Hope everyone is handling end-of-term duties well, and is looking forward to the holidays. Enjoy celebrating! Some recent news from our Department members:
Katy Fulfer had a busy November. She reports that, at the start of the month: “UWaterloo Arts welcomed prospective students and their families. Greg Andres, Caroline Dack, Carla Fehr, Katy Fulfer, Theo Peng, and Nick Ray were around to answer questions and share the exciting work students and faculty do in the department. The Open House was also one of the first times we’ve been able to showcase the new Gender & Social Justice programs, which launch in the Fall 2019 term! We couldn’t let guests leave without a little conceptual work either! We asked people to tell us what philosophical questions keep them up at night, and why they need feminism.” See some of the fun:
Katy continues: “Philosophy and Women’s Studies also co-sponsored a public talk by queer theorist Jack Halberstam on November 19. Jack’s talk “TRANS* Visual archives of the transgendered body” explored his recent explorations of archival material in search of representations of transmasculinity.” Katy’s latest publication also appeared—”Self-Sufficiency for Surrogacy and Responsibility for Global Structural Injustice”—as a chapter in the book, Surrogacy in Canada: Critical Perspectives in Law and Policy, ed. by V. Gruben, et al, published by Irwin Law. (https://www.irwinlaw.com/titles/surrogacy-canada.) And, at month’s end, the Women’s Studies Program hosted human rights lawyer, peacemaker, and women’s rights advocate, Wazhma Frogh. Wazhma talked about how she developed a consciousness of peace and advocacy work, the work she did in her home country of Afghanistan, and the advocacy work she’s doing now upon moving to Kitchener-Waterloo.
Carla Fehr recently gave an intriguing presentation on the very topical topic of artificial intelligence (AI), and its manifold implications for our lives. For all the talk, and reality, of AI’s potential to improve and simplify things, Carla’s contribution drew attention to AI’s potential for amplifying prejudices and biases already existing with society. She gave the example of the work of Joy Buolamwini, an African-American computer scientist at the M.I.T. Media Lab, who experienced the bias of facial recognition software firsthand. The software didn’t work on her face, even though it worked on her white friends. Shockingly, Buolamwini could only get the system to recognize her as human when she wore a white mask. She proceeded to conduct a formal, detailed study, finding that commercial face recognition software is bad at identifying women with darker skin tones. The error rate was as high as 46 per cent, which Carla notes is almost no better than a random coin toss. She comments that AI is, after all, set up with initial programming, and this programming can represent biases, and that even smart, well-intentioned people can be quite oblivious to the fact and nature of their own biases, as well as their consequences. For more on Carla’s, plus other presentations at that event, please see: https://uwaterloo.ca/stories/keeping-human-artificial-intelligence.
Shannon Dea was featured in the Fall 2018 Waterloo Magazine issue, “Unlocking the Future of Learning”: https://uwaterloo.ca/magazine/fall-2018/feature/how-do-we-learn.
Dr. Shannon Dea, second in from the left, featured with UW students. Photo credit: One For The Wall
Shannon also reports on recent, important graduate student news she’s been connected with:
Matt Silk successfully defended his PhD dissertation, Evaluation and Value Management in Science. Examiners were Lorraine Code (York), Brendon Larson (ERS), Matt Brown (UT Dallas) Patricia Marino and Shannon Dea (supervisor).
Vanessa Lam successfully defended her PhD prospectus, Harm Reduction for Corporations and is now ABD. Vanessa’s committee: Matt Doucet, Mary Hardy (Statistics and Actuarial Science) and Shannon Dea (supervisor).
Congratulations to both Matt and Vanessa on the milestone achievements!
Shannon also gave a recent invited talk on “Academic Freedom in Context” at the Within and Against Academic Freedom symposium at the New School at the University of Toronto. And she reports two new entries of her monthly online column for University Affairs – Dispatches on Academic Freedom:
- (December dispatch) “My Office Door and the Campus Free Speech Crisis That Never Was,” https://www.universityaffairs.ca/opinion/dispatches-academic-freedom/my-office-door-and-the-campus-free-speech-crisis-that-never-was/
- (November dispatch) “Academic Freedom in a Non-Ideal World,” https://www.universityaffairs.ca/opinion/dispatches-academic-freedom/academic-freedom-in-a-non-ideal-world/.
And Shannon had two recent publications:
“Free Speech and the Battle for the University.” Lead article in Academic Matters’s Fall 2018 issue on Debating Speech on Campus (https://academicmatters.ca/print-issues/debating-speech-on-campus/); and
Review of Mara Marin, Connected by Commitment: Oppression and Our Responsibility to Undermine It (Oxford, 2017). APA Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy 18.1 (2018) 18-20, https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.apaonline.org/resource/collection/D03EBDAB-82D7-4B28-B897-C050FDC1ACB4/FeminismV18n1.pdf.
And Chris Lowry reports that he was recently interviewed on 570 News radio. He was on “Kitchener Today with Brian Bourke” to discuss a Chinese researcher’s announcement of the world’s first gene-edited babies, as well as ethical issues related to “designer babies” more generally.
The interview was November 28th, link following, starting at about the 21-minute mark: https://www.570news.com/audio/kitchener-today-with-brian-bourke/. Chris also reports a recent publication: “Universalism, Vulnerability, and Egalitarianism”: a chapter (pp. 5-24) in C. A. Riddle’s ed., From Disability Theory to Practice (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2018). Cover image below: