Archive for the Research Tools Category

Lets Talk About Transformative Justice…..YAY!?

Posted in Academics, Food For Thought, Justice, Politics, Racism, Research Tools, Social Justice, Society, Sociology, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2012 by animal_static

In order to talk about Transformative Justice we need to clear a few points first in order to provide some context.

Firstly, The system that we in North America (arguably every inch of planet earth) are engaged in is capitalism.  The “capital” in capitalism is the major leverage point for most interactions outside of personal relations and family contexts (also arguable as I cannot guarantee that you are not a professional son/daughter/mother/father). Distribution of resources in most instances is sealed by social contracts.  A valid contract cannot be entered by an agent under extreme duress but it is pretty obvious that most everyone enter into contracts that are to their disadvantage at some point or another.  For example, working for the crappy wages that most jobs pay, cell phone contracts written in blood, and surrendering first and last months rent for that ground floor apartment that smells like old soup and has the security doors don’t work but you really wish they did .  These elements fall into the realm of Distributive Justice which is backed up by a large body law that has been developed to support the rights of the money holders and to “protect” the rights of the masses.  Do you feel like you are protected?  I sure don’t.

What we can now observe is the evolution of a system that has seen the increasing dominance of the top 1% of earners  while the rest of us have been left out to dry.  We have been sold the individualist dream of rat race resource attainment.  The bar of illusory social mobility has been set high and regardless of statistics that say the bottom 10% of earners have a 0.25% chance of reaching upper middle class, most of us still jump just as high as we can.  People have been stripped of any kind of supportive solidarity and set adrift in a sea of resource scarcity where our successes and failures are ours and ours alone. Scarcity breeds desperation which in turn breeds “crime”.  Resources can include, money, food, health, the absence of fear, system security, and a million other things that fit your individual “needs”.

Image obtained from:

So the stage has been set for the incarceration of the young, the poor, uneducated, racialized, mentally ill, abused and otherwise oppressed portions of our society to fill the majority of our prisons. It is not difficult or far fetched to envision full prisons which utilize our disproportionately taxed incomes for providing three meals a day plus supervision for that one time pot dealer who couldn’t find a job for any of the above mentioned reasons, or for the dad who cheats the welfare system because his part time job at Wal-Mart pays squat and the kids need to eat.  Unless you have killed someone, it is at this point that the system decides how to “fix” you.

Up until recently, alternative programs have pursued a path of “Restorative Justice” where offenders reconcile with victims and the community gets its piece of the action too through the involvement of church groups, and neighbourhood committees, etc.  The ideal end result is the restoration of a criminally deviant individual into a contributing member of society who is ready to go out and pay some taxes while not assaulting or stealing anything.  Sound awesome? Maybe until you consider that these programs are often offered to individuals who forgo due process in favor of reduced sentences and engage with mediators whose supposed neutrality is erased by the fact that the offenders participation has been coerced through system manipulation. The only way for the offender to successfully navigate the process is to engage in language that validates the oppressing system.  The biggest point of consideration here is that an offender is being “restored” through the justice system to a normalized status within a society that is  by its nature unjust.

Relatively recently, Transformative theory has acknowledged these flaws in restorative justice and seeks to remedy its shortcomings by introducing critical analysis of the system that creates the environment within which the crime occurred in the first place.  In this type of model, you can have the same victim/offender/community interaction with a mediator who has no pretense of neutrality but instead serves as a kind of guide where a more complex understanding of the offense and its relations to the victim can be contrasted against a historical and systematic backdrop.  If you consider the percentage of the Canadian inmate population who claim first nations status, an approach that incorporates cultural sensitivity and the acknowledgment (positive) of historical oppression and  different ways of knowing has great potential.  Despite a human factor that is desperately needed in current legal process there are some holes in the practical aspects of transformative theory which negate its potential as a dominant model for justice within the legal system.  Some of the blame for certain crimes should obviously be shifted onto a system that is so stifling to vulnerable populations but until the entirety of the global capitalist system is overhauled this approach to justice seems akin to throwing small stones at a large mountain.  You can make a lot of noise but you’re not going move much.  And worse yet, if you throw that stone just right you might just attract the baleful eye of whatever bureaucrat is in charge of stamping your grant application.  Such is the peril of fighting within the system.

Comments and sharing are always welcome,



Don’t Let Google Boss Your Research Efforts – A Friendly Reminder

Posted in Academics, Blogging, Food For Thought, Online, Research Tools, Technology, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2012 by animal_static

Do you have a favourite search engine that you depend on to return those must have research resources?  If you are like the rest of the planet this favourite search engine happens to be Google.  Nothing wrong with Google (actually there is) but if you conduct research on a regular basis it is good to remember that a lot of search engines utilize personal data caches stored on your computer.  Many search engines employ search algorithms which result in a faster return of data sources that the search engine deems most useful and pleasing to you.  Sound Great?  Maybe if you are looking for a new way to add some ‘zazz’ to that potato casserole that your family keeps telling you is wonderful but ends up in the dog bowl more often than not, but if you are making a sincere effort at objective research you really need to remove your preferences from the equation and not let software add bias to your work.

If you have two computers in your home you can test this idea of cache bias by conducting identical searches at roughly the same time.  Chances are good that while there will be similarities you will also be receiving different search results.

Image borrowed from

It is a great idea to clear your cache on a regular basis, or better yet do yourself a favour and explore some of the other search options out there and don’t forget about the Deep/Dark/Invisible Web. There is a vast amount of data out there that you will never find unless you know how to look for it.

You can think of the internet as you think of the ocean; While popular engines like Google and Yahoo! skim that pretty blue or green part and show you all of the colourful fish and white sand beaches, there are some great digging tools out there such as specialized user databases and online library tools that will show you the dragon vents, giant squid, and all of the ugly fish that live in the dark that science gets really really excited about.  Dig deeper, dig differently.

This link: will show some quick alternatives for online searching and there are a couple in here that will do automatic meta-searching within retrieved sources which in my opinion is a pretty cool feature.  If you are a student your school will likely have a list of paid subscriptions to online data bases posted on their library page. These databases are infinitely useful when seeking credible sources. These examples are just a minute sample of the resources out there and not necessarily what you need for a particular task but rather serve as a great starting point for curious minds.

So at the very least clear that cache!  Surely you can wait the extra .16 of a second for a fresh look.

Comments and sharing are always welcome.