Category Archives: Uncategorized

Slides for Design, Aesthetics, Politics and Urban Lives

The slides shared below were for a talk entitled Design, Aesthetics, Politics and Urban Lives given at the event People, Cities and Urban Interaction Design on 9 March, organised by Interaction Design Association Dublin. Anja Maerz and Lucy Barrett from Future Cities Catapult together gave a very interesting talk, sharing their experiences of and reflections on their engagements with citizens for improving their experiences of living in cities in different parts of the world.

My talk focused on Dublin, particularly DCC Beta, PyLadies, Coding Grace and Code for Ireland, making the point that how we anticipate future now, in our everyday life and with diverse social worlds can have consequential effects on how futures might come about, a point drawing on the always inspirational sociology, John Urry. If you are interested, here are the slides:

New paper: The ethics of smart cities and urban science

A new paper by Rob Kitchin has been published in Philosophical Transactions A titled ‘The ethics of smart cities and urban science’ in a special issue on ‘The ethical impact of data science’.


Software-enabled technologies and urban big data have become essential to the functioning of cities. Consequently, urban operational governance and city services are becoming highly responsive to a form of data-driven urbanism that is the key mode of production for smart cities. At the heart of data-driven urbanism is a computational understanding of city systems that reduces urban life to logic and calculative rules and procedures, which is underpinned by an instrumental rationality and realist epistemology. This rationality and epistemology are informed by and sustains urban science and urban informatics, which seek to make cities more knowable and controllable. This paper examines the forms, practices and ethics of smart cities and urban science, paying particular attention to: instrumental rationality and realist epistemology; privacy, datafication, dataveillance and geosurveillance; and data uses, such as social sorting and anticipatory governance. It argues that smart city initiatives and urban science need to be re-cast in three ways: a re-orientation in how cities are conceived; a reconfiguring of the underlying epistemology to openly recognize the contingent and relational nature of urban systems, processes and science; and the adoption of ethical principles designed to realize benefits of smart cities and urban science while reducing pernicious effects.

The paper is behind a paywall, so if you don’t have access and you’re interested in reading email Rob ( and he’ll send you a copy.

Working Paper 3: Republic of Ireland's Open Data Strategy: Observations and Recommendations

Republic of Ireland’s Open Data Strategy: Observations and Recommendations

Tracey P. Lauriault, Programmable City Project, NIRSA, National University of Ireland Maynooth, County Kildare, Republic of Ireland

The Programmable City Working Paper 3 (Complete Working Paper is available here)

Executive Summary

Working Paper 3 of the Programmable City Project is a response to the Republic of Ireland’s Department of Public Expenditures and Reform (DPER) Open Data launch and the reports produced by Insight at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG), who were awarded the contract from a government call for tender (CfT).  The Working Paper provides background context to the open data plan and critically considers governance; infrastructure; records management as well as information management and information technology (IM/IT); Legal, policy and ethical frameworks; public engagement; data curation; data dissemination and publication, and evaluation.  The Paper proposes reconceptualizing open data as a function of government record keeping, information management, shared services and national spatial data infrastructures as opposed to a standalone program.  By doing so, it is suggested, open data simply becomes a good governance strategy and by integrating it into broader government administration information management provides it with sustainability, especially if it becomes a normalized data dissemination strategy and a public engagement mechanism.  The Working Paper also includes a number of recommendations for consideration in addition to or to complement those provided by Insight.  Recommendations are as follows:

1. Good Governance

  • Open data should be a natural extension of good governance strategies and not stand alone programs.
  • Open data should be a key component of government information management (IM), record management, IT and national spatial data infrastructures (NSDI).
  • Open data should be part of a coordinated data and information dissemination strategy, which should also include publicly funded research data, scientific data, data from the humanities, and other qualitative data.
  • Focus on the production and maintenance of good quality public sector, administration, research, geospatial and scientific datasets and less on commercialization, innovation and ‘high value’ datasets.
  • Focus on data that have societal and environmental value, and also on core/framework datasets upon which other datasets can be integrated into.

2. Open Data, Records & Information Management and Thinking more Critically about Data

  • Consider open Data as a good governance strategy and as part of data and information management.
  • Integrate Open Data into IM/IT, Shared Services and integrate with the NSDI
  • Data infrastructures are critically important, Open Data should be considered with cloud computing, high speed internet, and hardware and software.
  • Open datasets should be thought of as government records (data & information) and should be managed accordingly.
  • Adopt a life-cycle and data curation approach to the management, preservation and dissemination of Open Data datasets.
  • Implement the NSDI and consider the CGDI principles for the NSDI and for Open Data in Ireland.
  • Critically reflect on data more broadly and not just as objects at the end of an information pipeline.
  • Consider evaluating the contents of an open data portal to see if these can be used to construct indicators of well-being and quality of life.

3.  The DPER / Insight Roadmap and the Best Practices Handbook

  • 3.1.      Governance

  • Develop an open data public interest mandate, vision and mission, and clear objectives against which performance can be evaluated.
  • Reconsider the organizational structure as per the schematic in Figure 5.
  • Reconsider appointments on the SIG to be expertise and skills based and less political, and that appointments be made by peers.
  • Create an open data institutional entity that will operationalize the work of the ODB, SIG and Working groups and integrate these with other government programs.
  • Open data officers should be appointed in all government offices
  • Create temporary expert working groups to develop and implement infrastructure wide practices (see figure 5).

3.2.      Legal, Policy and Ethical Framework

  • Develop a data and information legal and policy framework with open data as a component of it.
  • Conduct an inventory of collaborative and data sharing instruments (e.g., MOU, procurement contracts, data sharing agreements, etc.).
  • Assess the outputs of the Intellectual Property Activity in Ireland Based on Existing Data report resulting from the RfT in the spring of 2014.
  • Conduct an inventory of all laws, regulation, policies and directives that would govern how data are collected and disseminated.
  • Develop a set of explicit legal, policy and ethical guidelines for the management of public sector data and open data based on laws, regulation, directives, policies and practices in Ireland for public sector officials.
  • Include these guidelines as part of the data dissemination decision-making tree (Figure 6).

3.3.      Public Engagement

  • Engage with stakeholders on developing the mission, vision and mandate for the Open Data strategy.
  • Engage with stakeholders to shape how an Open Data roadmap and strategy could look.
  • Engage with, study, build upon and harmonize the Open Data strategy with existing public sector data dissemination programs.
  • Review and assess existing technologically mediated engagement tools and social media applications in other jurisdictions.
  • Public sector officials and departments should develop processes and be receptive to evidence based public input into public policy and planning, and learn to solicit feedback from the public in a useful and educated way.
  • Consider crowdsourcing, VGI and citizen science as a public engagement strategy.

4. Data Curation or a Data Audit?

  • Adopt a digital data curation and life-cycle approach to the management of data and conduct the data audit accordingly.
  • Adopt the Data Audit Framework.
  • Ensure that additional elements are added into the data audit (e.g. geocoded, scale, time).
  • The high value approach to the selection of data should be reconsidered, and an evaluation of what current data ‘clients’ value, should be considered.
  • Recognize the limitations of a machine only audit, and broaden search criteria to include all data not just those in open formats and under an open licence.
  • Conduct a full inventory of portals and catalogues from all sectors in Ireland and integrate their metadata to ensure cross disciplinary discoverability.
  • Publish the results of the data audit.

5. Data Dissemination and Publication

  • It is highly recommended that DPER consider adopting the well established data curation life cycle management approach similar to the one developed by the Digital Curation Centre, and consider taking a data curatorial approach in lieu of a data audit.
  • Adopt the Data Audit Framework for data curation as well as those developed by the Digital Curation Centre and consider developing an Information Management Directive which incorporates the ideals of Open Data, preservation and archives.
  • Create a decision making tree to help public officials determine what can and cannot be published.  Figure 6 is an example to guide decisions on the management and dissemination of sensitive data.
  • The outcomes of the decision derived from the application of the open data publication decision making tree would then form the basis for the decision supporting why some datasets are not published by default.
  • A data management and dissemination WG should be created along with those in Figure 5, and invite experts from the Digital Repository of Ireland, library and archives and information studies, geospatial community to help develop a comprehensive access, dissemination, data management and preservation plan for Ireland.

6.  Evaluation

  • Assess current performance and evaluation frameworks within the Irish public sector, including auditing frameworks, or those commonly adopted and reported on in other countries that have well established Open Data programs such as Canada, the US and the UK and as per the RfT.
  • Reassess the Open Data Barometer evaluation recommendation in the DPER/Insight report in light of its objectives and its target use and determine if it is a suitable model for a western developed national Open Data program.
  • Consider high impact datasets, those of public, social and environmental significance along with those considered to be of high value.

Preservation of Geospatial Data Primer

This document (French and English) is the last in a series that I wrote while in Canada on the preservation of geospatial data and I just received the finals today.  Fitting, since I have now been in Ireland for exactly one year today.  The past is however always part of the present and the future is it not?  In my view, the preservation of data should be part of any spatial data infrastructure and open data strategy.  It is simply part of the lifecycle management of a nations knowledge resources.  Data are modern artifacts as important as manuscripts, films or paintings.  If we invest so much in their capture, then we should also invest in their long term maintenance.

This primer is part of a series of Operational Policy documents developed by GeoConnections intended to inform Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI) stakeholders about the nature and scope of digital geospatial data archiving and preservation and the realities, challenges and good practices of related operational policies.  GeoConnections produces a number of excellent documents on a wide range of contemporary data topics such as VGI, managing sensitive environmental data, data licences, data access, best practices for sharing data, open source, and a host of many others that are very relevant to governments world wide.

This primer starts by examining preservation responsibilities, legislation, acts, directives and policies.  3 preservation frameworks were also discussed:

  1. the Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS) (CCSDS, 2012), developed by the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS);
  2. the European Long Term Preservation of Earth Observation Space Data: European LTDP Common Guidelines (LTDP Working Group, 2012), developed by the Long Term Data Preservation (LTDP) Working Group of the Ground Segment Coordination Body (GSCB); and
  3. the Trustworthy Repositories Audit & Certification (TRAC) Audit and Certification: Criteria and Checklist (OCLC and CRL, 2007), developed by the Center for Research Libraries and the Online Computer Library Center, Inc.

The stucture of the document loosely follows the The International Research on Permanent Authentic Records in Electronic Systems (InterPARES) 2 record creator and preserver guidelines.  The work is grounded in the stufy of four cases were and includes challenges and best practices :

  1. The Canada centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS) Earth Observation Data Management System (EODMS)
  2. Land Information Ontario (LIO) Geographic Information Archive (GIA)
  3. Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the Integrated Science Data Management Service (ISDM)
  4. International Polar Year (IPY) Data Preservation

Finally, the section on Establishing a Geospatial Data Preservation System guides data creators and preservers through a series of processes based on the frameworks, case studies, and guidelines.

GeoConnections has been studying the preservation and archiving of geospatial data since 2005. The following are the three reports in this series.

  1. Archiving, management and preservation of geospatial data summary report and recommendations (2005)
  2. Geospatial Data Archiving and Preservation – Research and Recommendations Executive Summary. (2011), Tracey P. Lauriault and Ed Kennedy, Hickling Arthurs and Low (HAL) NOTE – if you email me or GeoConnections, we can send you the full document.
  3. Geospatial Data Preservation Primer GeoConnections (2013) Tracey P. Lauriault, Ed Kennedy, with digital preservation subject matter expertise from Yvette Hackett, Library and Archives Canada Retired, reviewed by Marcel Fortin, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) & Map Librarian. Map and Data Library, University of Toronto. Hickling Arthurs and Low (HAL)

These documents are not for the faint at heart, but they inform practioners in all sectors, they are governmentality in action and are the datasets upon which critical data studies take shape.


Mapping Openness and Transparency

by: Tracey P. Lauriault

I attended the European Regional Meeting of the Open Government Partnership at the Dublin Castle Conference Centre in May of this year.  The meeting was a place for performance and evaluation wonks to show their wares, especially at the following sessions: Open Government Standards and Indicators for Measuring Progress, The EU’s Role in Promoting Transparency and Accountability and Engagement with the OGP, and Open Contracting: Towards a New Global Norm.  I did not attend the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) sessions, but having read the IRM report for Canada, I know that it too is an emerging performance evaluation indicator space, which is affirmed by a cursory examination of the IRMs two major databases.  The most promising, yet the most disappointing session was the Economic Impact of Open Data session.  This is unfortunate as there are now a number of models by which the values of sharing, disseminating and curating data have been measured.  It would have been great to have heard either a critical analysis or a review of the newly released Ordinance Survey of Ireland report, Assessment of the Economic Value of the Geospatial Information Industry in Ireland, the many economic impact models listed here in the World Bank Toolkit, or the often cited McKinsey Global Institute Open data: Unlocking innovation and performance with liquid information report.  Oh Well!

While there I was struck by the number of times maps were displayed.  The mapping of public policy issues related to openness seems to have become a normalized communication method to show how countries fare according to a number of indicators that aim to measure how transparent, prone to corruption, engagemed civil society is, or how open in terms of data, open in terms of information, and open in terms of government nation states are.

What the maps show is how jurisdictionally bound up policy, law and regulatory matters concerning data are.  The maps reveal how techno-political processes are sociospatial practices and how these sociospatial matters are delineated by territorial boundaries.  What is less obvious, are the narratives about how the particularities of the spatial relations within these territories shape how the same policies, laws and regulation are differentially enacted.

Below are 10 world maps which depict a wide range of indicators and sub-indicators, indices, scorecards, and standards.  Some simply show if a country is a member of an institution or is a signatory to an international agreement.  Most are interactive except for one, they all provide links to reports and methodologies, some more extensive than others.  Some of the maps are a call to action; others are created to solicit input from the crowd, while most are created to demonstrate how countries fare against each other according to their schemes.  One map is a discovery map to a large number of indicators found in an indicator portal while another shows the breadth of civil society participation.  These maps are created in a variety of customized systems while three rely on third party platforms such as Google Maps or Open Street Maps.  They are published by a variety of organizations such as transnational institutions, well resourced think tanks or civil society organizations.

We do not know the impact these maps have on the minds of the decision makers for whom they are aimed, but I do know that these are often shown as backdrops to discussions at international meetings such as the OGP to make a point about who is and is not in an open and transparent club.  They are therefore political tools, used to do discursive work.  They do not simply represent the open data landscape, but actively help (re)produce it.  As such, they demand further scrutiny as to the data assemblage surrounding them (amalgams of systems of thought, forms of knowledge, finance, political economies, governmentalities and legalities, materialities and infrastructures, practices, organisations and institutions, subjectivities and communities, places, and marketplaces), the instrumental rationality underpinning them, and the power/knowledge exercised through them.

This is work that we are presently conducting on the Programmable City project, which will  complement a critical study concerning city data, indicators, benchmarking and dashboards, and we’ll return to them in future blog posts.

1.       The Transparency International Corruption by Country / Territory Map

Users land on a blank blue world map of countries delineated by a thick white line, from which they select a country of interest.  Once selected a series of indicators and indices such as the ‘Corruption measurement tools’, ‘Measuring transparency’ and ‘Other governance and development indicators’ appear.  These are measured according rankings to a given n, scored as a percentage and whether or not the country is a signatory to a convention and if it is enforced.  The numbers are derived from national statistics and surveys.  The indicators are:

  • Corruption Perceptions Index (2013), Transparency International
  • Control of Corruption (2010), World Bank dimension of Worldwide Governance Indicators
  • The Bribe Payer’s Index (2011), Transparency International
  • Global Corruption Barometer (2013), Transparency International
  • OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (2011)
  • Financial Secrecy Index (2011), Tax Justice Network
  • Open Budget Index (2010), International Budget Partnership
  • Global Competitiveness Index (2012-2013), World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index
  • Judicial Independence (2011-2012), World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index
  • Human Development Index (2011), United Nations
  • Rule of Law (2010), World Bank dimension of Worldwide Governance Indicators
  • Press Freedom Index (2011-2012) Reporters Without Borders
  • Voice & Accountability (2010), World Bank dimension of Worldwide Governance Indicators

By clicking on the question mark beside the indicators, a pop up window with some basic metadata appears. The window describes what is being measured and points to its source.

The page includes links to related reports, and a comments section where numerous and colourful opinions are provided!

2.      Open Government Standards

Users land on a Google Map API mashup of Government, Citizen and Private Open Government initiatives.  They are given the option to zoom in to see local initiatives.  In this case, users are led to a typology of initiatives which define what Open Government means from civil society’s point of view.

Initiatives are classified with respect to the following categories 1) Transparency, 2) Participation and 3) Accountability.  The development of the Open Government Standards are being coordinated by “Access Info Europe, a human rights organisation dedicated to the promotion and protection of the right of access to information in Europe and the defence of civil liberties and human rights with the aim of facilitating public participation in the decision-making process and demanding responsibility from governments”.

Definitions, parameters and criteria for a number of sub-indicators are being crowsourced in the online forms like the following for Openness:

The following is a list of standards that are a currently under development.

  • Recognition of the Right to Know
  • Openness
  • Codes of Conduct: Clear standards of behaviour
  • All information available from all public bodies
  • Clear and reasonable Timelines
  • Conflict of Interest Prevention Mechanisms
  • Access is the Rule – Secrecy is the Exception
  • Clear and comprehensive information
  • Assets Disclosure
  • Proactive Publication of Information
  • Active collaboration
  • Transparency and Regulation of Lobbying
  • Free of charge and free for reuse
  • Appropriate and Clear Procedures
  • Whistleblower mechanisms and protections
  • Open Formats
  • Empowerment
  • Procurement Transparency
  • Compilation of information
  • Transparency and Accountability
  • Independent Enforcement Bodies
  • Independent review mechanism

3.      The Global Integrity Report Map

This is an interactive Open Street Map (OSM) Mapbox map depicting the locations where there is Global Integrity fieldwork national reports arranged by the year these were published.  Reports are called Country Assessments and each includes: a qualitative Reporter’s Notebook and a quantitative Integrity Indicators scorecard.

The Integrity Indicators scorecard assesses “the existence, effectiveness, and citizen access to key governance and anti-corruption mechanisms through more than 300 actionable indicators. They are scored by a lead in-country researcher and blindly reviewed by a panel of peer reviewers, a mix of other in-country experts as well as outside experts. Reporter’s Notebooks are reported and written by in-country journalists and blindly reviewed by the same peer review panel”.

Users select a country, and below the map a number of scorecard indicators appear.  Scorecard indicators are arranged into 6 major categories:

  1. Non-Governmental Organizations, Public Information and Media
  2. Elections
  3. Government Conflicts of Interest Safeguards & Checks and Balances
  4. Public Administration and Professionalism
  5. Government Oversight and Controls
  6. Anti-Corruption Legal Framework, Judicial Impartiality, and Law Enforcement Professionalism

Users can then access how each score was derived by following sub-category links.  Below is an example of legislation and the score associated with the Political Financing Transparency indicator which is a sub-class of the Elections category.

PDF copies of the reports are also available, as are spreadsheets of the data used to derive them.

4.      The World Bank Global Integrity Index Map

This is an interactive map depicting the World Bank’s Global Integrity Index, which is one of its Actionable Governance Indicators (AGIs).  AGIs “focus on specific and narrowly-defined aspects of governance, rather than broad dimensions. These indicators are clearly defined, providing information on the discrete elements of governance reforms, often capturing data on the “missing middle” in the outcome chain”.  The map allows users to select from a drop down menu which includes a subset of AGI indicator – the portal contains thousands.  The interactive and downloadable map aims to graphically demonstrate the progress of governance reform worldwide.  The map is but a small picture of what the Portal contains and below is a Governance At A Glance country report for Ireland.

And here is a data availability table, also for Ireland.

5.      The Open Government Partnership Participating Countries map

The interactive map depicts the countries that have signed onto the Open Government Partnership and in which cohort they belong.  Users can select their country of choice which hyperlinks to that country’s membership status and its progress to date in meeting the criteria for membership, where it ranks in terms of commitment and links to related documents such as action plans and progress reports.  It is interesting to note, that the Independent Review Mechanism reports are not included in this list.  Canada’s IRM report was submitted in 2014.

6.      The Open Data Barometer Data Map

The Open Data Barometer map depicts the 77 countries the Open Data Institute has evaluated.  This map assesses how open data policies are implemented in these countries according to three main indicators:

  • Readiness of:
    • government,
    • citizens and civil society and
    • entrepreneurs and business,
    • Implementation based on the availability a variety of datasets within the following sub-categories:
      • accountability
      • social policy
      • Innovation
    • The following Emerging Impacts :
      • Political
      • Social
      • Economic

These are also graphically depicted in a radar chart, as well as a bubble chart where the size of the bubble represents the availability of the datasets per category and if these sets meet the Open Definition Criteria.  The data and associated methodologies are explained in the website about the report.

7.      Open Contracting Implementation and Supporting Tools Map

This is a static map depicting where Open Contracting Support and Tools are implemented.  Sadly, the 5 indicators depicted on the map were not explained or described.  I would have to contact them at a later time to find out!

8.      Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index Map

This map is depicting the findings of the World Freedom Index Report for 2014, with a particular focus on how countries rose and fell from the previous year.  180 Countries are scored against the following criteria which are based partly on a questionnaire, violence committed against journalists the algorithm of which is clearly defined in the PDF copy of the report.  Data and the report are fully downloadable, and more detailed maps with a legend are provided in the report itself and a methodology report.

  • Pluralism
  • Media independance
  • Environment and self-censorship
  • Legislative framework
  • Transparency
  • Infrastructure

9.      Politics for People Not Profit Map

This is an interactive map that depicts the pledges made by nationally elected political officials to the European Parliament and asking them to commit to “stand-up for citizens and democracy against the excessive lobbying influence of banks and big business in the EU?” Mousing over a country triggers a pop-up menu which lists which party has made a commitment, while clicking on the map directs users to the page below which is a tool whereby citizens can fill in a form letter and have it sent to their elected officials to solicit them to pledge.

10.      The OGP Civil Society Hub Map

This is a partially curated and partially crowsourced map on the OGP Civil Society Hub Website.  The starred drops represent countries that are official OGP members, while the red drops represent any number of civil society organizations that have in some way engaged with the OGP, some of which are transnational while others are national or sub-national entities.  Once a location is selected, a pop-up menu appears that includes a national flag, a link to that nation state’s official OGP member site, and provides users with the option to pick from who is involved, a selection of topic areas or a list of information resources.  The map is a means to find people and activities and also a means by which to have people self identify and be recognized as civil society actors but also to connect people.

Unfortunately, the very popular and often discussed Open Knowledge Foundation Open Data Index, the Open Corporate Data indices and the Open Data Study by the Open Society Foundation have not been mapped, even though the latter includes quite a lovely world map on the cover of its report.