A Short Film on AI, Surveillance and Educational Technologies


Co-produced by the AI + Society Initiative, the eQuality Project and the Queen’s Surveillance Studies Centre, #tresdancing speculates on the effects of escalating surveillance and control through AI and educational technology.  

Created by sava saheli singh, this fourth instalment of the Screening Surveillance series was made possible thanks to the support of the Scotiabank Fund for AI and Society at the University of Ottawa and of the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada. 

The short film  premiered on February 22, 2022, and was followed by a conversation with the team behind this new film on surveillance and algorithms in educational technologies. The recording is available here.  

About the short film

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the many ways our systems are complicated and complex, making them susceptible to failure as it tests the limits of their capabilities. At the same time, these failures and the pandemic itself have provided the perfect opportunity to increase surveillance through already ubiquitous platforms and technologies.  

The sudden shift from in-person to online classes made educational technology the perfect setting for corporate entities to capitalize on the real need for rapid technological solutions to deal with remote learning and teaching. They did so by increasing invasive surveillance in the name of supporting educational institutions and maintaining academic integrity through problematic online proctoring software.  

#tresdancing speculates the effects of escalating surveillance and control through educational technology. In this near future fiction narrative, a young person has little choice but to use invasive augmented reality glasses as they are forced to ramp up their engagement with a new, experimental technology in order to make up for a failing grade.

The film highlights different issues around privacy, algorithmic bias, AI-enabled decision making, and surveillance. Tech adoption, especially in education, is often presented as a choice that people make. But, as shown in this film, administrators, teachers, and especially students, rarely have much choice and find themselves having to interact with increasingly invasive technology as a condition for “success”. The protagonist’s use of the technology escalates out of her control, and she finds herself being manipulated into making decisions she might not otherwise make. The film also highlights the moral and carceral logics that often underpin surveillance technologies. Our protagonist finds herself at the mercy of this technology that is recording, analyzing, and judging everything she sees and does in her life, bring her to the point of having to choose between her friends and social life, and academic success. A difficult choice indeed. 

This film points to the sometimes impossible position we find ourselves in with regards to technology use, and the hope is that we can have conversations about how to mitigate harms from the technology that we already use, and work towards ensuring equity and safety, especially for young students, by creating space to question the use of technology and hold companies accountable for the harms they enact.  


Fourth instalment of the Screening Surveillance series, the short film was created by sava saheli singh and directed by Hingman Leung. Co-produced by the AI + Society Initiative, the eQuality Project and the Queen’s Surveillance Studies Centre, the creators were advised by professors Valerie Steeves, Jane Bailey, David Lyon, David Murakami Wood, and Florian Martin-Bariteau.


Created by: sava saheli singh 

Directed by: Hingman Leung 

Produced by: sava saheli singh, Lesley Marshall, and Hingman Leung 

Story by: Tim Maughan and sava saheli singh 

Screenplay by: Tim Maughan 



Frankie: Ann Tunkara 

Trish: Ava de Leon 

Jayce: Marielle Eji 

Lilly: Niara Read 

Teacher: Charli Mac 

Mom: Zoe Read 

Reporter: Xiaoli Li 



Ann Tunkara 

Ava De Leon 

Marielle Eji 

Niara Read 

Jojo Le Moullec 

Francis Tunkara 


Dog: Frankie The Dog 

Shopper: sava saheli singh 

Shoplifter: Jojo Le Moullec 

Porch Pirate: Pixie Cram 

Neighbor: Tim Maughan 

Graf Artist: Matt Miwa 

Litterbug: Matt Munro 


Co-Directors of Photography: Lesley Marshall, Ashley Bowa, Pixie Cram 

Sound and Camera Assistants: Mikayla Gordon, Sabastien Callender, Kimberly Sunstrum 

Edited by: Lesley Marshall/MAVNetwork 

Motion Graphics by: Lesley Marshall, Strast Media 



Frozen – Yung Heat (Ft. 4theworld and T$K) 

No Destination – Lia Kloud 

Geek – Seiiizi 

Forestview – Trench Foot 


Production Manager: sava saheli singh 

Project Managers: Robert Porter, Lesley Marhsall/MAVNetwork, Michelle Liu 

Subject Matter Consultant: Jamie Dinsmoor 


Thank you to:

Amen Jafri and Reel Name Productions 

Chris Payne 

Thaya-Kandiah and Thana Markets 

Hiro and Takaki Automotive 


Ottawa Board of Trade 

Baby LJ 

Debra Mackinnon 

Pat Manion 

David McIver 

Andrea Black 

Mary McNevin 


For the eQuality Project: 
Prof. Valerie Steeves and Prof. Jane Bailey 

For the Surveillance Studies Centre, Queen’s University: 
Prof. David Lyon and Prof. David Murakami Wood 

For the AI + Society Initiative: 
Prof. Florian Martin-Bariteau 



This movie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

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