Open data, open government, transparency, evidence-informed decision making & the 2015 Election

For “What’s ‘Open’ Anyway?” Thursday, October 22, 1:30-3:30 MacOdrum Library, room 482 International Open Access Week 2015

Also see the working paper: 2015 Canadian Election Platforms: Long-Form Census, Open Data, Open Government, Transparency and Evidence Based Policy and Science

New Post as an Assistant Professor, Critical Media Studies and Big Data

This is just a short starter post to announce that I am back in Canada starting a brand new and I hope an exciting academic career in Communication Studies as a new Assistant Professor at Carleton University in Ottawa.

My Carleton Profile will provide a list of latest work and publications and you can read about work with my colleagues on the exciting Programmable City Project in the Republic of Ireland.

I will update this blog shortly and will begin to re-post reflections, publications, and discoveries.

Moving to Ireland!

I am leaving the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre (GCRC) in Ottawa for a postdoctoral research position at the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA) in Maynooth Ireland

I leave the GCRC on Aug. 23rd, my academic home of 11 years, at Carleton University in Ottawa under the directorship of D. R. Fraser Taylor to work with Rob Kitchin on the Programmable City Project at NIRSA, National University of Ireland at Maynooth, funded by the European Research Council (ERC). I officially start September 1st and leave Canada on the 25th.

My primary focus will on the following research question:

  • How are digital data generated and processed about cities and their citizens? with some crossover on
  • How are discourses and practices of city governance translated into code?

The particulars will be worked out once the international team gathers for the first time in Maynooth in September. Research activities, reflections and results will be shared on a website or blog once the project gets started. They will of course be disseminated in the usual academic fora.

I will continue to be involved with the GCRC as a member and do watch for the Developments in the Theory and Practice of Cybercartography: Applications and Indigenous Mapping book ed. by Prof. Taylor and myself as associate editor. In addition I will continue to be:

  • a member of the Canadian Geomatics Round Table – Legal and Policy Dimension Task Team,
  • the Chair of the Canadian Cartographic Association (CCA)Mapping Technology & Spatial Data Special Interest Group,
  • and a member of the Research Data Alliance -CODATA legal interoperability of research data working group.

Also, I will continue to monitor issues related to open data and open government in Canada but at a much reduced capacity as I begin to shift my focus on Dublin and Boston, Ireland, the EU and global scales. The blog will continue to be co-authored by Hugh McGuire and I and the focus may become more global. Of course, I will continue to post on the CivicAccess list I co-founded with Michael Lenczner, Hugh McGuire, Daniel Haran, Stéphane Guidon, Gabe Sawhney and others. Open data has come a long way in Canada since we founded this first national list in 2005 and I urge you to register, keep up to date and to take it to the next level. It has been a great ride!

I have worked with many community based organizations in Canada on the topic of bringing data &mapping and evidence-based decision making to the social sector. I will not be able to help as much as I did, but will continue to keep my eyes open and share information on issues pertaining to civil society and open data as much as possible. I will of course continue to respond to information requests. My final talk in Canada will be done remotely for the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) Sector Snapshots: NFP Trends & Tactics for a Changing Ontario on September 19.

The work on the SSHRC Partnership Development Grant at the GCRC with Teresa Scassa at the Centre for Law, Technology and Society (CLTS) and the Canadian Internet Public Policy Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) will be coming to a close and final reporting for that is underway, and as discussed work on the book is nearly complete.

I will not be in Canada, but will keep linkages open. I will sorely miss my colleagues at the GCRC (Esp. Peter Pulsifer, Glenn Brauen, Amos Hayes and JP Fiset, and others) as we really grew and flourished together, and I am incredibly thankful to Fraser for being such a great academic advisor and for providing us all with incredible research project experience. I am also sad to say goodbye to the great folks at the Carleton University MADGIC, and the Dept. of Geography, but will not be abandoning the ongoing work on the preservation of data as NIRSA has two data archives! Also, keep your eyes open for the GeoConnections Geospatial Data Preservation Primer that will soon be released in September of 2013 on the GeoConnections operational policies website.

I am looking forward to the move to Dublin, working with Prof. Kitchin and a fantastic new group of colleagues and starting the next leg of this academic career and bid you all aurevoir, and not adieu, as I expect we will all keep in touch, you might visit and we may even conjure some interesting International research collaborations and projects.

I will share new coordinates once I have them, but you can also follow me here:

@traceylauriault (twitter)
tlauriau at gmail dot com

New Paper: Legal Issues in Maps Built on Third Party Base Layers

The topic we are addressing  is not new, but it is helpful to have the legal issues well laid out.

by: Adam Saunders, Teresa Scassa and Tracey P. Lauriault

Legal Issues in Maps Built on Third Party Base Layers

GEOMATICA, 2012, 66(4): 279-290, 10.5623/cig2012-054

Abstract: The recent growth in citizen map-making ability has been brought about in part by the availability of base layers of geospatial information on which maps can be built, as well as software tools that allow geographic information to be represented. However, the legal relationship between the creator of the map and the owner of the base layer has received relatively little attention. In this paper, we consider legal issues regarding volunteered geographic information (VGI) submitted to third-party geographic information systems (GIS). This combination raises issues of copyright, database rights, trademark, and End User License Agreements (EULAS). The paper will consider the IP rights on which the EULAs are founded and the corresponding rights of those who build their own maps onto the base layers; analyze some of the key EULAs in this area, and identify important issues for those who create maps using these base layers.

Paper: The Map as a Fundamental Source in the Memory of the World

The paper has just been published on the UNESCO Site.

The Map as a Fundamental Source in the Memory of the World

Tracey P. Lauriault, Postdoctoral Fellow, Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre (GCRC), Carleton University, Ottawa. Email: tlauriau @ gmail . com

D. R. Fraser Taylor, FRSC, Distinguished Research Professor and Director of the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre, Carleton University, Ottawa. He is also a member of the CODATA Data at Risk Task Group. Email: fraser_taylor @ carleton . ca


The central argument of the paper is that maps and spatial information have been fundamental facet of the memory of societies from all over the world for millennia and their preservation should be an integral part of government digital data strategies. The digital era in map making is a relatively recent phenomenon and the first digital maps date from the 1960s. Digital mapping has accelerated very rapidly over the last decade. Such mapping is now ubiquitous with an increasing amount of spatially referenced information being created by non-governmental organizations, academia, the private sector and government as well by social networks and citizen scientists. Unfortunately despite this explosion of digital mapping little or no attention is being paid to their preservation and, as a result, what has been a fundamental source of scientific and cultural information, maps, are very much at risk. Already we are losing map information faster than it is being created and the loss of this central part of the cultural heritage of societies all over the world is a serious concern. There has already been a serious loss of maps such as the Canada Land Inventory and the 1986 BBC Domesday Project of 1986 and mapping agencies all over the world are struggling to preserve maps in the new digital era. It is somewhat paradoxical that it is easier to get maps that are hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of years old than maps of the late 20th and early 21 centuries. This paper examines the challenges and opportunities of preserving and accessing Canadian digital maps, atlases and geospatial information, which are cultural and scientific knowledge assets.

Lauriault, T. P. and D. R. Fraser Taylor, 2013, The Map as a Fundamental Source in the Memory of the World, UNESCO The Memory of the World in the Digital age: Digitization and Preservation Conference, Vancouver, 2012.

PhD Dissertation Defence: Data, Infrastructures and Geographical Imaginations

I was awarded a PhD in May of 2012 and below is the presentation I gave at the defence along with the abstract.


The central argument of this dissertation is that Canadian reality is conditioned by government data and their related infrastructures. Specifically, that Canadian geographical imaginations are strongly influenced by the Atlas of Canada and the Census of Canada. Both are long standing government institutions that inform government decision-making, and are normally considered to be objective and politically neutral. It is argued that they may also not be entirely politically neutral even though they may not be influenced by partisan politics, because social, technical and scientific institutions nuance objectivity. These institutions or infrastructures recede into the background of government operations, and although invisible, they shape how Canadian geography and society are imagined. Such geographical imaginations, it is argued, are important because they have real material and social effects. In particular, this dissertation empirically examines how the Atlas of Canada and the Census of Canada, as knowledge formation objects and as government representations, affect social and material reality and also normalize subjects. It is also demonstrated that the Ian Hacking dynamic Looping Effect framework of ‘Making Up People’ is not only useful to the human sciences, but is also an effective methodology that geographers can adapt and apply to the study of ‘Making Up Spaces’ and geographical imaginations. His framework was adapted to the study of the six editions of the Atlas of Canada and the Census of Canada between 1871 and 2011. Furthermore, it is shown that the framework also helps structure the critical examination of discourse, in this case, Foucauldian gouvernementalité and the biopower of socio-techno-political systems such as a national atlas and census, which are inextricably embedded in a social, technical and scientific milieu. As objects they both reflect the dominant value system of their society and through daily actions, support the dominance of this value system. While it is people who produce these objects, the infrastructures that operate in the background have technological momentum that also influence actions. Based on the work of Bruno Latour, the Atlas and the Canadian census are proven to be inscriptions that are immutable and mobile, and as such, become actors in other settings. Therefore, the Atlas of Canada and the Census of Canada shape and are shaped by geographical imaginations.

Census 2011: Who Are We? The Canadian Census Used to Tell Us

Take Away: Understanding of the history of the Canadian census. The use of census data through Canadian history and the effects of changing census data collection methods.
Objective: Understanding the following: what a national census is; the history of the Canadian national census; effects of changes to the 2010 long form; survey versus census; where we are and what do we have in May 2011. Methods: lecture and presentation Results: increase awareness of what comprises census data and how it is used by Canadians (individuals, researchers, business, governments, libraries who serve these users) Conclusions: If the Census 2011 is vastly different from previous national census’, what alternative resources are available for libraries and their users?
Description: The long form census was changed in the summer of 2010 to a long form survey. What are the long term effects of this change for Canadians (individuals, researchers, business, governments, libraries) who use census data.