Concordia University

Course description

Individualized Program (INDI)

Topic: Learning to Hate – Pluralism in an Era of Echo Chambers
INDI 898 - Doctoral Level Studies
Summer 2018
3 units


This is an intensive one week independent reading course. The students and professors/invited speakers/experts will meet for 24 hours between June 18 and 22  to discuss the readings and create deliverables.
Instructors: Co-Leads: Dr. Vivek Venkatesh, Dr. Bradley J. Nelson
Aaron Lakoff, Amy Swiffen, André Gagné, Brad Galloway, Daniel Butler, David Castillo, Fyrhtu, Ghayda Hassan, Jeff Podoshen, Jessie Beier, Jihan Rabah, Juan Carlos Castro, Kregg Hetherington, Marie-Pierre Labrie, Martin Lalonde, Maxime Fiset, Mubin Shaikh, Nelson Varas-Diaz, Owen Chapman, Ritu Banerjee, Ryan Scrivens, Sandra Chang-Kredl, Simon Rodier, Stefanie Duguay, Tieja Thomas
Evaluation:   Evaluation: Participation in debates, panel discussions: 33 and 1/3 %;
Individual Reflection Essay: 33 and 1/3 %;
Co-creation of multimedia with fellow participants and research-creation experts: 33 and 1/3%.

Instructional objectives:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the multifaceted nature of hate, hate speech and pluralistic dialogues through discussions and debates with interdisciplinary experts
  • Examine linguistic structures pertaining to hate speech in online fora by using multi-method analytical tools
  • Develop guidelines (policy, curricular, or otherwise) for the design of programs (online or offline) that promote inclusivity and pluralism
  • Co-create counter-narratives to hateful ideologies by using text, audio and visual materials
  • Reflect critically on how to encourage pluralism within “echo chambers”

The 2018 Institute will include the following activities:

  • Lectures, debates and discussions with experts from the fields of religion, media studies, art, philosophy, law, criminology, sociology, education, research-creation, consumer culture, psychology, data analytics and more!
  • Workshops with methodology experts in linguistic analysis and natural language processing
  • Creative manipulation of multimedia to build visual materials and soundscapes which will ultimately be used in an Institute-closing Landscape of Hate performance

Possible topics for panel discussions and debates which will be scheduled during the Institute are:

  • Trends in technology, governance and public policy in the context of privacy
  • The study of “hate” through a lens of humanities and cultural scenes
  • The impact of the fields of religion, propaganda and consumer culture in understanding violent extremism
  • Voices from the other side: Understanding extremism from within
  • Building resilience through media literacy and arts-based pedagogy

Final schedule of activities to be published soon. In the meantime, check out the biographies of our Institute Leaders as well as references to readings they have recommended for the Institute. These pages will be updated as more experts and readings are added.


Hate speech, that is to say, the purposeful use of gestures, text, images or multimedia to disparage and malign an individual or group based on identifiable characteristics including - but not limited to - gender, race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation has been present on the internet since its earliest days of public use. With increased adoption of online forums and social media, hate speech has been proliferating at exponentially large rates in online environments. The internet is uniquely suited for the broadcasting of hate speech because users can magnify hateful utterances in so-called “echo chambers” with a large number of people who have like-minded ideological inclinations. Hate groups’ online presence is diverse, from clearly marginal zones of radically violent language to sites with a more moderate rhetoric that, at first glance, can appear mainstream in design and tone, especially when sublimated and disguised as free speech.

One manner to check the growth of hate speech is to use instructional frameworks grounded in social pedagogy with a focus on building critical thinking and information literacy skills at every level of society. In an age of the increased and ubiquitous consumption of online media, the academic discipline of social pedagogy refers to the systematic study of the reflexive and inclusive adoption of digital technologies such as mobile and social media across formal, non-formal and public contexts. Instructional design principles grounded in social pedagogy provide an opportunity to create online spaces in an organic and democratic fashion that promote critical debates about matters of social and political import, especially one as polarizing as hate speech. In addition, the capability of digital media in mobilizing social consciousness for topics such as hate speech across cultural scenes such as music, visual arts, films, and spoken word performances provides a unique opportunity to impact and influence public sensibilities, and perhaps even, to draw in stakeholders such as politicians, police, lawmakers, and religious leaders into debates and discussions.

Concordia University’s Interdisciplinary Summer Institute in 2018 – hosted by the School of Graduate Studies - is in an ideal position to provide leadership in the area of human rights by developing strategies to counter, prevent and combat online hate speech and to do so by creating opportunities for graduate students to engage with the broader community including educational policy makers, public safety officials, artists, as well as community and cultural leaders. Under the stewardship of Drs. Vivek Venkatesh and Bradley Nelson, the Institute provides will provide participants an opportunity to network with experts in the domains of educational psychology, religion, sociology, law, inclusive education, art, data analytics, and consumer culture, amongst many others, and create unique intersections with research-creation specialists to build sustained avenues for conversations and hopefully, resilience against hate speech in contexts ranging from homes to schools to broader cultural communities including global music and visual art scenes. 

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