Before the pandemic, AI was growing in Canada. Throughout the pandemic, AI has exploded in Canada. Through working from home and online schooling to the abundance of location, health, medical, and interaction data around us at all times, the last half decade truly has witnessed institutions moving rapidly toward AI to make money, increase efficiency, trim fat, and perhaps even assist in finding new cures and vaccines. 

And as you might imagine, there are serious rights, liberties, justice, ethics, and equality issues that pop up along the way. So, how does a country insulate itself from such dangers? Through regulation, but easier said than done... 

Join us as we chat with the distinguished Dr. Teresa Scassa, Canada Research Chair in Information Law and Policy at the University of Ottawa, an award winning author, a recognizable expert across numerous Canadian media outlets - and a fantastic Ad Lib'er to boot. 

As you'll hear, the move toward regulating AI in Canada has been anything but clear... Tune in to hear more!

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Hey friends! Hope your summer is swell! It sure has been for us - perhaps a bit too good? While it's been rather tough to find time to record together, we're really pumped to finish off the summer with two new episodes. Today's chat is with Tommy's dear friend, Fernando Leiva - an analytics developer at the Centre for Advanced Computing at Queen's University. Tommy and Fernando have worked together for the past 3+ years to investigate location data-related privacy issues on smartphones. Today, we ask a simple but complicated question: location data - what do you mean?

What we see in Google Maps is vastly different than what flows behind the scenes. GPS coordinates and mailing addresses represent a mere fraction of what corporations are able to collect from our devices. A big portion of these other, discrete data are in the format of NMEA 0183 - a standard data type that is produced by hardware in our smartphones as they intercept navigation satellite signals. 

What is inside NMEA 0183? Why do companies harvest it, and for what reasons? Many questions, much confusion, and so little time! If you are privacy or data ethics nut, this episode is for you!

Tune in for Al, and more - apparently!

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More than ever people are questioning whether or not their job is the best fit. How many of us have found themselves in this position, particularly during the pandemic? How many of us have wondered what it takes to change ship, how much courage would be required to do so - and whether or not the grass is truly 'greener' on the other side? 

In this episode we hear from our beloved co-host Mr. Al Coombs about his professional journey, one which began with a short stint in insurance, to over a decade as a popular AM daytime radio show host on the Telemedia, Standard, Astral, and Bell media networks - to newly minted public school teacher. Every confusion, every curiousity, and every pain-and-gain that you might imagine are all things that Al reflects on. The biggest? Energy. How much energy does one burn before what makes sense blurs into confusion and ambiguity? 

We also address another confusion: an accusation from another podcaster that we have been targeting and attacking his show and attempting to steal their listeners. Tommy and Al explain the backstory, which begins with another host from the USA who uses our name: What's That Noise?! - verbatim. Our show precedes his, by more than a year - which is why Apple's legal team pulled his show from their content listing. We certainly never meant harm to this other podcaster, but the law is law - is it not?

Tune in for Al, and more - apparently!

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Tommy and Al are excited to bring a fantastic piece filled with both confusion and clarity around a tremendously important subject: Indigenous Digital Identity. What's That Noise?! is honoured to speak with Lawrence Lewis, Founder and CEO of OneFeather: an Indigenous technology company that designs specialized software solutions for Indigenous peoples across Canada.

Lawrence joins us to talk about the messiness that is "Digital Identity" and "digital identity". That's right, there's two. One has capitals in "D" and "I" in it, and the other does not. The latter refers to a concept - digital identity, as in 'who we are' online in terms of how governments and corporations define and represent us. The second, Digital Identity, is a technology. It is the one that we've seen governments around the world develop throughout the pandemic as a digital alternative to, for example, your driver's license... Imagine a passport you keep on your phone.

What makes both versions particularly confusing is that both have tremendous implications for Indigenous peoples, albeit with very different but equally important stakes. Come listen to the solutions and efforts put forth by Lawrence and his company OneFeather to make both versions - digital identity and Digital Identity - meaningful, accessible, proactive and a hopeful avenue for relationship building between Indigenous communities and Canada. Lawrence has opened a door for Canada to commit to reconciliation in the digital space - how will we reciprocate?

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Almost immediately after the #warinukraine began, the Western world told Ukrainians: "our borders are open". When a humanitarian crisis unfolds, such as the largest exodus of a population occurs since the end of world war two, it's logical that a country would open its borders to those in need, no? Not so fast. The world's borders - how they are made, how they are managed, and how they affect the lives and geographies around them - as our returning guest and dear friend Dr. Benjamin Muller tells us, are confusing. Since well before 9/11 but particularly after it, borders and borderlands have been created to try and secure life in the image of those who build them. As you'll hear, securing life through borders and bordering practices is anything but clear, obvious or even helpful to the people that live near them. When we study borders critically, we don't find clarity - only more confusion. 

Tune in for a fantastic chat with a brilliant researcher!

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Fact: for the week of March 28, the top 20 global Google search trends do not include the #pandemic, the #warinUkraine, #residentialschools. Will Smith, Jada Smith, Chris Rock, and celebrity reactions dominated. Why? What happened to the rest of the world? Where did it go?

Is Western society seriously this obsessed with celebrity drama? Could it be the case that #theslap highlighted complex hidden social, mental health, and racial issues? Are algorithms and filter bubbles to blame? Why are we still talking about this?! When can we move on?! And how?!?! HOW?!

Join us to help Tommy extinguish not only his confusion, but his frustration. Back to reality, please!!

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Part 2 of our chat about neurotechnology delves a bit deeper... If people have fluid identities, can neurotech capture them? What does it mean to enhance a body and a mind that are constantly changing? What happens when people are uncomfortable, unconfident, and uncertain about who they are, what they are doing and where they are heading? Can neurotech help with this, or perhaps make it all more complicated?

Tommy and Al are joined by Dr. Brenda McPhail, Director of the Privacy, Technology & Surveillance Program and member of the National Security team at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Someone who knows lots about neurotechnology, but has even more questions than Tommy and Al do!

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Our hearts are with Ukraine. The situation is incomprehensibly horrific. As the world watches, many of us feel helpless. There's a ton of confusion around what it means to be a passive observer. Even if you wanted to help, could you? What would that look like? Is there any way to support Ukrainians in their time of urgent need beyond memes, hashtags, and profile pictures of blue and yellow flags? Tommy and Al spent the last day scanning civil society, journalism, news media, not-for-profit, and academic sources to find three ways that you can help. We hope that you'll find that donating, combatting disinformation, and connecting your neighbours will bring you a bit closer to helping those who desperately need the world to step up. 

In this episode, we mention numerous charity organizationsreliable news sources, and credible journalists that we encourage you to connect with. Please take a moment this weekend to learn more about them. This listed is definitely not exhaustive. Let's keep expanding it together, friends.

Charitable Organizations

The Canada-Ukraine Foundation- a Toronto-based group that co-ordinates charitable aid for Ukraine

Doctors Without Borders- a humanitarian group that is currently mobilizing an emergency-preparedness response plan to ensure that access to health care and medicine are available to Ukrainians

Save the Children- an international NGO delivering emergency aide to Ukrainian families

Voices of Children- offers psychological support to kids affected by the war in Ukraine

Phoenix Wings - supplies the Ukrainian army with medical treatment and defensive equipment like vests and helmets

Shelter Ugolyok - an animal rescue and farm sanctuary in Ukraine, an incredibly important organization with a personal connection to Tommy's family

Outright Action International - protects marginalized BIPOC and LGBQT2+ community members, which is particularly important given Putin's legacy of antihomophobic violence

 

Credible Journalists

Olga Tokariuk, Sarah Rainsford, Christopher Miller, Olga Rudenko

 

Credible, Local News Sources

The Kyiv Independent, The New Voice of Ukraine, Ukraine World, Kyiv Post

 

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February 15, 2022

Episode 38: Neurotech Part 1

What do you get when you combine "nervous system" with "technology"? Confusion, evidently! What is neurotech, exactly? Sure, it is technology that is attached to the body's neural activity... But what part of the body? Does it affect the body, and if so - how? Why even build this technology? Who builds, and for what reasons? And as ever, what are the social, ethical, and privacy implications of doing so? Soo many questions, and so few answers - even for experts like our wonderful guest, Dr. Brenda McPhail, Director of the Privacy, Technology & Surveillance Program and member of the National Security team at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Even a Canadian thought leader in our rights around technology is often uncertain about what exactly is going on with #neurotech. Why? There is a ton learn to learn, and all of it is worth openly talking about. So come be confused with us! Confusion has a lot to teach us, especially about what can happen to our rights and liberties if we don't ask the right questions about technology on and inside our bodies...

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What is the connection between bedsheet-related incidents and the consumption of cheese? Hopefully none. That would be confusing, and weird. However! There might be a correlation between those unusually paired items! Correlations, correlations. Part two is about the wonderfully bizarre world of data correlations. Is it not correlations at the heart of AI and advertising, after all? That's certainly where this conversation is headed. We're delighted to resume our superbly odd conversation with our friend Dr. Dillon Mahmoudi, Professor of Geography and Environmental Systems at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. If you haven't caught Part 1, consider heading back and giving it a listen first. It's a douzie!

<3 Tommy and Al

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Today we chat Dr. Dillon Mahmoudi, Professor of Geography and Environmental Systems at the University of Maryland Baltimore County about his confusion with AI and advertising! Join Tommy, Al and Dillon in this first episode of a two-part series that explores the complexities of how targeted advertisements show up in your smartphone. Even with his background in computer science, Dillon is as confused as Tommy and Al about how automated systems find ways to build profiles about who we as consumers are. 

How are your preferences measured? What happens with these data? What kinds of assumptions are made about who we are?... And we all happen, of course, to be cisgender white men. What happens in automated advertising when you do not fit the majority? 

You might not find many answers to these questions in this episode, but you might just find that finding answers is not always possible...

Stay tuned for episode 2 - release on February 1st!

<3 Tommy and Al

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Happy New Year, everyone! I am so grateful for two things!

First, we have a new co-host! It's truly my pleasure to introduce my dear friend, Al Coombs to you. Al is a seasoned radio broadcaster who hosted and co-hosted shows in London, Ontario for over a decade. He joins us at WTNCast as a freshly-minted public school teacher, too! His warmth and interview experience is truly invigorating. It's such a pleasure to have you join the show, @thatalcoombsguy!

Second, the podcast has re relaunched! For the past four months, Tommy and Al have worked together to refine the show's focus. You can expect a closer dive into noise-as-confusion with our guests, and especially so when that noise becomes political. We are excited to continue bringing exciting guests on the show who will talk about times they've encountering confusion, or closely-related noisy matters, like ambiguity, distraction, and so on. We're also looking forward to hear from our guests about how their field, profession, career, colleagues, and their professional and personal worlds around them encounter and deal with noise, too. 

We don't expect that you'll leave with answers, perhaps just more questions. But there's so much to learn in confusion, especially when there's no clarity... Come be uncomfortable with us, and laugh a little, too. 

Thanks so much for (re)joining us, friends!

<3 Tommy and Al

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May 30, 2021

Episode 33: PredPol

This latest episode is a special one. Tommy has wanted to explore predictive policing for a while. He had the opportunity to do so as a sample case study for one of the classes he teaches at Queen's University: AI, Ethics & Society - a Masters of Engineering course where students use any media format they wish to explore the social and ethical implications of artificial intelligence systems. 

And so, this episode is presented a bit differently than what you are used to - but it is still driven by matters of confusion, and certainly in the pursuit of clarity. Tommy raises some hard questions as he looks into the history of PredPol. As he outlines right off the top, PredPol is a relatively well known system by this point - as too are its social and ethical implications. But the matter of how the system came to be so problematic is an important one, too. As Tommy argues, the biases, assumptions, and limited intellectual scope of its designers implicated how the system was built, what kind of data it uses, and what kind of algorithm it used. This lattermost point is an intriguing one, precisely because the algorithm PredPol is built on has virtually nothing to do with social, cultural, or political life. Rather, it was designed to detect earthquakes...

Special shout out to João Lobato, the brilliant mind behind LASERS, whose EP you hear on this track. You can hear his incredible work here.

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In association with the University of Texas Press, the third instalment of the My Shadow Is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora special series features, Prof. Mehdi Tavana Okasi and Dr. Roger Sedarat. Mehdi is Professor of Creative Writing at Purchase College of the State University of New York, who was born in Iran and became a refugee of the Iran-Iraq war, which led him to the suburbs of Boston. Roger is a Professor in the Department of English at Queen’s College of the The City University of New York. Roger was born in Normal, Illinois to an Iranian father, and grew up in San Antonio. Instead of talking primarily about their wonderfully powerful pieces, Tommy chats with Mehdi and Roger about what occasioned their coming together: the unexplained suspension of Katherine and Leila's Twitter account. A perplexing and confusing situation that remains unresolved after more than 6 months. Indeed, today's chat is about politicized censorship, the ironies of cancel culture, and of course, their catalysts: a pandemic riding out on the heels of the most incompetent President in American history. From the burden of hybridity, the policing of the imagination, and the absence of space for ambiguity, to the false ideal of whiteness and the commodification of lies, there’s something here for everyone. We begin by discussing the utter disappointment of Katherine and Leila’s twitter account suspension, and Twitter’s refusal to not only reinstate it, but their lack of willingness to actually investigate what happened.

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A very special thanks to Dr. Babak Elahi and The Resonant Freqs for sharing their incredible music for this special series. Dr. Elahi is also a contributor to My Shadow Is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora.

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Note: revised episode published on evening of March 9, which includes a reference correction to Prof. Okasi's title. Episode listening stat prior to change: 27. 

In this second instalment of our special series, in association with the University of Texas Press, Tommy speaks with Dr. Babak Elahi, Head of Department, Liberal Studies at Kettering University. Dr. Elahi is a special contributor to My Shadow Is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora, not only as the musical talent behind the series' music, but also as author of chapter 25: Errand. Dr. Elahi reflects on his deeply personal piece, which surrounds the days and months leading to the loss of his dear mother. In his travel back to Iran, Babak negotiates navigates cultural, emotional, political, and social tensions that, in more ways than one, offer themselves rather productively as points of reflection about his personal and professional journeys as an Iranian-American living in Flint, Michigan. Dr. Elahi is a rich source of experience and insight about identity, justice, language, honor, belonging, and mobility. Babak is a gracious, articulate, and thoughtful speaker who has a lot to share about the values of family, community, and the importance of basic human connection. 

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A very special thanks to Dr. Babak Elahi and The Resonant Freqs for sharing their incredible music for this special series. Dr. Elahi is also a contributor to My Shadow Is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora - we look forward to his interview, indeed!

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From the vault of unpublished episodes comes with a fascinating conversation with Desmond Cox, an IT and software development professional who has a fresh and often competing take on Tommy's understandings and perspectives about data, privacy and ethics. During a trip to Germany in 2019, Tommy and his wife visited Des and Chrissy - good friends who moved out of Ontario to start new lives in Leipzig, Saxony, Germany. In this chat, Tommy and Des get to chat about their mutual passion for the politics of data and privacy, as well as their ethical complexities. What makes this conversation particularly important for Tommy is that Des has a radically different way of approaching and comprehending data, privacy and ethics - and rightly so. Des has over ten years of experience working on the inside of complex networked systems - in front-end and back-end development, coding in C#, Java, Python and JavaScript... whereas Tommy, has zero experience with any of this beyond his studies as a social scientist; there are considerable differences between social scientific and computer scientific perspectives on data, ethics and privacy. As we will come to find in this episode, this is largely due to the fascinating tensions between theory and practice. Should we be surprised that on certain large-scale issues, Tommy and Des agree almost entirely? Would it be any less surprising to find that micro-level issues strike a dissonant chord between the two? This episode covers a lot of micro and macro terrain: studying versus doing network surveillance and security, DeMorgan's Law, considerations of not just 'how' or 'where' but 'when' ethical questions ought to emerge around matters of data protection and digital privacy, the social and political dimensions of walled gardens, the privacy paradox - and even a contemplative dialogue between the two about a new way of conceptualization privacy itself: as the unfettered space necessary to 'grow'. 

 

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"In the four decades since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Iranian-Americans have made sense of their lives and reconciled their sense of belonging and not belonging through writing, first through poetry and memoir in the immediacy of migration and exile, and later in a developing and rich explosion of fiction. In the past decade, we have seen a blossoming of nonfiction writing that reflects complex voices and modern sensibilities and that reveals a broader range of stories and remembrances than ever before." - Katherine Whitney and Leila Emery, Editors, My Shadow Is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora

In association with the University of Texas Press, we are proud to present "My Shadow Is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora: a Special Series on What's That Noise?!" - a collaboration that aims to lend a hand, if only modestly, in further cultivating this ongoing blossoming of otherwise marginalized reflections about life, identity, and belonging from the Iranian diaspora. 

In this first episode, Tommy chats with the book's editors about their project, of how it came together, its sources of inspiration, its aims, and its aspirations. We trust you will find, just as Tommy did, that My Shadow Is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora is a vitally important contribution to an often overlooked, ongoing struggle - particularly in a time filled with system political intolerance, exceptionalism, and racism; in a world of increased distancing, My Shadow Is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora brings us closer together. Stay tuned for future episodes that interview contributors to this excellent book, which we aim to bring to you every month. On behalf of Katherine, Leila, their wonderful contributors and the University of Texas Press, thank you for opening your heart and mind to these powerful stories.

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A very special thanks to Dr. Babak Elahi and The Resonant Freqs for sharing their incredible music for this special series. Dr. Elahi is also a contributor to My Shadow Is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora - we look forward to his interview, indeed!

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In today's chat, Tommy sits down with his wife, Cristina, and his new second-cousins, Georgi and Florin Stancu, to share their incredible journey. Born, raised, and built lives in Bucharest, Romania, Cristina translates between Tommy and his new family to discuss their decision to leave Romania in search of better opportunities and a better for life for their daughter, Alyssa. Now living in Dachau, Bayern, Germany for the past seven years, Georgi and Florin reflect upon some of the challenges they endured not only living under Marxist-Leninist one-party Communist rule prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, but of the challenges they faced in a new democratic system after the fall of the Berlin Wall. As you'll find out, political corruption and failing public institutions persisted for years to come. New challenges emerge in face of old ones. While the move to Dachau brought new opportunities, it brought new uncertainty as well: finding new jobs, not speaking the local language, and navigating Germany's intensely admin-oriented public services made for a daunting set of new problems. And yet, the Stancus are an incredibly down-to-earth, grounded, passionate, fun-loving, and in-the-moment family. Their story is uplifting, precisely because of their perseverance and their love for one another's well being. Money and things are not everything - connections are; a particularly timely and sobering point of reflection as we all navigate COVID-19 together in April 2020. 

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Thank you for joining us on the most important episode we've published to date, and perhaps will be the most important episode we will publish - for more reasons than we could possibly articulate here in written text. In this episode, we discuss the inescapably difficult but exceedingly important matter of quality versus quantity life - when given a terminal diagnosis. It is impossible to convey our saddened we are that a dear friend to this show, Dr. Karen Rees-Milton (who joined us on episode 27), is bravely surviving a terminal diagnosis. As a true reflection of her character, commitment, and passion for life, Karen wishes to broach with us just how important it is for communication between doctors and patients about the end of life. We are also so grateful to be joined by Dr. Sarah McLean, an Assistant Professor of Physiology & Pharmacology and Anatomy & Cell Biology at Western University's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. Like Karen, Sarah is an expert in cancer research - and she too has directly experienced the pains of being a centre for communication for and between her brothers, doctors, and her dear father, who she lost very quickly to cancer in the summer of 2019.

Karen and Sarah are experts in cancer research, and their direct experiences with cancer make for a particularly important conversation. As you will see, doctors do not always communicate quickly or efficiently about terminal diagnoses. The very human impulse to make people happy in desperate situations often creates moral ambiguity that distracts from the hard but important conversation about whether or not often debilitating treatments are worth one's precious time. We hope that you will use this episode as a guide to help you when faced with these difficult matters, as we all will inevitably deal with them - one way, or another. 

 

As mentioned in the episode, please visit the London Regional Cancer Program, the Zane Cohen Centre for Digestive Diseases, Kingston General Hospital's Endoscopy Unit, and Jayne Dill's (RN) New Before You Go - a wonderful woman and tremendous resource for helping us navigate matters of value, wishes, and communication when dealing with the end of life.  

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Dr. Sarah McLean can be followed on Twitter @drsarahmclean

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Happy New Year, everyone! 

Derek and I are excited to bring you our first episode of 2020. Today's chat is a follow-up to the last episode of 2019. If you haven't heard it yet, you'll want to go back and check it out or this episode will leave you feeling as confused as Tommy was after Episode 28: Kawhi Leonard and the Expectation of Privacy in the Public Sphere.

Over the break, Tommy felt Episode 28 should be continued as a discussion about culture industry: the production of psychological need, desire, and interest through the mass production of capital goods - like sports, like social media, like the celebrity. Tommy entered the break unsettled with the idea that sports fans simply enjoy sports because they choose to - a notion that Tommy felt Derek was endorsing in the previous episode. As it turns out, this was not the case. Nonetheless, chatting about what was meant launches into a fascinating chat about how and whether we can think of celebrities as products versus drivers of culture industry. Their debate leads to an important and perhaps forever unsettle-able question: do we fuel the media, or does the media fuel us? Perhaps the question itself is misleading? Tune in the find out!

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