Concordia University

http://www.concordia.ca/content/shared/en/news/main/stories/2015/05/12/anti-hate-speech-someone-project.html

From extreme metal to academic tolerance

A Concordia professor reports from a hate-speech symposium in Brussels
May 12, 2015
|
By Vivek Venkatesh

Concordia researcher Vivek Venkatesh and Grutle Kjellson from Norwegian progressive black metal band Enslaved. Concordia researcher Vivek Venkatesh and Grutle Kjellson from Norwegian progressive black metal band Enslaved. | All images courtesy of Vivek Venkatesh

I've been an unabashed fan of extreme metal for most of my life. And, I am an academic in the interdisciplinary field of extreme metal music studies.

Over the past several years, my colleagues and I have co-published a series of academic pieces on extreme metal in fields as diverse as consumer culture, applied social psychology and hate speech in niche online communities discussing extreme metal.

In 2014, with the support of the University, I created an interdisciplinary event, Grimposium, to celebrate the music, visual art, writings and films dedicated to extreme metal. Being able to marry my lifestyle with my work is a singular privilege, which I try to never take for granted. 

More often than not, my research fieldwork and speaking engagements take me to extreme metal festivals and music industry conferences in Canada and Norway. In between catching scintillating performances by bands like Bloodbath and Obliteration at legendary venues like John Dee in Oslo and 013 Poppodium in Tilburg, I engage visual artists, journalists, promoters, record label owners, fans and, of course, musicians, in lengthy discussions of the past, present and future of death, black, thrash, doom and drone metal.

So, it's not often that I interrupt an engaging chat with Grutle Kjellson from Norwegian progressive black metal outfit Enslaved about the merits and demerits of metal bands that decide to cover songs by Canadian progressive rock maestros Rush by saying, "You'll have to excuse me, Grutle, but my country needs me." And that's exactly what happened.

Vivek and Alan Bowman, the Permanent Observer of Canada to the Council of Europe. Venkatesh and Alan Bowman, the Permanent Observer of Canada to the Council of Europe.

You see, I interrupted that chat I was having with Grutle at this year's Roadburn festival in Tilburg, Netherlands, to take a phone call from Alan Bowman, the Permanent Observer of Canada to the Council of Europe, asking me whether I might be able to accept an invitation from the Government of Belgium to speak about the SOMEONE (SOcial Media EducatiON Every day) project at the Tolerance Trumps Hate conference in Brussels.

The idea for SOMEONE was hatched back in 2011 when I began researching hate speech in the extreme metal music scenes and, in 2014, after assembling a group of interdisciplinary scholars from Canada and the United States of America, my team received a grant from Public Safety Canada to create an online portal of multimedia including videos, podcasts, curricular materials, artwork and writings dedicated to sensitizing the public about the deleterious effects of online hate speech including misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic and racist utterances.

Alan was very persuasive and the Government of Canada very generous in their offer of sponsoring my travel to Brussels. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to speak at this international event devoted to bringing together stakeholders from the Council of Europe, the ministry and departments of education in Belgium, activists from the renowned No Hate Speech campaign, and fellow academics in the domain of citizen education.

Vivek with co-panelists Jan Dabkowski from the No Hate Speech Movement, and Floriane Hohenberg from Active Democracy. Venkatesh with co-panelists Jan Dabkowski from the No Hate Speech Movement, and Floriane Hohenberg from Active Democracy.

Brussels is a regal city — as those of you who have had the opportunity to visit it must know — and a good portion of my first day was spent walking between my hotel, which was on Waterloo boulevard, and the Canadian Mission to the European Union, which is nestled right by the parc du cinquantenaire.

Alan and his team organized an intimate gathering of members of the Mission as well as their colleagues from Belgium, Australia and France, who were all interested in learning details of the SOMEONE project and debating the grey areas that arise when arguments of freedom of speech clash against issues related to human rights.

This turned out to be a great warm-up gig for the main event at the conference itself, where I spoke at length to a packed room about some of the work being conducted in the SOMEONE project.

I discussed how it focuses on better incorporating curricular strategies to promote anti-hate speech in teacher education programs, and the types of discourses that govern hate speech and efforts to minimize them in online forums that discuss politics and underground music cultures.

I came away from this conference armed with the possibilities of collaborating with my fellow panelists, Jan Dabkowski from the No Hate Speech Movement, and Floriane Hohenberg from Active Democracy so that anti-hate speech initiatives like the SOMEONE project are able to reach as wide an audience as possible. From the metal underground to the halls of the Council of Europe — the kvlt life of a metalhead academic is never dull!

Vivek Venkatesh is the associate dean of Academic Programs and Development at the School of Graduate Studies, acting director of the Centre for the Study of Learning and Performance (CSLP), director of the Graduate Certificate in University Teaching and associate professor in the Department of Education.

An interdisciplinary and applied learning scientist, Venkatesh investigates the psychological, cultural and cognitive factors impacting the design, development and inclusive adoption of digital media in educational and social contexts. 

Learn more about Vivek Venkatesh’s work by watching this video on Grimposium:

 



Back to top

© Concordia University