Podcast examines freedom of expression

A new podcast focusing on free expression has been launched by Dax D’Orazio, Skelton-Clark Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Political Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Science and Research Affiliate with the Centre for Constitutional Studies in the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta.

His doctoral research project - which received a SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Doctoral Scholarship and was recently nominated for both a Governor General's Gold Medal and CAGS-ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award - examined the contemporary state of freedom of expression on Canadian university campuses. 

In the first episode of Free Expression: The Future of a Fundamental Freedom, Is There a Free Expression Recession, Dr. D’Orazio provides an introduction for the series, explaining the concept of free expression, its importance for democratic societies, and why it’s the focus of so much controversy recently. 

Dr. D’Orazio said the idea for the podcast was born when he became a research affiliate with the Centre, one of the top constitutional and legal research centres in Canada.

“Their mandate is designed around public legal education and I’m a junior scholar interested in breaking down the academic and non-academic barriers in knowledge mobilization outside of the university,” he explains. “I pitched the podcast idea, and they were enthusiastic.”

He explains freedom of expression that is on the tip of everyone’s tongue right now and the podcast ties together contemporary affairs and news headlines.

“I thought freedom of expression would be a good focus for the project – to provide additional public education on a topic of interest to a wide variety of people,” Dr. D’Orazio says. “This is a timely topic, and these conversations should be public. They are complicated, the are nuanced, they are interesting. I realized the fruits of my research project might not be accessible to everyone and my lingering concern was I was doing all this work and I wanted to make that work more relevant and publicly accessible. This podcast is an extension of my dissertation.”

The podcast features a group of academics and experts that span the ideological or the political spectrum. They all come at freedom of expression from a specific, novel angle. There are 11 episodes in this season and Dr. D’Orazio is very interested in recording a second season.

“Two of the things that are different about this podcast is first, it’s distinctly Canadian. There are some differences between freedom of expression in the United States versus Canada thought we often lump the discussion into North America as a whole. There isn’t any other podcast that I’ve found that just focuses on Canada, which makes this unique.

“The other thing that is different is we aren’t trying to make an argument,” Dr D’Orazio explains. “The series is very open minded in the sense that it connects various experts, and it allows listeners to make their own decisions. We expose listeners to a variety of topics.”

Freedom of expression has become very controversial of late, he adds, and this podcast helps explain to the listeners why. He says the podcast could also be valuable to anyone teaching constitutional law and for students.

In the same vein as the podcast, Dr. D’Orazio currently working on a book based on his dissertation. It's tentatively titled Free Expression on Campus: The Alleged Crisis and the Politics of Higher Education.

To learn more about Dr. D’Orazio, his research and the podcast, visit his website.