A&S scholars sharing their expertise in the media this week

June 12, 2020 by A&S News

Scholars from a range of disciplines across the Faculty of Arts & Science are sharing their expertise on pressing issues in the media — from conversations around removing monuments and renaming public spaces in the wake of anti-racism protests, to the effectiveness of body cameras worn by police officers.

Here’s some of what they had to say this week.

June 5, 2020

  • Michelle Cho, an assistant professor in the Department of East Asian Studies, discusses how K-pop band BTS helps fans around the world navigate identity and hardship on CBC Radio’s Tapestry. "Their core message continues to be one of a youthful struggle against an adult world that can feel intimidating, forbidding, and the way that young people can come together to overcome the stresses and challenges of growing up,” Cho says.

June 6, 2020

  • Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies PhD candidate Erick Laming speaks about growing calls for mandatory use of body cameras by all police forces in a CBC News story. “It's a knee-jerk, Band-Aid solution right now. It's not going to change anything," Laming says. "We're going to have these issues down the road, because there are problems between police and the community. It's not the body camera that fixes it."
  • Daniyal Liaqat, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Computer Science, explains in a CBC News story how smartwatches and artificial intelligence can help people with COVID-19 monitor symptoms from home and alert them when they should return to the hospital. “We want to figure out who is deteriorating so we can get them treatment earlier. Late treatment could result in worse outcomes for the patient,” says Liaqat.
  • Spike Lee, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and the Rotman School of Management, speaks on CBC Radio’s Fresh Air about the psychological factors behind someone’s decision to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “When things are uncertain, we tend to look to others for cues as to how to behave,” Lee says regarding the prevalence of social norms among the many factors that going into making the choice.
  • Department of Philosophy professor Cheryl Misak examines in the National Post how the early 20th-century friendship between renowned Austria-born philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and British prodigy Frank Ramsey impacted the former permanently before the latter’s untimely death. Misak’s new biography about Ramsey offers that his pragmatic approach prompted Wittgenstein to recognize faults in his own thinking and reconsider his understanding of logic and language. 

June 7, 2020

  • Anthony Doob, a professor emeritus at the Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies, comments in a Calgary Sun story about the proposal to establish a parole board for the province of Alberta to oversee the cases of inmates in provincial prisons. Doob questions the need for provincial parole because it deals with such short sentences. “While these guys are on parole, they are relatively safe,” he says, noting those convicted of more serious crimes typically end up in the federal system.

June 8, 2020

  • Erick Laming is cited in a Globe and Mail (paywall) story about the use of body cameras by police officers, saying the public has unrealistic expectations of how accessible such footage would be. Laming says that even if a body camera is properly activated and clearly captures an interaction between police and the public, that footage would likely be restricted during any investigation by oversight bodies. “A freedom-of-information request would likely be needed to access the video and even then, it could be severely redacted,” he says.

June 9, 2020

  • Scot Wortley, an associate professor at the Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies, discusses the state of policing in Nova Scotia more than a year after he delivered a report on racial profiling by Halifax-area police. In a CBC News story, Wortley, says, "We're at this threshold now of a year. If another year passes and major recommendations have not been implemented, I think the likelihood that they will ever be implemented declines."
  • Department of Geography & Planning assistant professor Michael Widener comments in a CNN story about how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated challenges of easy access to grocery stores, as well as affordability, in the United States. "With the economic hit many people have taken over the last few months, it's tougher to afford fresh, healthy food like fruits and veggies, which are more expensive than processed items," Widener says.
  • John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at The Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, speaks in a CBC News story about a new report that exposes a digital hacking-for-hire service that targeted more than 10,000 email accounts over seven years. "This is one of the largest spy-for-hire operations ever exposed," says Scott-Railton.

June 11, 2020

  • Department of History associate professor Melanie Newton comments on a petition to rename Dundas Street in Toronto in the National Post. “People take for granted that street names don’t matter, but they do because they speak about our values,” says Newton. “They inscribe historical realities of power and privilege into the landscape that we move through every day.”
  • Newton also joins a broader discussion on Zoomer Radio on how contemporary conversations about renaming streets and tearing down statues, are increasing awareness of anti-Black racism around the world.
  • Scot Wortley comments in a CBC News story about Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit — the body that investigates allegations of wrongdoing by Ontario's police forces — intention to begin collecting race-based data on individuals involved in their investigations. "I do think this is a major step forward studying patterns, and, importantly, trends in police use of force," Wortley says.
  • Department of English professor Nick Mount provides a list of books to read that could make up for missing a summer road trip in the Globe and Mail. “Most early Canadian writing in prose is, almost by necessity, about journeys,” Mount adds.
  • John Scott-Railton discusses in The Guardian how the hacking-for-hire program uncovered by the Citizen Lab, differs from previous and more familiar spam email operations. Scott-Railton says the hack-for-hire industry was growing and becoming more accessible for adversaries to use against each other in disputes, whether they are between companies and governments, or between companies, or are targeting non-profits and reporters.