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 on the left) describes his time working with Project Someone on Words in Context and how this work relates to his Master’s thesis.

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.


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

Study on former extremists featured by The Center for Research on Extremism

Photo: Philipp Lansing – Unsplash

The University of Oslo’s Center for Research on Extremism (C-REX) recently featured Combating Violent Extremism: Insights from Former Right-Wing Extremists, a study by Project Someone collaborator Ryan Scrivens, its Director Vivek Venkatesh, and other collaborators Maxime Bérubé and Tiana Gaudette. 

Read the article

Project Someone joins the Mosaic Institute’s May panel on online hate

Project Someone Director, Vivek Venkatesh, will join the Mosaic Institute’s upcoming panel on combating discrimination and online hate through social media in the context of education and youth on Tuesday, May 25th, from 6-7:30 pm EDT on Zoom.

The Mosaic institute is currently offering monthly panels on key issues linked to peace and justice education to benefit students and teachers. 

Register for this free public event.

Landscape of Hope 4th Space residency

In November 2020, the Landscape of Hope collective conducted a COVID-safe artists residency at the 4th Space at Concordia University in Montreal / Tiohtià:ke. Below are videos of the final performance as well as interviews with the musicians and visual artists.

Over the period of over a week, the team collaborated in creating soundscapes and visual representations of resilience in a COVID-era.

In attendance were Landscape of Hope creators Vivek Venkatesh and Owen Chapman, collaborators Martin Lelonde (UQAM) and Annabelle Brault. Concordia students were Nik Forrest, Éva Roy and Lou Raskin. UQAM students were Marilou Lyonnais Archambault and Michel Poulin.

Concordia student, Nakitta Hannah documented the event and it was organised by Kathryn Urbaniak. The residency was funded by Canadian Heritage and the FRQSC, and made possible thanks to The Office of the Vice-President, Research and Graduate Studies (OVPRGS) and the 4th Space.

Watch the Performance

Watch the interviews with the visual artists

Watch the interviews with the musicians

UNESCO-PREV 2020 Annual Report

The UNESCO-PREV Chair’s watchwords for 2020 were adaptation and resilience in the context of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Although the latter forced the postponement of several important events, the Chair offered its first massive open online course, “From Hate to Hope,” and developed PROFILE, a new toolkit on racial and social profiling.

The Chair also continued to expand its mapping of areas of expertise and its bank of experts in the prevention of violent radicalization and extremism. It also developed a new research program on misinformation, conspiracy thinking and violent extremism.

Despite an increase in acts of solidarity, we have witnessed a proliferation of misinformation, hateful discourse, intolerance and violent extremist ideologies. Consequently, the crisis has fuelled and reinforced an already well-established global trend. As a result, the Chair experienced a particularly active year in Quebec, Canada and internationally.

Read the report.