Upcoming Lecture at Carleton University

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I’ll be giving a guest lecture on Whistleblowers at Carleton University in October. Hope to see you there!

Lecture 14
Whistleblowers: Criminals or Heroes?
Lecturer: Kathy Dobson

Most whistleblowers are corporate or governmental insiders who anonymously report internal misconduct. Why and under what circumstances do people either act on the spot to stop illegal and otherwise unacceptable behaviour, or report it to the media? And why does the public often have such divisive and changing responses to these whistleblowers, who arguably are only looking out for the greater good? For example, Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, faced terrible repercussions by the Nixon administration at the time, but is now widely acknowledged as courageous. Within this historical context, we will explore contemporary whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, and websites such as Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks.

Lecture and visual presentation

  • Day: Monday, October 22nd
  • Time: 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
  • Location: Room 124, Leeds House Building
  • Fee: $30.00 (HST included)
  • Enrollment capacity: 55 participants

Lecturer biography: Kathy Dobson is an award-winning journalist and published creative non-fiction author with extensive teaching and guest speaking experience. She is a Vanier Scholar in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University currently completing a PhD, with numerous peer-reviewed academic publications. Her research interests include the datafication of social assistance programs, media framing of marginalized communities, and the political economy of news. Her dissertation (which was awarded a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship, and Ontario Graduate Scholarship) is examining how welfare fraud detection programs are used to support misleading media narratives about ‘welfare cheats.’ Kathy is a researcher and member of the ALiGN Media Lab, created by Dr. Merlyna Lim, which includes working with marginalized communities and groups engaged with challenging dominant narratives. Prior to starting her PhD, Kathy worked as a journalist and news photographer for over 20 years. Her work has appeared in numerous national newspapers and magazines, including the Globe and Mail, National Post, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, and Maclean’s, Canadian Living, and Chatelaine magazines. She also worked for the CBC for over seven years, producing documentaries and news stories on a variety of social issues. She also hosts The Poverty Report, a podcast featured on the Carleton University ALiGN Media Lab, and has been twice awarded the Robert McKeown Doctoral Scholarship in Communication. Kathy is also an award winning creative non-fiction author. Her first book, With A Closed Fist: Growing up in Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood (Vehicule Press, 2001) is a memoir and about to go into its third printing. Her second book, Kicking and Punching: Leaving Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood (Vehicule Press, 2018) will be released early next month. She is also currently writing a book, The History of Whistleblowing, to be published in 2019.

Big Data Conference at Carleton University

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I recently presented some of my research on the myths surrounding some of the most popular misconceptions about ‘welfare fraud’ at a conference hosted at Carleton University. Plot spoiler: welfare fraud isn’t actually a ‘thing.’ The statistics reveal that it’s in fact a rare event, though you couldn’t be faulted for thinking otherwise thanks to the media’s (mis)representation of welfare ‘cheats.’

But we really aren’t all born equal…

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I think the claim that we’re all born equal is a particularly stupid one since of course it’s not true. A kid born into poverty is already at a different starting point than the kid born into a middle class family. And that’s just one obvious example.

People of colour, Canada’s Aboriginal population, and other members of marginal communities are already at a huge disadvantage as well when it comes to this idea about being born ‘equal.’

The problem then becomes that if we accept this notion about all of us being born ‘equal’ as some kind of absolute truth – which so many seem to – then we absolutely judge those who end up on social assistance, especially those who appear, at least to us, as being able-bodied.

That’s why I love this meme. Of course, this isn’t just true of our educational system. It’s also true of social class when we suggest or believe that all of us have ‘equal’ access to ‘success.’

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The Poverty Report: “It’s not something I really wanted to tell people.”

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What happens if you suddenly become disabled and unable to work and earn a living?

That’s what recently happened to 19-year-old ‘Jess’ after he was seriously injured in a cycling accident. With a concussion and broken collar bone, Jess, who was formerly healthy and fit, was suddenly forced to do something he never expected to have to.

I asked him to share what went into his decision about applying for social assistance, and whether it changed what he had previously thought about other people who are also on welfare.

The Poverty Report: “That makes me so sad…”

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As part of a new ongoing series, “The Poverty Report: Systems, Narratives, and People,” I recently sat down with two women, who have lived with poverty, and asked them two questions: What are some of the common misconceptions people seem to have about those living with poverty? What do you wish you could say to them?

Here’s what they had to say:

 

Public Perceptions About Welfare ‘fraud’ are… well… Fraudulent

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One of the most persistent myths about people living with poverty in Canada is that welfare fraud is a common occurrence among those receiving social assistance. This popular misconception about welfare recipients endures despite the fact that solid research has demonstrated time and time again that credible estimates of the rate of welfare fraud place it, in Ontario for example, at less than 1%.

I recently presented a research paper, “Welfare Fraud 2.0? Using Big Data to Surveil, Stigmatize and Criminalize the Poor,” at an international academic conference organized by Carleton and Sheffield Universities.

It was incredibly rewarding to be at a conference that focused on so many of my own research interests surrounding surveillance and governance of those living with poverty.

Here’s a link to some of the conference presentations, including my own, which is the first 17 minutes: