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Pamela Robinson

Professor, Director, School of Urban and Regional Planning, Ryerson University
Ryerson University (Toronto)
Toronto, Canada

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Pamela_Robinson7


What roles do technology and data play in shaping the processes of community planning and design?

About the work

As a registered professional urban planner, I engage in research, teaching and practice that tackles complex, emerging issues in future-readiness that include: smart city challenges, open data and civic technology use. I evaluate how local government efforts are impacted by technology and data tools. My inquiry builds on theoretical explorations of urban platform technology to evaluate what happens when these technology tools are used in real communities with real people to tackle real problems. My research asks questions like: who is planning the Canadian smart city; how does technology change the citizen-planner relationship; and how do data-engagement processes like civic hackathons contribute to city building efforts? My research points to voids in governance frameworks and strives to help inform the capacity of local government decision-makers to work inclusively and effectively with emerging technology tools.

Impact

I want to support local government decision-makers in navigating the myriad of challenges and opportunities in smart city, visualization and machine learning technologies. I taxonomize how urban technology platforms channel citizen participation in engagement efforts hosted by local governments. Vendors praise the technology benefits. But there are challenges too. By evaluating these tools, local government decision-makers can make more tactical and strategic choices about what roles, if any, these urban technology platforms may play in their planning and design work, and their relationships with the public. Many senior urban planners and local government decision-makers began their careers in a much different technology ecosystem. Rapid change and capacity asymmetries between vendors and governments exist. Practitioners need relevant research to their challenges and they need access to our findings and recommendations. These kinds of reciprocal partnerships are central to my work.

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