Technocultural Questions

Decimal Lab (UOIT) in partnership with the Digital Life Research Group & Faculty of Social Science and Humanities (UOIT) welcomes the public to evenings of short academic talks. These events will be held at the Centre for Social Innovation, Decimal UOIT’s Toronto location.


Decimal Speakers Series 3

Date: January 28, 2019

Time: 5:30-7:30PM

Place: Toronto, Centre for Social Innovation, 192 Spadina Ave. ground floor Atrium (new building)

Rsvp: Free and open to the public,

Moderator: Isabel Pedersen, PhD, Decimal Lab Director


Featured Speakers


Andrew Iliadis, PhD, Temple University

Semantic Media: Who’s Building Meaning into our Machines?

Abstract: Since Google declared, in a 2012 blog post, that they would begin focusing on “things, not strings” there has been renewed interest in semantically enhancing web data. As the amount of data on the internet grows, there is a need to structure those data to produce semantic interoperability and increase understanding. To this end, tools like metadata schemas, knowledge graphs, and applied ontologies are experiencing a resurgence. Yet, along with increasing our ability to make sense of data through semanticization, there are identifiable problems related to interoperability that may negatively impact people, practices, and places. This talk explores semantic media technologies by asking if they are appropriate for modeling all kinds of knowledge, and how such modeling affects access and control​.


Tero Karppi, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto

Disconnect. Facebook’s Futures?

Abstract: After the Cambridge Analytica revelations, #DeleteFacebook hashtag became a trend. #DeleteFacebook was the crystallization of the demands to leave the social media site because it was compromising privacy, exploiting user data, and the connections it established could be used to manipulate the current political climate. In this talk, I show that the demands to disconnect Facebook have existed almost as long as the social media site. Furthermore, I argue that this threat of disconnection is constitutive to how Facebook understands user engagement and builds its affective bonds. Facebook’s futures depend on disconnection and are designed against its different modes and modalities.


Decimal Speakers Series 2

Date: November 14, 2018

Time: 5:30-7:30PM

Place: Toronto, Centre for Social Innovation, 192 Spadina Ave. ground floor Atrium (new building)

Rsvp: Free and open to the public, rsvp

Moderator: Isabel Pedersen, PhD, Decimal Lab Director


Featured Speakers


Steven Downing, PhD

Pains of imprisonment in a “lock em’ up” video game: exploring peacemaking discourse through gaming

An extremely limited body of literature has considered video game portrayals of the prison experience. This inquiry examines the game Prison Architect, with respect to how its interactive experience has the potential simultaneously portray and problematize pains of imprisonment, and how these portrayals may prompt a public discourse surrounding prison, particularly from a peacemaking perspective, even if the game itself does not incorporate concepts such as restorative justice.  Drawing from game developer video diaries, this inquiry link pains of imprisonment in Prison Architect to the broader societal discourse surrounding rationales for incarceration (i.e., retribution, incapacitation, and rehabilitation) and considers implications for prison themed games, particularly those such as simulation games that afford players a broad degree of freedom, as vehicles through which to engage the public in discourse about prison that can adopt a more human-centered, peace-oriented approach.



Andrea Slane, PhD

Protecting Vulnerable Humans in the Emerging Era of Robot Companions

Popular culture is filled with examples of companion robots that not only embody the best of human qualities, but indeed exceed them:  they are unflappably loyal, steadfast, trustworthy, and brave; they are often charming, sweet, cute.  Companion robots for the consumer market are an emerging technology that has not yet lived up to the fantasy.  However, other home and personal use technologies are becoming more commonplace: digital assistants, like Amazon’s voice-oriented Alexa, and text-based chatbots, like Mitsuko and Replika, are sure to converge to eventually produce a companion robot for home use that is capable of sustained, personalized, AI-powered conversation.  What’s missing from this future is a clear picture of how the various functions that home-use personal robots can perform to be monetized.  While consumer-grade robots are being marketed according to projections of their eventual capabilities, the missing business models make it difficult to ensure that the interests of users who take up the promise of robot companionship will be protected.  Drawing on existing models for assigning responsibility for the well-being of vulnerable people, this talk considers how to protect users when robots – or robot platform proprietors — become personal information custodians, fiduciaries, or confidentes.


Decimal Speakers Series 1

Date: March 1, 2018

Time: 5:30-7:30PM

Place: Toronto, Centre for Social Innovation, 215 Spadina Ave 4th floor

Rsvp: Free and open to the Public, rsvp

Moderator: Andrea Slane, PhD


Featured Speakers

Gary Genosko, PhD
Leap Smears:  Corporate Ontology and Time Criticality 
Since 1972 compensatory leap seconds have been introduced 37 times due to the discrepancy between Coordinated Universal Time and International Atomic Time. Google uses a temporal smear over the course of 20 hours, within the machine worlds of its NTP (Network Time Protocol) servers. Google wants other corporations to follow its Kairotic time critical practice. A corporate ontology of control would rewire the history of Western metaphysics and constitute a convulsive Aionic event.

Isabel Pedersen, PhD

‘Keeping up’: Humans, Brain-computer Interaction and AI Futures

In 2016, Elon Musk said “not all AI futures are benign”. His answer to this conundrum was to launch OpenAI, a non-profit venture at the same time as Neuralink Corp, his brain computer implant company. One Rolling Stone article explains Musk’s intent: “Neuralink allows our brains to keep up in the intelligence race.” This talk addresses the theme of vulnerability as a technocultural motivator. Brain-computer technology is developed in both consumer and research spheres to read thoughts, feelings, reactions, anxieties, delights, and fears. Ethical questions arise from the interpretation and storage of emotions within data assemblages and the implied future of their role in Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Tanner Mirrlees, PhD

Ubiquitous Media War: A New Paradigm?

This presentation conceptualizes the conditions and characteristics of the “ubiquitous media war.”  The military history of the Internet is well known, and currently, the institutions of war and the businesses of Web 2.0 converge as result of military-corporate research and development (R&D) partnerships, military-Silicon Valley procurement regimes, information operations, and techno-cultural imaginings. As militaries drive the digital to war, media wars in an age of abundant, interactive, and many-to-many social media platforms are qualitatively different from and disruptive to the media wars waged in the TV broadcasting age of media scarcity, transmission communication models, and few-to-many content flows.