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.

Atelier national de formation Initiative de démocratisation des données (IDD) : L’image globale: Qu’est-ce qu’il y a de neuf dans le monde des données

L’image globale: Qu’est-ce qu’il y a de neuf dans le monde des données

Atelier national de formation de l’IDD – session d’ouverture

À tous les jours on retrouve de l’innovation dans le monde des données : le web sémantique, l’informatique en nuage, la visualisation, la cartographie, les portails, les infrastructures de données géospatiales, etc.  Cette partie de la journée de formation portera  sur les nouvelles initiatives canadiennes concernant l’accès public aux données en mettant l’accent sur ​​la transparence et les données ouvertes. Dans cette session, les participants/tes seront initiés à la démocratie participative et à l’utilisation des données numériques, aux définitions de données ouvertes et à des exemples de politiques gouvernementales éclairées.  En outre, nous nous pencherons sur ce que certains groupes communautaires font, la direction dans les grandes villes du Canada et dans la province de la Colombie-Britannique par les administrations et les citoyens. Nous traiterons notamment de licences, d’initiatives de données ouvertes, de « hackfest », de « hackathons », d’applications, des défis et des possibilités. Il est espéré que ce survol fournira aux participants/tes un aperçu des nouveautés dans le monde des données publiques au Canada.

Data Liberation Initiative (DLI) Training Day – The Big Picture: What is new in the Data World

The Big Picture: What is new in the Data World

DLI National Training Day – Opening Session

Data innovations happen daily: the semantic web, the cloud, visualization, mapping, sensors, spatial data infrastructures, etc.  This portion of the Training Day will focus on recent access to public data initiatives in Canada with an emphasis on open government and open data.  In this session participants will be introduced to data and participatory democracy, open data definitions and examples of good government policy.  In addition, we will look at what some community groups are doing, the leadership in Canada’s big cities and the Province of BC by administrations and citizens.  This will include licenses, open data initiatives, hackfests, hackathons, applications, challenges and opportunities.  It is hoped that this overview will provide participants with insight about what is new in the Canadian access to public data world.

Simon Fraser University, Harbour Centre, Room 1700 Labatt Hall

515 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC  V6B 5K3

Monday May 30, 2011

Tracey P. Lauriault