Member Activities

Response to Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Call for Consultation for Responsible Development of AI

Fenwick McKelvey organized a consultation paper for OPC’s call on Responsible Development of AI. The paper reads:

The world is watching Canada. Federal research development and industrial strategy have positioned technologies commonly referred to as artificial intelligence (AI) as a centrepiece of Canada’s digital economy. In the wake of these initiatives, calls for Canada to establish a strong rights-based regulatory framework have resulted in proposals such as the Digital Charter. Even though AI governance in Canada has lagged behind investment, the Federal government continues to be perceived as a world leader in the responsible development of AI. Consultations like this one set national and international precedents and cannot be taken lightly.

Privacy is only part of the solution to the challenge of responsible development of  AI. Justice, equality, human dignity, and democratic norms all must be taken into consideration to achieve a stable and responsible context for the development of AI.

We seek to offer recommendations that lie within the scope of the OPC’s current and futuremandate. Our statement has been collectively drafted and reflects the shared views of an interdisciplinary group of scholars in Montreal. Together, we combine expertise in a variety of fields and subjects with a shared interest in the study of science and technology as well as insights gained from studying or working in AI development.

Please find the full consultation here, signed by Ana Brandusescu, Janna Frenzel, Nick Gertler, Robert Hunt, Fenwick McKelvey, Nicole Rigillo, Bart Simon, Luke Stark, Ceyda Yolgormez

Ceyda Yolgormez and Bart Simon present at 4S New Orleans “Domesticating Alexa: The Cultural Biography of Virtual Assistants


Abstract: This paper looks at domestic virtual assistant technologies (such as Alexa or Google Home) through cultural studies of robotics, artificial intelligence, STS, and interactionist sociology. While dominant popular and market narratives position virtual assistants as the personified cornerstone of the new smart home, our research considers the practical failure of these assistants from an interactionist standpoint. We argue that there is a difference between the critique of virtual assistants in principle (in terms of the extension of surveillance systems and social control), and the critique of virtual assistants in practice (because they are not necessarily used in a way in which an extension of surveillance argument makes sense). In effect the practical domestication of these technologies effectively alters their meaning and significance and so we must look at processes and practices of domestication. Following Igor Kopytoff’s (1986 ) “The Cultural Biography of Things”, we consider the domestication process of virtual assistants through phases of appropriation and interaction. In accordance with Kopytoff’s formulation, these artifacts move from being fetishized commodities to being more -then less- agential domestic technologies, by becoming individualized through everyday interactions. The cultural biography would highlight the phases of this “singularization” process and trouble the dominant accounts of virtual assistants’ affordances and roles in the household. The project shows that virtual assistants hover in this process between subject and object, human and machine; neither household subjects nor household objects and in so doing raise interesting questions about interaction, agency and object relations in domestic spaces.

Joseph Thibodeau’s residency at Concordia University’s 4th Space

“Machine Menagerie”

Joe is developing these playful machines that are dynamically entangled with their environments.

Orit Halpern’s talk “Resilient Speculation” at re:publica 2018

Today few terms are more central to policy, planning, or economics then the term “resilience”. From urban planning to stress testing in economic markets, we have come to understand systems as constantly in a state of crisis that needs perpetual management. This talk traces the rise of resilience as a central epistemology and practice in environmental management, urban development, and finance. I will argue that resilience has become the dominant discourse by which time and uncertainty are currently being managed in computation, finance, and design. Moreover, resilience has become a new logic making the planet, and its living populations, computationally measurable and representable, and…

Orit Halpern published articles

Golden Futures, 2018, LIMN

Hopeful Resilience, 2017, e-flux

The Smartness Mandate:Notes toward a Critique, 2017, Grey Room 68, co-authors Robert Mitchell, Berbard Geoghegan


Chris Salter’s talk “When are we? Adventures in the Machine Readable Self” at ERROR – The Art of Imperfection Conference – Ars Electronica 2018

The afore-mentioned responsibility encompasses the encouragement of creative practices, as well as an openness for polymaths and cross-disciplinary approaches. There is a strong expectation that art-science-technology collaborations provide a valuable strategy for developing new and before unknown approaches by embracing errors and encouraging diversity, which allows a reflection on itself and its impact on society. These reflexions are essential for the creation of functioning human-machine interfaces in the further development steps of artificial intelligence.

Chris Salter is an artist, University Research Chair in New Media, Technology and the Senses at Concordia University and Co-Director of the Hexagram network for Research-Creation in Media Arts, Design, Technology and Digital Culture, in Montreal. Salter’s performances, installations, research and publications have been presented at numerous festivals, exhibition and conferences around the world. He is the author of Entangled (2010) and Alien Agency (2015) both from MIT Press.