscape of Hate, Landscape of Hope, and how public pedagogy promotes pluralism.

Watch the episode.

SHERPA-CREDEF Student  and Young Researcher Conference

Project Someone Director, Vivek Venkatesh, will join the panel titled From citizen engagement to academic responsibility as part of the SHERPA-CREDEF Student  and Young Researcher Conference: Migration, diversity (s) and engagement: practical and research issues.

This panel aims to illustrate how personal and professional histories influence researchers’ paths, how they impact their research, and their teaching themes.

When: Wednesday, June 2, 2021, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. – Online via Zoom.

Register

Project Someone joins a multidisciplinary team of researchers examining the impacts of COVID-19 on marginalized communities and mental health

Photo: Joice Kelly – Unsplash

Project Someone Director, Vivek Venkatesh, and a multidisciplinary team of researchers from Concordia, McGill and the University of Ottawa recently published two articles examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on minorities and marginalized communities.

Led by McGill University professor, CSLP member and Project Someone collaborator, Cécile Rousseau, the studies also examine the link between heightened racism during the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on mental health.  

Both articles appear in the International Journal of Intercultural Relations (IJIR) and BJPsych Open.

Listen to an interview about the studies on CBC Radio’s Let’s Go with Sabrina Marandola

Read more about the project on Concordia University news

Landscape of Hope at SECREV2021

 

Project Someone Director Vivek Venkatesh is set to attend THE CYBERSECURITY REVOLUTION 2021 event where he will discuss the Landscape of Hope Project on May 21, 2021 10:00 UTC/ 6AM (Local).

This open and inclusive event streams from locations worldwide from UTC 0:00 until midnight. It is free to attend and requires no registration. 

Viewers can ask questions in the chat and on twitter using #SECREV2021.

Watch the event