Upcoming Events @ C4E: Info & Registration

  • Wed, Apr 21, 2021
    Ethics of Songs
    The Ethics of Songs: Deep River (African American spiritual, arr. H.T. Burleigh), with Ellie Hisama

    Join us for the Spring 2021 Season of The Ethics of Songs, the Centre for Ethics YouTube series that explores the ethical dimensions of songs familiar and new! (The full schedule is available here.)

    Ellie Hisama
    Music and Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality
    Columbia University

    Produced and edited by Laura Menard (Music & Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto)

    Ellie Hisama is Professor of Music and a member of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Columbia University, where she has taught since 2006. The author of Gendering Musical Modernism, she has published on the music of Geri Allen, Joan Armatrading, Benjamin Britten, Ruth Crawford, Julius Eastman, and DJ Kuttin Kandi. She will join the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music in July 2021 as Professor of Music and its next Dean.

    ► please register here

    This is an online event, available on the Centre for Ethics YouTube Channel. Channel subscribers will receive a notification at the start. (For other events in the series, and to subscribe, visit YouTube.com/c/CentreforEthics.)

    ► To stay informed about other upcoming events at the Centre for Ethics, opportunities, and more, please sign up for our newsletter.

    03:00 PM - 03:30 PM
    Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto
    200 Larkin

  • Wed, Apr 28, 2021
    Ethics of AI in Context: Emerging Scholars
    Julian Posada, Disembeddedness in Data Annotation for Machine Learning (Ethics of AI in Context: Emerging Scholars)

    Disembeddedness in Data Annotation for Machine Learning

    What happens when data annotation and algorithmic verification occurs in a significantly deregulated market? Today, many AI companies outsource these essential steps in developing machine learning algorithms to workers worldwide through digital labour platforms. This labour market has experienced a race to the bottom environment where most of the workers are situated in Venezuela, a country experiencing a profound social, political, and economic crisis, with the world’s highest inflation rates. This talk presents preliminary findings of ongoing research to explore how the “disembededness” of this market, in which economic activity is unconstrained (or deregulated) by institutions, affects workers’ livelihoods and, ultimately, the algorithms they are shaping. The talk explores this situation through the working conditions of platform users, the composition of their local networks, and the power relations between them, ML developers, and platforms.

    ► please register here

    This is an online event. It will be live streamed on the Centre for Ethics YouTube Channel on Wednesday, April 28. Channel subscribers will receive a notification at the start of the live stream. (For other events in the series, and to subscribe, visit YouTube.com/c/CentreforEthics.)

    ► To stay informed about other upcoming events at the Centre for Ethics, opportunities, and more, please sign up for our newsletter.

    Julian PosadaJulian Posada
    Faculty of Information
    University of Toronto

    04:00 PM - 05:00 PM
    Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto
    200 Larkin

  • Fri, May 7, 2021
    Conferences, Ethics of AI in Context
    Conference: Transparency in the Digital Environment

    Transparency in the Digital Environment

    Transparency has become an astonishingly popular ideal over the last couple of decades. Its traditional habitats, public law and political theory, have lost their monopoly to define it. It has globalized and spilled over to new disciplinary discourses – quite prominently, in algorithms and automation – thus becoming a well-nigh self-justificatory virtue, “the cultural signifier of neutrality.” Transparency promises that we can witness, immediately, what happens in the chambers of power, and by virtue of this witnessing, fix what needs to be fixed.

    Can we, really? In the wake of post-truth politics, fake news and alternative facts, this promise needs to be reassessed. Governance uses increasingly computerized forms, automated decision-making and even machine learning, often taking place in opaque “black boxes.” At the same time, due to our online behavior, big data and even deliberate manipulation, we are pulled towards solipsistic realities: echo chambers and filter bubbles. These trends may distance us from interactive democratic deliberation, which presupposes some shared understanding of reality.

    Can transparency deliver its promise in a digitalized environment? Does power hide not only from transparency but in transparency? Is it just a figurative placeholder for information release practices, or has it become a meta-discourse to assess the successfulness of those practices? To what extent is it legal, social, cultural, technical, material? These questions are important.

    Algorithmic governance may not have a human understandable form to represent. What would be made visible, then?

    There is a growing literature on critical transparency studies which argues convincingly that transparency is not an avenue to objective truth. Additionally, critical algorithm studies suggest, in turn, that algorithmization of our society cannot take place in a social vacuum. So far, law has not contributed much to those debates. To a large extent, it seems to subscribe quite uncritically to the realist theory of knowledge and concentrate on doctrinal analysis of freedom of information acts, or data protection law.

    ★ This online conference will feature contributors to a special issue, guest edited by Ida Koivisto (Law, Helsinki), in the open-access online journal Critical Analysis of Law: An International & Interdisciplinary Law Review. ► Access the special issue here.

    Preliminary Schedule

    10am [= 7am Pacific/3pm UK/4pm Central Europe/5pm Finland]
    Panel 1: Digital Transparency Between Truth and Power
    10:00 Introduction
    10:05 “Transparency-Washing” in the Digital Age: A Corporate Agenda of Procedural Fetishism (Monika Zalnieriute, in absentia) (summary by Ida Koivisto)
    10:10 Crafting Digital Transparency: Implementing Legal Values into Algorithmic Design
    (Riikka Koulu)
    10:25 The Digital Rear Window: Epistemologies of Digital Transparency
    (Ida Koivisto)
    10:40 Three Sides of the Same Coin: Datafied Transparency, Biometric Surveillance, and Algorithmic Governmentalities (Oana B. Albu & Hans Krause Hansen)
    10:55 Discussion & Q&A

    11:30am [= 8:30am/4:30pm/5:30pm/6:30pm]
    Panel 2: The Promise and Perils of Digital Transparency
    11:30 Algorithmic Transparency and Explainability for EU Consumer Protection: Unwrapping the Regulatory Premises (Mateusz Grochowski, Agnieszka Jabłonowska, Francesca Lagioia & Giovanni Sartor)
    11:45 Notified But Unaware: Third-Party Tracking Online (Stefan Larsson, Anders Jensen-Urstad, & Fredrik Heintz)
    12:00 A “Public” Journey Through COVID-19: Donald Trump, Twitter, and the Secrecy of U.S. Presidents’ Health (Mark Fenster)
    12:15 Transparent Dreams (Are Made of This): Counterfactuals as Transparency Tools in ADM (Katja de Vries)
    12:30 Discussion & Q&A

    ► please register here

    This is an online event. It will be live streamed on the Centre for Ethics YouTube Channel at 10am, Friday, May 7 [= 7am Pacific/3pm UK/4pm Central Europe/5pm Finland]. Channel subscribers will receive a notification at the start of the live stream.



    10:00 AM - 01:00 PM
    Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto

  • Wed, Jun 9, 2021
    Author Meets Critics, Ethics in the City, Ethics in Context
    Author Meets Critics: Mark Kingwell, The Ethics of Architecture (Ethics in Context)

    The Ethics of Architecture (OUP 2021)

    Mark Kingwell
    Department of Philosophy
    University of Toronto

    Martin Bressani
    (McGill, Architecture)
    Theresa Enright
    (UofT, Political Science)
    Mary Louise Lobsinger (UofT, Architecture)
    Thilo Schaefer
    (UofT, Political Science) (moderator)

    The Book: The Ethics of Architecture

    A lively and accessible discussion of how architecture functions in a complex world of obligation and responsibility, with a preface offering specific discussion of architecture during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

    What are the special ethical obligations assumed by architects? Because their work creates the basic material conditions that make all other human activity possible, architects and their associates in building enjoy vast influence on how we all live, work, play, worship, and think. With this influence comes tremendous, and not always examined, responsibility. This book addresses the range of ethical issues that architects face, with a broad understanding of ethics. Beyond strictly professional duties – transparency, technical competence, fair trading – lie more profound issues that move into aesthetic, political, and existential realms. Does an architect have a duty to create art, if not always beautiful art? Should an architect feel obliged to serve a community and not just a client? Is justice a possible orientation for architectural practice? Is there such a thing as feeling compelled to “shelter being” in architectural work? By taking these usually abstract questions into the region of physical creation, the book attempts a reformulation of “architectural ethics” as a matter of deep reflection on the architect’s role as both citizen and caretaker. Thinkers and makers discussed include Le Corbusier, Martin Heidegger, Lewis Mumford, Rem Koolhaas, Jane Jacobs, Arthur Danto, and John Rawls.

    The Series: Ethics in Context

    The Ethics of Architecture is the first book in a new series, Ethics in Context, published by Oxford University Press under the auspices of the Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto, that explores the ethical dimensions of interesting, provocative, and timely questions. Written to be read, and priced to be bought, books in the series are accessible, yet provide something rigorous that stimulates thought and debate, in keeping with the interdisciplinary and inclusive vision that animates the Centre for Ethics at the interface between academic research and public discourse.

    Like its institutional home, Ethics in Context takes a broad, contextual, view of ethics: not as falling within the purview of a specific discipline but as a mode of normative analysis particularly well suited for interdisciplinary and public-facing reflection.

    please register here

    This is an online event. It will be live streamed on the Centre for Ethics YouTube Channel at 4pm, Wednesday, June 9. Channel subscribers will receive a notification at the start of the live stream. (For other C4E events, and to subscribe, visit YouTube.com/c/CentreforEthics.)

    ► To stay informed about other upcoming events at the Centre for Ethics, opportunities, and more, please sign up for our newsletter.

    04:00 PM - 05:30 PM
    Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto
    Rm 200, Larkin Building

  • Fri, Jul 9, 2021
    Conference: The Ethics of Human Rights

    The Ethics of Human Rights

    This international and interdisciplinary conference tackles several key questions concerning human rights today: What is the most claims to human rights can achieve? How can human rights be a starting point for making claims on the nation-state? Are human rights claims necessarily addressed to nation-states? And what alternative political visions do human rights exclude? Panels of leading anthropologists, legal theorists, political scientists, and philosophers will discuss and debate these questions. Workshop proceedings will appear in a special symposium issue of C4eJournal.net.

    Preliminary Schedule

    12pm [= 9am Pacific/5pm UK/6pm Central Europe]
    Panel 1: Human Rights and Africa
    Catherine Bolten
    , Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame
    “What Counts as a Right? Formal Education, Vocational Training, and Bad Faith in Sierra Leone”
    The right to education was enacted into law in Sierra Leone in 2007. This right ostensibly enabled universal access to education; in practice it codified a devaluation of vocational training, implying that apprentices have “failed” at their rights, and that artisans who train apprentices are encouraging children to “violate their own rights.” The government focused on packing children into overcrowded and under-resourced classrooms, even as they did not alter the policy that forces children to leave school when they fail their exams, and fewer than 1% of students advance to tertiary education. School dropouts often seek vocational training, however, because of the government’s narrow emphasis on formal instruction, most vocational workshops are unfunded, under-resourced, and are denied credibility as educational institutes because they are not allowed to issue paperwork certifying the qualifications of their journeymen. I argue that the emphasis on formal education—especially in an economy that relies on artisanal work and has an extremely small professional sector—reveals that “the right to education” in Sierra Leone was designed and implemented as a bad-faith imitation of the Global North. Rather than creating opportunities for people to reach their potential and recognizing the diversity of that potential, this narrow conceptualization of rights has unethically prioritized a sector that benefits only a few, exacerbating social and economic inequalities rather than overcoming them.

    Ayça Çubukçu, Associate Professor in Human Rights and Co-Director of LSE Human Rights, London School of Economics
    “On Afropolitanism”
    In Out of the Dark Night (2021), Achille Mbembe develops the notion of Afropolitanism as he points toward new, “liberatory” models of community and humanity. In this talk, I will think with Mbembe about Afropolitanism in an effort to rethink the imperial trappings of liberal cosmopolitanism as an ethics of human rights.

    1pm [= 10am/6pm/7pm]
    Panel 2: State Borders and Rights
    Ayten Gündoğdu, Tow Associate Professor of Political Science, Barnard College
    “Border Deaths and the Crisis of Human Rights”
    Borders have become increasingly lethal with the adoption of ever more restrictionist policies and technologies of immigration control. Taking its starting point from the regime of impunity surrounding migrant deaths, this paper offers a critique of existing juridico-political frameworks, including universal human rights norms, that render migrants precarious in life and in death. I mobilize the term “forced disappearances” to capture how various border control practices push migrants beyond the pale of the law, make it difficult for their families and friends to locate their whereabouts, and render their lives disposable. To the extent that domestic and international laws offer various justifications of these practices in the name of territorial sovereignty, they actively participate in making migrants invisible, or “dead,” in the eyes of the law. A form of civil death precedes migrants’ physical deaths, in other words, and it can help explain why the latter remain unaccounted for, legally and politically.

    Yanilda González, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School of Government
    “Democratic Participation in Policing and the Reproduction of Asymmetric Citizenship: The Contradictions of Participatory Security in São Paulo, Brazil”
    This paper explores a fundamental paradox between democratic participation and policing. For some citizens, formal spaces for participation in policing can expand their citizenship rights by opening up access to the state and by fomenting government responsiveness to their demands. Yet for marginalized groups, expanded opportunities for citizen participation in policing often generates demands for repression against them, thereby contracting their citizenship rights. We contend that democratic participation in policing often engenders these contradictions, resulting in what we call asymmetric citizenship: when the expansion of rights for some citizens is achieved through the contraction of others’ citizenship rights. We propose three mechanisms by which participatory security institutions, which create formal spaces for citizen participation in policing and security, produce asymmetric citizenship: (1) by defining some groups as virtuous citizens while labeling marginalized groups as security threats; (2) by acting as gatekeeper that amplifies the voice of virtuous citizens and silences those deemed to be security threats; and (3) by articulating demands for police repression of security threats to protect the rights of virtuous citizens. We illustrate the framework through a qualitative analysis of São Paulo’s Community Security Councils, demonstrating how that expanding citizen participation in policing deepens the experience of citizenship for some by generating exclusion and police repression of marginalized segments of society. In contrast to much of the literature on participatory democracy, our analysis elucidates mechanisms through which democratic participation can reproduce, rather than ameliorate, unequal policing.

    2:00pm [= 11am/7pm/8pm]
    Panel 3: Human Rights and Ethical Claims
    Kelly Staples, Associate Professor of International Politics, School of History, Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester
    “Claiming Human Rights: Solidarity and Statelessness”
    This talk will consider human rights claims in the context of stateless persons and refugees, considering both to be in the position of having to claim their human rights. The perspective on human rights which underpins the talk is a quasi-foundational one in which what it means to “claim” human rights is argued to be contingent on the relationship between claimant and community. Given the continuing role of nation-states in protecting, respecting and fulfilling human rights, the talk will first consider what might be achieved through claims on states. However, it will also attempt to de-center the state by considering the role of other sub- and supra-state communities in responding to the human rights claims of refugees and stateless persons. Given the challenges in particular of ending statelessness, this opens up an alternative vision for their emancipation and empowerment.

    Benjamin Davis, Post-doctoral Fellow in Ethics, University of Toronto, Centre for Ethics
    “Stuart Hall’s Use of Human Rights: An Ethics for the Left”
    In developing a method for cultural studies, Stuart Hall endorsed the use of human rights. Rights claims, he suggested, are a key part of a Left vocabulary. In this talk, I develop Hall’s claim by arguing that human rights are a starting point not only for Left politics, but also for Left ethics. “The Left has rarely talked about that space in which the difference between the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ is defined,” Hall maintained in his final lecture of what became Cultural Studies 1983. Human rights, I suggest, provide a secular mode for Left ethics to enter this ethical space, what Hall calls “the domain of the moral.” In addition to reading his lectures on cultural studies, I also consider his essay “Marx’s Notes on Method,” where he suggests that social phenomena can only be understood in particular contexts. Taken together, Hall’s lectures and essay present Left actors today with a way to address the traditional tension between the universal and the particular in rights claims: the vocabulary gains traction only through ethical reiterations in varying contexts.

    This is an online event. It will be live streamed on the Centre for Ethics YouTube Channel at 12pm, Friday, July 9 [= 9am Pacific/5pm UK/6pm Central Europe]. Channel subscribers will receive a notification at the start of the live stream.


    12:00 PM - 03:00 PM
    Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto

  • Fri, Jul 23, 2021
    Conferences, Ethics of AI in Context
    Conference: The Ethics of AI in Medicine

    The Ethics of AI in Medicine: An Interdisciplinary & International Workshop:

    There is a growing literature in the ethics and philosophy of AI on one side and an already strong literature in the philosophy of medicine and medical ethics on the other side. Few attempts at bringing together the two disciplines have been made, despite many connections. The question of bias or that of transparency, for instance, have been studied in both disciplines, yet in a somewhat disjointed manner. This workshop thus aims to confront different disciplines on the topic of AI in medicine: philosophy of medicine, ethics and social sciences. The goal is to understand how conceptual and ethical issues in AI in medicine interact and may impact health.


    This is an online event. It will be live streamed on the Centre for Ethics YouTube Channel at 11am, Friday, July 23 [= 8am Pacific/4pm UK/5pm Central Europe]. Channel subscribers will receive a notification at the start of the live stream.

    Please stay tuned for details. Registration information and a preliminary schedule will be available soon.

    11:00 AM - 02:00 PM
    Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto

Past Events