Methodology: Placing Data-Driven Urbanism in Alberta

This project has three main phases: podcast interviewing, case studies and reflection. In the first phase we will reconstruct the story behind smart city strategies in Alberta by interviewing key figures involved in their creation. These interviews from government staff, elected officials, and corporate or community partners, will be released as a podcast.  

The second phase will involve undertaking a series of in-depth ethnographic case studies focusing on urban data initiatives in Alberta. We will embed ourselves within urban data initiatives and use techniques including document analysis, interviewing and participant observation. Embedding ourselves within the actual applied contexts of urban data production will grant first hand access to the complex assemblages of people, spaces, discourses and technologies that must be enrolled and secured to successfully produce urban data. Document analysis will involve gathering together textual materials related to each respective data production initiative and then using these materials to identify the discursive conditions that structure each initiatives’ meaning. It will also consider media reporting related to the initiative as a means to contextualize initiatives in relation to public dialogues in the city. Interviewing will be conducted with data analysts and data engineers within the initiative, chronicling how these professionals make sense of their work and rationalize decisions related to data maintenance. Additionally, for a period of approximately two weeks we will engage in ‘job shadowing’ within each initiative. This participant observation will be used to document the everyday practices involved in urban data production, processing or distribution.

Finally, the third phase of the project will involve reflecting upon the relationship between the geographies identified in podcast interviewing and case studies, with data-driven urbanism more generally. This analytical exercise will identify and describe the ways in which the socio-material practices and spatial relations that constitute urban data themselves condition the pathways and prospects of data-driven urbanism.