YYC Data Collective and Engaging Open Data Research

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Taylor Family Digital Library (Room 440A&D), University of Calgary

410 University Court NW · Calgary, AB

How to find us

The Taylor Family Digital Library (TFDL) is on the University of Calgary campus, directly South of MacEwan Student Centre. The rooms 440A&D can be found on your left as you exit the elevators on the 4th floor of the TFDL.

Location image of event venue


Groundbreaking work is being done in Calgary to leverage data in the nonprofit / social sector. Join us as Ryan Burns provides an overview of his innovative research at UCalgary (see details below).

Also at this meetup we hear about a volunteer opportunity to help the Alberta Law Foundation with data from legal clinics.

Presentation overview:
As the open data movement continues to pick up steam around the world, especially as part of "smart cities", data related to non-profit organizations and community associations are often sidelined in favor of government and private sector-generated datasets. In Alberta, the last few years have seen developed nascent but burgeoning momentum in the other direction, with multiple initiatives working to strengthen the production and circulation of data among non-governmental and not-for-profit institutions. In this talk I outline some of these efforts and connect them to bigger challenges and opportunities that the non-profit sector in particular faces. I also address the ways University of Calgary's Engaging Open Data Research project is working to connect the multiple people, institutions, and efforts -- through the YYC Data Collective and other work.

Ryan Burns background:
I am Assistant Professor at University of Calgary’s Department of Geography, and a member of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health. My research interests are in the social, institutional, and urban transformations of big and open data, smart cities, digital humanitarianism, and related digital spatial phenomena. My research program interrogates the social and institutional struggles around knowledge production emerging in the context of these new spatial-technological developments. At the current moment I’m looking at digital humanitarianism and open data platforms within smart cities.

Project overview:
Today, city administrators are making their cities "smarter" through open data platforms. Smart cities have Internet-connected devices and sensors in sidewalks and traffic lights, citizen participation solicited through smartphone apps and 311 services, and energy grids more efficiently distributing electricity. Open data platforms try to streamline data delivery to the public.

However, smart cities are complex and often contradictory. Research around the world has shown that they often increase - rather than decrease - inequalities in civic participation and representation. In 2014, the City Council of Calgary, Alberta identified 5 themes in an eGovernment Digital Strategy designed to implement "...trends in digital and open government." Mirroring other cities around the world, their top theme was "Transparency and Open Data." It would involve putting more data freely available in the Calgary Open Data Portal ("Open Calgary").

These kinds of efforts have not fostered sufficient reflection on the governance, private-sector involvement, unequal representation, and unequal participation of open data.

In Engaging Open Data Research, we look at the ways open data platforms produce and sustain inequalities in the smart city, usually unintentionally, and the roles of different economic actors in these processes. We look to the City of Calgary because of its unique approach to smart cities and open data, and hope to build a better city by critically analyzing it.