Tag Archives: podcast

Geothoughts 6: Who Stands to Gain in Canada’s Sharing Economy?

This July, Alberta residents were warned that drivers who use Uber’s car-sharing service may not have appropriate insurance coverage, with potential risks to both drivers and passengers.

This July, Alberta residents were warned that drivers who use Uber’s car-sharing service may not have appropriate insurance coverage, with potential risks to both drivers and passengers.

By Naomi Bloch

The rise of the web-enabled sharing economy is leading to much hope about potentially new sources of income and new ways for communities to connect and share resources. In the process, however, more consumers appear to be turning to global tech companies to acquire convenient, local services.

This July, Alberta residents were warned that drivers who use Uber’s car-sharing service may not have appropriate insurance coverage, with potential risks to both drivers and passengers. Earlier this month in Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo region, the local cab company Waterloo Taxi released its new mobile app. The company hopes the app will help it to maintain its edge against Uber, a recent—and not entirely legal—entry to the local marketplace. Meanwhile, starting this fall, Quebec will begin regulating the online home rental service Airbnb.

In this podcast, we interview Geothink co-applicant Leslie Regan Shade, associate professor in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information. Together with PhD candidate Harrison Smith, Shade has been exploring the “cartographies of sharing,” situating the geoweb in the sharing economy of Canada. Shade is particularly interested in the political economic questions now surfacing in the media, in policy circles, and in academia. She and Smith are focusing on three inter-related questions:

  1. What is the state of the sharing economy in Canada, particularly with respect to the fundamental opportunities and challenges currently facing municipal regulators in Canada?
  2. What particular benefits and challenges has the sharing economy brought to Canadian economies, particularly key urban centres?
  3. How is the geoweb contributing to the rise of the sharing economy in Canada?


If you have thoughts or questions about this podcast, get in touch with Naomi Bloch, Geothink’s digital journalist, at naomi.bloch2@gmail.com.

Geothoughts Conversations 1: Debating and Defining the Emergent Field of Crowdsourcing Civic Governance

Our second Geothoughts Conversations piece takes a look at crowdsourcing, the topic of the 2015 Summer Institute.

Our first Geothoughts Conversations piece takes a look at crowdsourcing, the topic of the 2015 Summer Institute.

By Drew Bush

One of the hallmarks of any academic conference are the conversations that take place in-between sessions, in the hallways and over meals. In our first Geothink Conversations we aim to give you a flavor of these discussions at Geothink’s now concluded 2015 Summer Institute.

This month’s conversation features Geothink Head Renee Sieber, associate professor in McGill University’s Department of Geography and School of Environment; Robert Goodspeed, assistant professor of Urban Planning at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning; Daren Brabham, assistant professor in the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Journalism and Communication; and Monica Stephens, assistant professor in the Department of Geography at State University of New York at Buffalo. And, of course, I’m Drew Bush and I’ll be helping steer the conversation along.

Each day of the institute alternated morning lectures, panel discussions and in-depth case studies on topics in crowdsourcing with afternoon work sessions where professors worked with student groups one-on-one on their proposal to meet a challenge posed by the City of Ottawa. For more on the Institute, check out our web site at geothink.ca.

To start us off, Brabham gets the group rolling on what exactly defines the boundaries of crowdsourcing, the topic of many conversations overheard during the three-day conference.


If you have thoughts or questions about this podcast, get in touch with Drew Bush, Geothink’s digital journalist, at drew.bush@mail.mcgill.ca.

Geothoughts 4: Have We Broadened the Audience? Civic Participation in an Age of Digital Technology

Geothoughts 4 examines how civic participation is changing with the advent of geospatial digital technologies.

Geothoughts 4 examines how civic participation is changing with the advent of geospatial digital technologies.

By Drew Bush

We’re very excited to present you with our fourth episode of Geothoughts. You can also subscribe to this Podcast by finding it on iTunes.

This podcast examines how civic participation is changing with the advent of geospatial digital technologies that allow for cities to collect many forms of data on their citizens and for citizens to communicate with cities and about all that happens within them. We interview Geothink’s Head Renee Sieber, Associate Professor in McGill University’s Department of Geography and School of Environment, to find out her opinions on this subject.

Thanks for tuning in. And we hope you subscribe with us at Geothoughts on iTunes. A transcript of this original audio podcast follows.

TRANSCRIPT OF AUDIO PODCAST

This week we sit down with Geothink Head Renee Sieber to discuss how geospatial digital technology continues to reshape citizen interactions with cities. Sieber is an associate professor in McGill University’s Department of Geography and School of Environment.

[Geothink.ca theme music]

Welcome to Geothoughts. I’m Drew Bush.

“It’s a very different world in which we can on a Saturday evening or an early Monday morning know what’s happening in our cities and comment on what’s happening in cities. It’s technologies like sensors in road networks that allow cities to know how we’re travelling through a town, where we are meeting up with people to, for example, create dynamic neighborhoods of where people congregate and want to see their friends to then create better urban design for cities. So the technology is really transforming the way we can have this interaction.”

For example, governments can now know if you visit certain parks, go to certain places for coffee, and meet certain friends while doing either. So, theoretically at least, they can now design urban spaces and cities themselves to be safer, more vibrant, and better suited to the range of activities taking place in these places.

“Indeed, we can customize the city to individual desires. Well, that seems both incredibly convenient and incredibly Orwellian at the same time.”

Now in the third year of a five-year partnership research grant funded by the Canadian Government’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Geothink involves 26 researchers and 30 partners in examining the implications of increasing two-way exchanges of locational information between citizens and governments.

“Cities are facing tremendous budget cuts, so they may not, they literally may not have the money to have lengthy public meetings. They may need to respond quite rapidly to challenges, so they may not have the time. So it is in everyone’s best interest to try to create smooth yet meaningful interactions, and we have technologies to do that—both technologies in terms of your phone and also technologies in the imbedded infrastructure of cities. But how is that going to affect a very deep meaningful conversation, and in deep meaningful ways that cities respond to the needs of their residents and the needs of factors outside their municipalities?”

That’s where the interdisciplinary research of Geothink’s team and collaborators as well as its partnerships with many cities come in, said Sieber. All of these new interactions and ways of governing or being a citizen require research to be better understood.

“Well it’s a really exciting time. It’s an opportunity for citizens to be engaged when they don’t necessarily have the time to attend a meeting. So they can both watch city activities online through their own dashboards. They can communicate as issues arise. They can, perhaps cities may wish to create polls of online sentiment or they want to alert citizens of emergency situations or of interesting happenings in a city.”

Not all applications of new digital technologies have positive connotations. For example, these technologies make it easier for cities to conduct better surveillance of citizens since they can track people through the cell-phones they carry or by the places they check into.

Such privacy concerns have the potential to make people very uncomfortable, particularly because it means placing more trust in governments and technologies that could misuse or abuse this data, according to Sieber. Other problems include the mistaken belief that new technologies mean more people can access and interact with their cities. While efforts to take some conversations or debates online might be advantageous to certain populations, it can also be disenfranchising to others, Sieber added.

However, that doesn’t mean that more digital opportunities haven’t translated into more opportunities for citizens to interact with their cities and their services.

“I think we are in an environment in which we have really broadened opportunities for citizens to participate through social media, through these various kinds of devices that we have. So I think its very exciting and also we can have citizens more fully engaged as members of the city in reporting in monitoring events in real time.”

However, Sieber cautions that we must remember technology is not a panacea.

“Democracy can be very, very messy, and sometimes you need to get people who don’t necessarily agree with each other in the same room with each other. You can not necessarily rely totally on harvesting, for example, Tweets or Facebook posts to understand public sentiment. Democracy and perceptions about what a city should do are often much more textured than that.”

[Geothink.ca theme music]

[Voice over: Geothoughts are brought to you by Geothink.ca and generous funding from Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.]

###

If you have thoughts or questions about this podcast, get in touch with Drew Bush, Geothink’s digital journalist, at drew.bush@mail.mcgill.ca.

 

Geothoughts 3: Edmonton Ascending to the World Stage as a Truly Open City

Edmonton is working to be on par with the world’s smart cities through an open city initiative that will revolutionize the life of the city’s citizens.

Edmonton is working to be on par with the world’s smart cities through an open city initiative that will revolutionize the life of the city’s citizens.

By Drew Bush

In our third edition of Geothoughts, we’re excited to bring you an interview with Yvonne Chen, a strategic planner for the city of Edmonton’s Open City Initiative. You can also subscribe to this podcast by finding it on iTunes.

In this interview, we talk with Chen about what it means for Edmonton to be on par with the world’s smart cities, the open city initiative due before the Edmonton City Council and future projects that will revolutionize the life of the city’s citizens.

Thanks for tuning in. And we hope you subscribe with us at Geothoughts on iTunes. A transcript of this original audio podcast follows.

TRANSCRIPT OF AUDIO PODCAST

Welcome to Geothoughts. I’m Drew Bush.

[Geothink.ca theme music]

Edmonton’s City Council has yet to consider an Open City Initiative that may cement the city’s status as one of the world’s newest smart cities. But as we wait for the council to take action, we bring you a deeper look at the Initiative from Yvonne Chen, a strategic planner for the city who has helped orchestrate the Initiative.

“Edmonton is aspiring to fulfill its role as a permanent global city, which means innovative, inclusive and engaged government. So Open City acts as the umbrella that encompasses all the innovative open government work within the city of Edmonton.”

That was Chen in an article published on Geothink.ca a few weeks ago. Her work on the initiative follows close on the heels of a 2010 decision by city leaders to be the first to launch an open data catalogue and the 2011 awarding of a $400,000 IBM Smart Cities Challenge award grant.

In March, the city cemented a partnership with Startup Edmonton when they announced the Open Labs project to connect city staff with the six-year-old group to work on solving problems using the city’s data. Startup Edmonton’s aim is to bring developers, designers, makers, founders, investors and mentors together in one place with a goal of using their strengths collaboratively to encourage the development of startup companies based on technological innovation.

For the city, some initiatives have included using advanced analysis of open data streams to enhance crime enforcement and prevention, and interactive neighborhood maps that will help Edmontonians locate and examine waste disposal services, recreational centers, transit information, and capitol projects. In fact, one of Edmonton’s most notable projects has included providing free public Wi-Fi around the city’s LRT stations, with plans for an expansion to all trains and tunnels.

However, not all of the city’s efforts have worked exactly as planned. In particular, questions have been raised by the city council about the sheer volume of smartphone applications that have been developed by the city and the efficacy of some of them. City officials believe the collaboration may serve to fix this, or at least reduce the cost of when they don’t work as planned, according to The Edmonton Sun.

For Chen, the release of the Open City Initiative represents the culmination of years of work.

“My role throughout this entire release was I was helping to conduct the public consultation sessions, I was analyzing information, and I was writing the Open City initiative documents as well as a lot of the actual policy itself.”

In fact, the document outlines city policy, action plans for specific initiatives, environmental scans (or reviews), and results from public consultations on city initiatives. More than 1,800 Edmontonians commented on the initiative last October before it was revised and updated for the Council.

“The city of Edmonton’s Open City Initiative is a municipal perspective of the broader open government philosophy… It guides the development of innovative solutions in the effort to connect Edmontonians to city information, programs, services and any engagement opportunities.”

Like many provincial and federal open city policies, the document focuses on making Edmonton’s government more transparent, accountable and accessible. Unlike such policies, Chen said, it also focuses on including citizens in the design and delivery of city programs and services through deliberate consultations, presentations, public events and online citizen panels. In fact, more than 2,200 citizens are on just the panel asked questions by city officials as they design the initiative’s infrastructure.

And just as the Canadian Government celebrated it’s second annual CODE Hackathon this past February, Edmonton hosted its second annual city hackathon on February 21st.

“We had more than fifty participants actually stay the whole day and develop different mobile applications and other projects. Some of the more technological-based solutions used the city’s open data catalogue.”

Some of these applications may one day hit the city’s streets. Of interest, according to Chen, are one team’s project to consolidate all of the city and affiliated organization’s disparate Twitter feeds into one Twitter box that citizens can personalize, and a project that made use of multiple data sets to allow users to rank neighborhoods by socio-demographic variables for a variety of purposes including determining what types of schools are nearby.

[Geothink.ca theme music]

[Voice over: Geothoughts are brought to you by Geothink.ca and generous funding from Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.]

###

If you have thoughts or questions about this podcast, get in touch with Drew Bush, Geothink’s digital journalist, at drew.bush@mail.mcgill.ca.

Geothoughts 1: What’s in a Plan? Innovation at the Cost of Democracy in Canada

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 8.30.05 PM

Our first podcast delves deeper into how Canada’s Action Plan for Open Government 2.0 has failed to fully engage civil society groups.

By Drew Bush

We’re very excited to present you with our first Geothink.ca Podcast in our series, Geothoughts. You can also subscribe to this Podcast by finding it on iTunes.

Our first podcast delves deeper into the opinions of Tracey Lauriault, a researcher at The Programmable City project who specializes in open data and open government in Canada. We explore how Canada’s Action Plan for Open Government 2.0 has failed to fully engage civil society groups and take you inside her work with front-line groups like the Canadian Council on Social Development and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Thanks for tuning in. And we hope you subscribe with us at Geothoughts on iTunes. A transcript of this original audio podcast follows.

TRANSCRIPT OF AUDIO PODCAST

Last week Geothink.ca brought you a story about the lack of civil society engagement with Canada’s Action Plan for Open Government 2.0. This week we delve deeper to find out what exactly is missing.

[Geothink.ca theme music]

Welcome to Geothoughts. I’m Drew Bush.

“For me that’s the disappointment. There wasn’t outreach to civil society as I know it. And that’s the civil society organizations that are actually involved in policy formulation or evidence-informed policy on whatever—a variety of issues from transportation planning to anti-poverty to mining extraction.”

That’s the opinion of a researcher at The Programmable City project who specializes in open data and open government in Canada.

“So my name is Tracey Lauriault and I’m working on a European Research Council funded project called The Programmable City. It’s based here at the National University of Ireland in the village of Maynooth at the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis.”

Lauriault believes that Canada’s government is failing to meet the promise held out by new technology and open data. That’s because it’s falling way behind in actually engaging citizens in public policy debates even as it closes institutions such as Canada’s census, scientific organizations or civil society groups that produce this data. In essence, the government’s plan has gotten really good at creating more efficient e-government services but, for Lauriault, this is a very limited view of what open government and open data should be.

As an indication of this failure, Lauriault asks a simple question. Each year the Federation of Canadian Municipalities undertakes a quality of life indicator system that measures a number of factors including the environment, economy, sustainability, poverty and accessibility. Working with approximately 110 indicators and 200 variables, the organization surveys more than 40 different government organizations, including 24 cities across Canada.

“Can we go to that federal portal and could we construct that indicator system with the data in that portal? No. We’re still at the making cold calls, trying to find that public official who knows something about, you know, personal bankruptcies or whatever dataset that we’re looking at on the federal level—an expert at citizen immigration— and so on to collect those data, every year, to construct that indicator system.”

She points out that there are a number of civil society organizations which already do quite good work with data—often data they’ve had to collect and create an infrastructure for themselves. For example, the Canadian Council on Social Development’s Community Data Program has undertaken capacity building, held workshops, made community maps, created newsletters and worked with data all in collaboration with local groups like fire and police departments, anti-poverty organizations, school boards and ethnic groups.

“They’ve been doing that kind of data literacy piece on the front lines, but they’re not called open data. They’re just doing this for evidence-informed policy. So I think it’s not just the fault I think of the Treasury Board secretariat of Canada. I think that there is this kind of epistemic disconnect between, you know, civil society that works with data on an ongoing basis to inform policy and those who make apps.”

And it’s this dichotomy, Lauriault believes, that’s at the heart of why Canada’s Action Plan for Open Government 2.0 is failing to engage citizens and groups interested in policy.

“If the strategy is going to be innovation and economic return then we’re going to stay with app developers. That’s what’s going to stay as an open data planned strategy and outreach plan. If we think it’s about democratic deliberation and evidence-informed policy and real public engagement, then the strategy has to be different and how the open government plan and open data plan are evaluated also has to differ and change.”

[Geothink.ca theme music]

[Voice over: Geothoughts are brought to you by Geothink.ca and generous funding from Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.]

###

If you have thoughts or questions about this podcast, get in touch with Drew Bush, Geothink’s digital journalist, at drew.bush@mail.mcgill.ca.