#OnCivilSociety at The Word On The Street, 2019

August 22, 2019 | Jorge Amigo

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For the second year in a row, Toronto Public Library is excited to program a stage at The Word On The Street (WOTS), as part of WOTS Plus 2019!

Come to the library's stage on Saturday, September 21, for an afternoon of discussions about the impact of technology on civil society.


The Big Business of Invading Your Privacy

12:30 - 1:30 pm

Full event details.

We live in an age of distraction where we spend countless hours each week staring at our phones or computer screens, endlessly scrolling on “free” social platforms designed to harvest our attention. The internet, which initially promised a world of open and freely accessible information, is now a place where a handful of corporations capture our preferences, track our location and sell our personal data to advertisers.

Does it have to be this way? How can we democratize the digital sphere and take back the internet?

Come hear Tim Wu discuss his latest book, The Attention Merchants, about the corporate domination of the internet and what you can do about it. In conversation with Ziya Tong.

Tim Wu

Tim Wu is a writer, activist and professor of law at Columbia University. He famously coined the term “net neutrality” and is one of the world’s leading experts on technology policy and concentrations of power.

Ziya Tong

Ziya Tong is an award-winning science broadcaster and writer, who was the co-host of Daily Planet, and recently published The Reality Bubble.


When Algorithms Disrupt Social Justice

2 - 3 pm

Full event details.

As we move towards a world dominated by digital tech and artificial intelligence, understanding the intent, ethics and accountability of the computer algorithms that organize every aspect of our lives has become urgent. What if the new technologies that make our lives more convenient are also replicating or even deepening social injustices? How do we make sure that this new digital economy does not increase inequality, undermine labour protections, or usher in an age of big data surveillance?


Norma Möllers

Norma Möllers is a sociology professor and researcher at the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen’s University. Her research explores how positivist cultures of computing discourage computer scientists to consider questions of justice and human dignity in their work.

Sarah Roberts

Sarah T. Roberts is an award-winning social media scholar and professor of Information Studies at UCLA. She is the author of Behind the Screen, a groundbreaking book about the hidden industry of content moderators that clean our social media feeds.

Adwoa Afful

Moderated by Adwoa Afful, a writer a writer and researcher based in Toronto, who is interested in how the growing role of tech companies in urban planning impact Black women, communities of colour and gender non-binary people across the GTA.


Re-Imagining Tech for a Better World

3:30 - 4:30 pm

Full event details.

Over the last couple of years, concerns about the impact of digital technologies on our lives have gone mainstream: scathing newspaper editorials, bestselling books and hearings in legislative bodies across the world are now common. As more and more citizens push back against the power of Big Tech, it’s time to re-imagine how technology could help create a better world for all.

So what can citizens do to advocate for responsible innovation? How do we build a digital economy that provides decent work for everyone and helps eliminate racial and gender discrimination? And can we imagine a world where big data and "smart" technology are used to increase civic engagement and enrich life in our communities?


Saadia Muzaffar

Saadia Muzaffar is a tech entrepreneur, author and advocate of responsible innovation, decent work for everyone and prosperity of immigrant talent in STEM. She is the founder of TechGirls Canada and the co-founder of Tech Reset Canada.

Beth Coleman

Beth Coleman directs the City as Platform lab. She is a professor at the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology and the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. She is the author of Hello Avatar.

Takara Small

Takara Small is a technology columnist for CBC's Metro Morning and the host/producer of the Globe & Mail’s podcast I'll Go First.



All three talks will take place in the Brigantine Room at Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West.

All events are free, and no registration is required to attend. You are welcome to come to just one of the discussions, but we encourage you to stay for all three! 


P.S. If these events sound exciting to you, check out the rest of the On Civil Society fall 2019 lineup!