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Developing the Future of Libraries: Phase I Sub-Grant Projects


Open Data for a Smarter City: Creating A Data Infrastructure Pilot Initiative


  • Ryan Burns, Assistant Professor, Geography, Faculty of Arts
  • Anthony Levenda, Post-doctoral scholar, Geography, Faculty of Arts
  • Victoria Fast, Assistant Professor, Geography, Faculty of Arts
  • Byron Miller, Professor, Geography, Faculty of Arts
  • Dean Curran, Assistant Professor, Sociology, Faculty of Arts
  • Steve Liang, Associate Professor, Geomatics Engineering, Schulich School of Engineering
  • Eliot Tretter, Assistant Professor, Geography, Faculty of Arts
  • Alex Whalley, Associate Professor, Economics, Faculty of Arts
  • Melanie Rock, Associate Professor & Associate Scientific Director, Community Health Services & O'Brien Institute for Public Health
  • Morgan Mouton, Postdoctoral Associate, Community Health Services & O'Brien Institute for Public Health


In 2014 the city of Calgary 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 city’s online open data portal, called Open Calgary, for citizens to download and analyze without usage restrictions. To date, Open Calgary lags behind similar platforms of other cities such as Vancouver, Chicago, Edinburgh, and Toronto. The digital strategy and Open Calgary are both parts of the city’s efforts to become a “smart city”, a city saturated  with dataproducing monitors and public-facing data access platforms. These efforts, like elsewhere, have strong implications for data production and sharing practices, with further enormous potential for researchers. Yet, to date researchers have given insufficient attention to the forms of data, knowledge, people, and places that might be left out of open data platforms.

In particular, Gray et al (2016) argue that data generated by community organizations can richly contribute to a city’s open data ecosystem. Such data are typically  not integrated into a city’s formal open data platform, although they capture important ways of knowing and interacting with a community’s urban environment. For example, a neighborhood association may collect information related to hotspots of citizens’ fear, usage of community resources, or constituents’ demographics. For Gray et al, these “grassroots” data production practices can provide useful material for city administrators, and for cultivating insights across a range of non-government stakeholders. These forms and topics of grassroots data may also challenge state-sanctioned open data claims to transparency and accountability. Building on this observation, such data practices can also be useful for academic audiences who seek data for research purposes.

In this proposed project, then, we are guided by two related research questions:

  1. What capacities and technical affordances are needed to collect, archive, and distribute data related to community associations’ and non-profit organizations’ needs and knowledges?

  2. In what ways are such data useful for various stakeholders such as researchers or the organizations?

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