York conference to advance AI for a healthy, just society

connected minds banner

On Thursday, March 7 from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., York University’s Connected Minds: Neural and Machine Systems for a Healthy, Just Society, the Centre for AI & Society (CAIS) and the IP Innovation Clinic will host the latest iteration of the Bracing for Impact conference series, which will focus on the rapid advancements and implications of artificial intelligence (AI).

AI is changing the world rapidly and as it does, it is important to have conversations not just about how to develop and use AI, but what the most responsible ways to do so are.

This year’s Bracing for Impact conference – titled Shaping the AI Challenge for a Healthy, Just Society – looks to advance socially conscious AI by exploring what implications the technology’s advancement may have for improving society. The conference will focus on the rapid advancements and implications of AI, with the spotlight on the technology’s intersection with health, neurotechnology, intellectual property, regulation, data governance, the arts and more. This one-day conference will bring together a multidisciplinary audience to discuss how AI can help shape a healthy and just society.

Giuseppina (Pina) D'Agostino
Giuseppina (Pina) D’Agostino

“In 2017 when we first launched Bracing for Impact, AI was still somewhat far-reaching,” explains Giuseppina (Pina) D’Agostino, vice-director of Connected Minds, founder and director of the IP Innovation Clinic and co-director of CAIS. “AI is now here and many of us are still in a brace position, attempting to understand how this technology is intermingling with our daily lives with all of its benefits and challenges. Our conference brings together diverse voices essential to explore these critical issues for the benefit of a healthy and just society for all.”

The conference will bring together Canadian and international academics as well as legal, policy, and technology practitioners to speak to ways of shaping AI and its uses for social betterment.

The event is being held at OneEleven on 325 Front Street West in Toronto and is sponsored by Microsoft Canada. Student and professional rates are offered and include food and refreshments.

Register via the Eventbrite page. For any questions about the conference, email connectedmindsinfo@yorku.ca.

Annual Jean Augustine Chair event shines spotlight on Black artists

Coco Murray performance during Word, Sound, Power 2023 (image: Anderson Coward)

Members of the York University community are invited to celebrate Black artistic talent during a showcase of performances on Feb. 7, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., when the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora presents Word, Sound, Power: An Annual Celebration of Black Artistic Expression.

The annual event celebrates the rich and diverse world of Black aritistic expression, promising to be a vibrant showcase of talent, creativity and cultural pride.

Carrington Christmas and Isaac Crosby
Carrington Christmas and Isaac Crosby

The event is open to the community and is free to attend. It begins at 5:30 p.m. with a welcome reception in the CIBC Lobby, Accolade East Building at the Keele Campus, and performances will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Tribute communities Recital Hall, Accolade East Building.

The event’s land acknowledgement will be provided by Carrington Christmas, a York alumna, who is an Indigenous anti-racist educator and self-described “Aunty Extraordinaire” with Black Scotian-Mi’kmaw and German ancestry.

Andrea Davis
Andrea Davis

The ceremony will then be closed with an Afro-Indigenous blessing from Isaac Crosby, an agricultural expert of Ojibwe of Anderdon heritage.

Hosting and providing opening remarks will be Andrea Davis, a professor in the Department of Humanities, who recently received an honorary degree in recognition of her work advancing equity, access and justice in post-secondary education.

Also providing remarks before the performances begin will be Jean Augustine, the first Black woman elected to the Parliament of Canada; Samia Hashi, Ontario regional director of Unifor, which sponsors the event; and Robert Savage, dean of the Faculty of Education.

Among the featured performances this year are:

  • solo performances, including song and instruments, dance and spoken word, from students from Greater Toronto Area school boards;
  • a performance from the Oscar Peterson Jazz Ensemble;
  • a performance from the York University R&B Ensemble;
  • a spotlight artistic performance of the evening from Ian Kamau, an artist and designer;
  • a performance from the York University Gospel Choir; and
  • an Afro-Caribbean dance performance by students from James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic High School in the CIBC Lobby during the welcome reception.
Anika Forde and Karen Burke
Anika Forde and Karen Burke

This year’s Word, Sound, Power event is put on in partnership with the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, with primary sponsorship from Unifor. York’s Division of Equity, People & Culture has also provided funding support. The Faculty of Education – home to the Jean Augustine Chair – and the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, through faculty member Davis, also play a critical role in the event.

Anika Forde, research project manager for the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora, and Karen Burke, Chair of Music, were co-conveners of the event this year.

Those interested in attending can register for free tickets on Eventbrite.

CHREI workshops to spotlight anti-racism and Black inclusion

group of diverse York students

Engaging in the work of equity and inclusion requires reflection and capacity building, which is why in celebration of Black History Month, the Centre for Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion (CHREI) is offering a series of four workshops (three in English, one in French) throughout the month.

Titled “A Spotlight on Intersectional Anti-Racism Work and Black Inclusion,” the series is tied to CHREI’s ongoing Rights, Equity, Decolonizing, Diversity & Inclusion (REDDI) Mini-Series of workshops. Those who attend three sessions can receive a special course certificate.

The ongoing workshop series focuses on various themes and topics covering human rights, equity, diversity, and inclusion and is open to all faculty, staff and students at York University. Sessions are interactive and instructor-led by members of the CHREI education team.

Acknowledging and Addressing Racism
Feb. 5, 1 to 2:30 p.m.

This workshop will help participants gain an understanding of how to recognize racism, how it can manifest and its impacts. Participants will learn strategies to address barriers to inclusive spaces and become familiar with relevant tools, policies and legislation.

Register for the Acknowledging and Addressing Racism workshop.

Black Inclusion: Historic and Current Efforts to Dismantle Anti-Black Racism
Feb. 14, 1 to 2:30 p.m.

This session will follow the birth and development of anti-Black racism globally and locally, and the efforts to dismantle it. Through case studies and scenarios, participants will gain tools to respond to anti-Black racism in effective and sustainable ways.

Register for the Black Inclusion workshop.

Do the Work: Intervening on Racism
Feb. 26, 10 to 11:30 a.m.

This workshop will be highly participation-based and will ask attendees to design strategies and tools to intervene in moments of racial discrimination, harassment and microaggressions. Prior familiarity with these concepts is recommended.

Note: Participants are strongly encouraged to participate in at least one of the workshops above before attending this session.

Register for the Do the Work workshop.

[En Français/In French] Reconnaître et aborder le racisme
29 février, 10h00 à 11h30

Cet atelier aidera les participants à comprendre comment se manifeste le racisme, et quels sont ses impacts. Les participants découvriront des stratégies visant à éliminer les obstacles aux espaces inclusifs et s’exerceront à interrompre les commentaires racistes.

Register for the Reconnaître et aborder le racisme workshop.

Visit the REDDI Workshop Series website for more details.

Upcoming event explores societal polarization threatening democracy

Man and woman standing opposite of each other, divided by a white line. Social distancing, quarantine, borders and barrier concept.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to solve important societal problems and has already found broad application, but there remain substantial challenges. York University’s Centre for Artificial Intelligence & Society (CAIS) hosts a monthly speaker series called CAIS Talks to shed light on some of these hurdles – and opportunities. This month, the series features Professor Moshe Vardi, a University professor and the George Distinguished Service Professor in Computational Engineering at Rice University in Houston, with a talk titled “Technology and Democracy.”

Moshe Vardi
Moshe Vardi

On Feb. 15 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Vardi will discuss the deep societal polarization – in the U.S. and elsewhere – that not only leads to political gridlock but threatens the very foundations of democracy. This hybrid event will take place both online and in person in Osgoode Hall Law School, Room 1014, on York’s Keele Campus.

When speaking of societal polarization, the phrase “the Disunited States of America” is often thrown around. But, according to Vardi, other countries are displaying similar division. At this talk, he will argue that the current state of affairs is the result of the confluence of two “tsunamis” that have unfolded over the past 40 years: one is technology, from the introduction of the IBM personal computer in 1981 to the current domination of public discourse by social media; the second is neoliberal economic policies favouring private enterprise and reduced government spending. The combination of these two shifts, he will argue, has led to both economic and cognitive polarization.

Vardi’s is highly regarded in his field of mathematics and computer science. He holds nine honorary titles, is a recipient of numerous awards, and is the author and co-author of two books and over 750 papers. He serves his community as a fellow of several societies and a member of several academies. He is also a senior editor of premier computing publication Communications of the ACM.

Interested in hearing more? Register by Feb. 9 at CAIS Talks Presents… Moshe Vardi (yorku.ca) to attend. For more information about CAIS, visit yorku.ca/research/cais.

Harriet Tubman Institute kicks off Black History Month

Stack of books on shelf

The Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa & its Diasporas is set to commence Black History Month with an opening ceremony on Feb. 1 at the Resource Centre located at 314 York Lanes.

This year’s theme, “Black Educators and Black Education,” will be celebrated through a series of events, starting with a reception where the community, friends and visitors can gather to socialize over a meal catered by the Executive Learning Centre.

The ceremony will include a panel discussion featuring distinguished Black faculty members from York University and a visiting scholar from the University of Guelph, delving into the “Black Educators and Black Education” theme.

The panellists from York University include: Godfred Boateng from the School of Global Health; Molade Osibodu from the Department of Education; Ola Mohammed from the Deptartment of Humanities; and Solomon Boakye-Yiadom from the Department of Engineering. Lawrence Goodridge, from the the Department of Food Science at the University of Guelph, will also be part of the panel.

The event aims to create a friendly and joyful space for the community to celebrate and support Black educators. It also serves as an opportunity to set positive intentions for Black History Month.

To attend the opening ceremony and panel discussion, interested individuals are encouraged to register in advance.

To learn more about the series of events organized by the Harriet Tubman Institute, in collaboration with its partners, please review the full schedule on the institute’s website.

Bestselling author to share publishing secrets at upcoming event

Pile of books

If you’ve ever fantasized about becoming a published author, or are simply curious about how the book industry works, you won’t want to miss this upcoming event. On Wednesday, Jan. 31, York University’s Writing Department and Creative Writing program are hosting a talk and Q-and-A session with Cody Caetano, a literary agent and award-winning Indigenous author whose bestselling debut memoir, Half-Bads in White Regalia (Penguin Random House Canada, 2022), won the 2023 Indigenous Voices Award for Published Prose in English.

Cody Caetano
Cody Caetano

Caetano, who is of Anishinaabe and Portuguese descent and is an off-reserve member of Pinaymootang First Nation, holds a master of arts in creative writing from the University of Toronto, where he wrote his memoir under the mentorship of Indigenous Canadian writer and academic Lee Maracle.

The highly successful memoir that resulted, Half-Bads in White Regalia, was longlisted for the 2023 Toronto Book Award, the 2023 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour and Canada Reads 2023. It was also named one of the best books of the year by the Globe and Mail and CBC Books.

To make his career trajectory even more impressive, Caetano was writing his bestselling debut memoir while working his way up the corporate ranks in the publishing industry, from his entry-level role as contracts administrator to his current job as a literary agent at the CookeMcDermid agency.

At this in-person event, the author and agent will speak about how to break into the book publishing industry and the challenges and rewards of being an author while also working a day job. After his talk and Q-and-A, he will read from his forthcoming novel and sign copies of his memoir.

The event will take place in the Harry Crowe Room, 109 Atkinson Building, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Registration is not required and all York University community members are welcome to attend.

Seminar series examines impact of scientific, technological advances

Interplay of abstract geometry structure and numbers on subject of computing, virtual reality and education.

The series, sponsored by the Department of Science, Technology & Society in York’s Faculty of Science and co-ordinated by its members, is the oldest continuously running seminar series at the University. It began in the early 1990s, when the STS department was still housed in Atkinson College, and while much has changed and advanced since then, one thing hasn’t: the series continues to welcome all members of the York community who are curious about STS.

Below is a summary of the seminars scheduled for the Winter 2024 term.

Alina Wernick
Alina Wernick

Jan. 30 “Human Rights-Based Governance of Smart City Technologies” presented by Alina Wernick, University of Helsinki

The public sector has been rapidly adopting smart city technologies in areas ranging from law enforcement and transportation to health care. These technologies have implications on a wide range of fundamental human rights. To mitigate these risks, several scientific communities have proposed human rights-based approaches to govern algorithmic, biometric and smart city technologies.

In this presentation, Wernick will explain the theoretic background of each of the approaches in the light of recent research published in the Internet Policy Review special issue, which she co-edited. She will also discuss the temporal dimensions of these human rights risk-mitigation measures as well as geopolitical tensions affecting the two approaches.

Matthew L. Jones

Feb. 13 “Social Experts Within and Without: Social Epistemologies and the Netflix Competition in the Making of Machine Learning” presented by Matthew L. Jones, Princeton University

From 2006 to 2009, the Netflix video streaming service sponsored a competition to improve predictions about which films their customers would rank highly and lowly. In this presentation, Jones will use that competition as a way to explore how the social behaviours and thinking of those who create algorithmic models impact those models themselves. In other words, he will show that the well-known problems with machine learning systems in many ways stem from the inadequate sociality of machine learning and its makers.

Shane O'Donnell
Shane O’Donnell

March 26 – “Transformations in Diabetes Care: Lessons from Commons-based, Peer-produced Citizen Science” presented by Shane O’Donnell, University College Dublin

Social and technological trends have enabled the emergence and re-emergence of different forms of citizen science in the form of do-it-yourself communities, maker movements and user-led innovations. In particular, the growth of social networks, big data and distributed manufacturing technologies are enabling communities to modify and produce medical technologies to better meet their needs across a range of chronic conditions. Despite this, most instances of peer-produced citizen science have remained at the periphery of the health-care system.

In this seminar, O’Donnell will use the diabetes community’s #WeAreNotWaiting movement – demanding faster access to treatments and technologies to help manage their condition – as a real-world example of where this type of citizen science has gone beyond the fringes of medicine and health care. Drawing on the literature on commons-based peer production and citizen science, he will show how a self-organized community of people with diabetes developed open-source innovations that not only helped them meet their own medical needs, but have also been shown to be more advanced than similar innovations produced within the traditional model of medical innovation. He will show how this community has changed the medical landscape in the process.

All events in the series will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. and will be accessible via the following Zoom link: yorku.zoom.us/j/93913086494?pwd=RGVvelVYZCtQZmdjQUdUUkpMeXY4QT09.

For more information on the series, contact the seminar series co-ordinator Hélène Mialet at hmialet@yorku.ca

Outdoor recreation program returns with winter fun

Cross-country skiing

Looking to get active this semester without committing to the gym or a sports team? Check out Athletics & Recreation’s Outdoor Experience Program, back for its second term and open to York University students and community members. Adventure seekers of all kinds are invited to immerse themselves in Canadian culture beyond York’s borders, with staff taking participants by bus to off-campus locations to participate in a variety of fun winter activities, from cross-country skiing and snow tubing to hiking and more.

The program’s second event of the term, snow tubing at Horseshoe Valley Resort, takes place on Feb. 17 from 10:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., with the activity itself lasting three hours. Travelling by bus, participants will head to the resort in Barrie, Ont., where they will receive a hill pass that grants them unlimited access during the allocated time slot. Snow tubing is a thrill-seeking activity that requires no skill or previous experience. You’ll fly down the hill in a single-person tube and be taken back to the top by the “magic carpet,” a type of conveyer belt for people. Participants will also be able to warm up in the resort’s chalet and purchase food from the various restaurants and eateries. This is a great opportunity to meet new people, try something new, and get the health and well-being benefits of being active outdoors.

The other upcoming events this term include:

  • Winter Hike at Kelso Conservation Area, March 10 (register by March 2); and
  • Farm Xperience at Riverdale Farm, April 27 (register by April 19).

For more information about the Outdoor Experience Program, including pricing, and to register, visit the program website. The prices of the events cover transportation, entry to the experience, required equipment and a snack. All York University community members are welcome to participate.

New lecture series to spotlight York’s research leadership

innovation image

York University’s Organized Research Units (ORU) are launching the Big Thinking Lecture Series, which will feature researchers, artists and activists taking up some of the world’s most pressing issues and ideas in their fields, from water research and aging to digital literacy and more.

As a leader in research and innovative thinking, York has a lot to show in the ways its faculty and students are helping right the future with big ideas. The new lecture series, which will consist of various talks and artistic events held throughout the calendar year, will see expert York speakers present research and creative works that span their respective fields, which include muscle health, Indigenous knowledges and languages, youth and aging, Canadian studies, technoscience and society, feminist activism, and Jewish social and political thought.

John Tsotsos
John Tsotsos

“This bold new series will showcase the depth and breadth of research excellence generated by York’s Organized Research Units and their commitment to fostering critical thought and dialogue on today’s global challenges,” said Amir Asif, vice-president research and innovation. “The Big Thinking Lecture Series builds on York’s proud tradition of interdisciplinary scholarship and participatory research. I applaud the ORU directors for bringing this series forward.”

The inaugural lecture of the series, titled “Vision Beyond a Glance,” is presented by the Centre for Vision Research and will feature John Tsotsos, a Distinguished Research Professor in the Lassonde School of Engineering. He will explore the meaning of vision and explain how we effortlessly perform visual tasks many times a day. The in-person event will take place on Jan. 26 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in 519 Kaneff Tower.

For more details about the inaugural event and the series itself, visit yorku.ca/research/bigthinking.

York prof to moderate panel on Black students’ mental health

Two Black students walking inside on York's Keele Campus

Research continues to indicate that anti-Black racism takes a toll on mental health – and academia is not immune to this unfortunate reality. As part of the upcoming Black Student Mental Health Symposium, York University Professor Agnès Berthelot-Raffard will moderate a panel discussion featuring experts from York and beyond speaking about mental health challenges faced by Black students, the racial climate on campus, and equity, diversity and inclusion in the university setting.

Agnès Berthelot-Raffard
Agnès Berthelot-Raffard

Open to all community members, the Feb. 5 event – taking place from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the Founders Assembly Hall on York’s Keele Campus – aims to provide a space to explore strategies and resources to support the mental well-being of Black students, faculty and staff on university campuses.

Berthelot-Raffard, a professor in the School of Health Policy & Management, is the principal investigator of the Promoting Black Students’ Mental Health: A Pan-Canadian Research and Intervention Project on Social Determinants of Health and Equity in Canadian Universities, a project funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada for 2021-24. For this event, she gathered a group of notable York leaders and experts to contribute their diverse knowledge to the panel discussion:

  • Delores Mullings, vice-provost of equity, diversity and inclusion at Memorial University and a professor of social work;
  • Sophie Yohani, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Alberta;
  • Carl James, Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora, a professor at York University, and York’s senior advisor on equity and representation in the Office of the Vice-President of Equity, People and Culture;
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau, instructor and special advisor at the Schulich School of Business; and
  • Yasmine Gray, York University alumna from the Critical Disability Studies program.

For more information and to register for the event, visit the Eventbrite page.