DS Bytes: A Lunchtime Speaker Series on Digital Scholarship

DS Bytes is a six-part event series that will introduce attendees to prescient topics and methods in Digital Scholarship. A diverse group of DS practitioners, scholars, artists, and journalists will explore data, artificial intelligence, critical literacy, social justice, data visualization, and data literacy.

All events have virtual attendance options.

Register for “DS Bytes.”

Watch recordings of “DS Bytes” events.

Full Slate

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“Glitch: Disability, Feminism, Technology”
Virtual Lecture by Dr. Adan Jerreat-Poole (Assistant Professor of Communication Arts, University of Waterloo)

Day and Time: Thursday January 19, 2023 | 12:30-1:30pm

Abstract: In the TV show The Good Place (2016-2020), each heavenly neighborhood is run by a “Janet,” a feminized personal assistant with access to all the information in the universe. In season 2, Janet glitches, causing earthquakes to rock the world and large swaths of the neighbourhood to disappear. Starting from the representation of glitching robots on-screen before moving to technologies, bodies, and communities off-screen, this presentation will explore the history of “glitch feminism” and then turn to glitch as intimacy, interdependence, and Mad/crip/queer community, glitch understood through the physiology of pain in relation to technology, and glitch as a reorientation towards crip time.

Glitch: A surge of current or a spurious electrical signal… a sudden short-lived irregularity in behaviour… a hitch or snag; a malfunction (OED).

As Jerreat-Poole writes, “Glitch resonates with me as a Mad/disabled person and scholar. We have glitchy brains and glitchy bodies that don’t always do what we ask of them or what society demands of them. We have twinges and twitches and tics, both visible and invisible. We have our behaviour read as irregular or strange (Janet’s wild laughter, her hair in disarray). A glitch can be a mistake, a pause, a redirection, a new field of possibility. Glitches, embodied and/or technical, can disrupt the smooth narrative of neoliberal progress and efficiency, opening up opportunities to imagine and construct digital communities that are sick, crip, Mad, disabled, neurodivergent, feminist, and queer.”

Speaker Bio: Adan (they/them) is a mad/crip/queer scholar and white settler living on treaty territory belonging to Six Nations of the Grand River and the traditional home of the Neutral, Anishinaabe, and Haudenosaunee peoples. Adan is an Assistant Professor at the University of Waterloo in the Department of Communication Arts. They work at the intersection of disability studies and digital media. Their current research explores how disabled queer and trans feminists create, advocate, and care for each other through and with digital technology, and how we can design, hack, mod, and build more ethical technologies, societies, and futures. Adan is also a creative writer and the author of the queer YA novels The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass and The Boi of Feather and Steel (Dundurn Press).

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“How to Lie with Data”
Hybrid Panel featuring McMaster Librarians, Professors, and Staff

Day and Time: January 31, 2023 | 1:30-3:30pm

Abstract: Data may seem objective or neutral, but that’s not always the case. At this roundtable, learn about how data can be manipulated, skewed, or collected so poorly that any findings are extremely suspect. This session aims to build critical literacy and build attendees’ understanding of data collection, statistics, visualizations including infographics, charts, graphs, and maps, and the Data Justice movement.

Speakers: Vass Bednar, Executive Director of the Public Policy in Digital Society Program at McMaster University; Cal Biruk, Associate Professor of Anthropology at McMaster University; Jeffrey Demaine, Bibliometrics and Research Impact Librarian at McMaster University; Saman Goudarzi, Cartographic Resources Librarian at McMaster University; Christine Homuth, Spatial Information Specialist at McMaster University; Subhanya Sivajothy, Data Analysis and Visualization Librarian at McMaster University. This event includes an introductory address by the Sherman Centre’s Co-Directors Dr. Jay Brodeur and Dr. Andrea Zeffiro. 

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“The Value of Visuals in Science Communication”
Virtual Lecture by Mark Belan (Scientific Graphics Journalist)

Day and Time: February 8, 2023 | 12:30-1:30pm

Abstract: Science research relies on data to describe theories and stories, but communicating the complex, sophisticated, or sometimes esoteric information and relationships within these data is limited. Visual storytelling is becoming increasingly important in a data-driven world: from data visualizations to diagrammatic illustrations, telling science stories requires a visual component. The reasons for this lie in the way we process information.

This talk will introduce the basics of visual perception, it’s benefit to science communication efforts, and how anyone can manipulate design theory to create visuals (of whatever skill level) to tell impactful, effective, and ultimately better science stories.

Speaker Bio: Mark (he/him) is a scientific graphics journalist and visual communicator, working at the intersection of art and science to translate scientific concepts into impactful visuals. With two Master of Science degrees (one in Geochemistry/Astrobiology, another in Biomedical Communications), his work and past experience as a researcher has led him to champion the values of visual storytelling when communicating complex and sophisticated ideas, especially in science. Mark is based in Toronto, Canada and yearns to make science more accessible to everyone, with all forms of visual media. Learn more about Mark at www.artscistudios.com

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“Urban Heat Islands and Social Inequalities: A Data-Driven Story”
Virtual Lecture by Nael Shiab (Senior Data Producer, CBC) and Isabelle Bouchard (Data Scientist)

Day and Time: Tuesday February 14, 2023 | 12:30-1:30pm

Abstract: In this talk, we will present our work on urban heat islands and their correlation with some demographic indicators. More specifically, our work shows that immigrants and people with low income are most likely to live in the hottest urban areas. This makes them much more vulnerable to heat waves, with deadly consequences. We will share our methodology and discuss how we used open data to highlight social inequalities. We will also explain the role of the interactive visualization to support our story.

Read the Urban Heat Islands report.

Speaker Bios: Nael works for CBC/Radio-Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Company, as Senior Data Producer, interactive content and visualizations. Isabelle worked for CBC/Radio-Canada as a data scientist. Nael and Isabelle have been collaborating to produce major reports on urban sprawl and heat islands in Canada.

Gabby Resch Poster

“How to Lie with Visualization”
Hybrid Lecture and Workshop by Dr. Gabby Resch (Assistant Professor of Information Visualization, Ontario Tech University)

Day and Time: Wednesday March 1, 2023 | 1:30-2:30pm Format: Virtual Lecture

Abstract: In 1996, two researchers at IBM, Bernice Rogowitz and Lloyd Treinish, published an important article titled “How Not to Lie with Visualization.” In it, they outlined a rule-based approach to visualization that would, they argued, help users navigate the increasingly complex space of data design. “The great flexibility of visualization,” Rogowitz and Treinish wrote, “can open a Pandora’s box of problems for the user and easily give rise to visual representations that do not adequately reveal the structure in the data or that introduce misleading visual artifacts.” Since the article’s publication, visualization systems have become both more ubiquitous and more complex, and rules-based approaches have hardly reduced the proliferation of deceptive graphics. In this talk and hands-on workshop, we will pry open the Pandora’s box that Rogowitz and Treinish describe! With a nod to Darrell Huff’s 1954 classic “How to Lie with Statistics,” we will examine range of visualization techniques and methods that are frequently used to lie, deceive, and manipulate – as well as a set of design criteria that can be used to counteract graphical deception.

Thematically, the talk will explore the emergence of data-driven media, the various ways that misleading and deceptive graphics are produced and disseminated, and the relationship between authority, trust, accuracy, persuasion, and literacy.

Speaker Bio: Dr. Gabby Resch is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Business and Information Technology at Ontario Tech. His research explores new methods for making sense of data as it moves between physical and digital worlds. At the moment, he is engaged in three collaborative SSHRC and CIHR-funded research projects that explore geospatial visualization in the context of migration-related policy; scrolling interactives for medical knowledge translation; and immersive augmented and virtual reality medical training environments. Prior to joining Ontario Tech, he was a postdoctoral fellow with the Synaesthetic Media Lab at Toronto Metropolitan University, where he carried out research on virtual reality games designed to enhance spatial cognition, AR and VR environments for motor learning, and immersive media for medicine.

Dr. Resch received his PhD from the University of Toronto, where his research examined tangible and embodied approaches to data visualization. For a number of years, he has developed and taught innovative visualization and interaction design courses at the U of T, TMU, and Ontario Tech that provide hands-on opportunities for students to learn data design concepts. He also has extensive experience collaborating with various institutional partners, including Autodesk Research, the Ontario Science Centre, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Art Gallery of Ontario. His various research interests examine tangible, AR, and VR contexts for data visualization; critical and human-centred approaches to data literacy; and immersive 3D media for spatial cognition.

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“E.Q. vs. I.Q.: Testing Gendered Artificial Intelligence in Apple’s Siri”
Hybrid Lecture by Dr. Lai-Tze Fan (Assistant Professor of Sociology & Legal Studies and English Literature, University of Waterloo)

Day and Time: Tuesday March 21, 2023 | 12:30-1:30pm

Abstract: The Turing Test—a thought experiment by mathematician Alan Turing in which a human and a computer try to convince an interrogator that they are human—is actually based on another thought experiment by Turing: the Imitation Game—in which a man and woman try to convince an interrogator that they are a woman. In other words, a theoretical test by which we measure human-like performance was inspired by a test of gendered performance.

Today, descriptions of high IQ are attributed to machines capable of advanced decision making, including in machine learning. Meanwhile, AI designed to provide EQ-heavy labour in care, customer service, and comfort are predominantly female presenting.

In this talk, Fan will explore how the gendering of AI assistants is just a new method in a long history of abstracting women and their bodies into labouring machines, in effect nullifying the need to ask the Turing Test question of “human or machine.” Instead, AI assistants play a modified Imitation Game, trying to trick users into accepting machine as woman. By exploring industry designers’ research findings, Fan will confront the argument that “women’s voices tend to be better received by consumers, and that from an early age we prefer listening to female voices” (Tambini 2022). Performing tests on Apple’s AI assistant Siri, she will argue that when assessing such AI for human-like performance, designers are not looking for intelligence, but rather, for efficacy to get the job done—content production, menial task completion, and capital transactions—with a smile.

Speaker Bio: Lai-Tze Fan is the Director of the forthcoming research-creation-focused Unseen-AI Lab, and an Assistant Professor of Sociology & Legal Studies and English Literature at the University of Waterloo, Canada. Her work focuses systemic inequalities in technological design and labour, methods of digital storytelling, research-creation, and critical making, and media theory and infrastructure.

Fan serves as an Editor and the Director of Communications of electronic book review and an Editor of the digital review. She is Co-Editor of the collection Post-Digital: Dialogues and Debates from electronic book review (Bloomsbury 2020), and is the Editor of special journal issues on “Canadian Digital Poetics” and “Critical Making, Critical Design.” The latter issue received the Electronic Literature Organization’s 2022 N. Katherine Hayles Prize for Criticism. She is Co-Editor of the forthcoming book collection EnTwine: A Critical and Creative Companion to Teaching with Twine with open-access publication Amherst College Press. Fan also makes digital and material art on computational poetics, e-waste, feminist crafts, and fashion.

Register for DS Bytes