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PODS Spotlight: Martin Law

Hi there! My name is Martin and I just recently received my undergraduate degree from McGill University with a major in Urban Systems Geography and a double minor in Environment and Geographic Information Systems. I’m interested in the ongoing transition to sustainable city living and how this can become a convenient and accessible option for everyone. This is where I believe policy and data science play a big role, and thus I am extremely grateful to be a PODS 2019 fellow, where I am given the opportunity to develop such a skillset and perspective.

Last year, I published a paper in the McGill Undergraduate Geography Society Journal, Field Notes, in April of 2018. In the paper, Uncovering realities of High Technology and Modest Eco-cities, I investigated the recent trends of new master planned cities emerging around the world in the name of eco-sustainability. I proposed a dichotomous categorization and evaluated the experimental strategies undertaken by developers in cities within China, India, Korea, and UAE. This demonstrated a polarization between a cornucopian approach employing ubiquitous technology versus sustainability through various forms of land development policies among other passive strategies.

Given the rise of smart city developments and unprecedented volumes of data available to us, the way data is used has become a controversial topic especially with the emergence of ubiquitous technologies in the context of personal-privacy issues. Rather than seeing this as a time solely for criticism, current trends also highlight the need for well-informed policy developers and data scientists to demonstrate a perspective that goes beyond the numbers in order to make decisions on how this data will be used in ways that both reflect current moral standards and honour future generations.

My PODS internship site is at OpenNorth’s Applied Research Lab, where I am currently working on analysis of open (geospatial) metadata and working towards evaluating their usefulness in performance measurement of urban transit. It is imperative that accessible and standardized high-quality open data is available so that citizens themselves can understand how their smart cities are being shaped. This transparency can better facilitate discourse between the city and its citizens, which can manifest itself through performance dashboards, like in Edmonton, where citizens can monitor their city’s progress in achieving its goals. At the same time there is also potential for improved public services, such as the Transit App. At Open North I’m learning how to evaluate such open data quality through an examination of metadata, and then applying this to the literature to explore how one can measure open data maturity in specific local contexts.

Seeing the connections made between my various interests in sustainability, coding, and empirical urbanism has been a huge eye opener, and this would not have been possible without the PODS program! Among all this, it’s also been amazing to meet the other PODS fellows whom come from such a diverse background both in academia and as individuals. Although learning how to code in R during the bootcamp was challenging, the opportunity to meet experts in the field, the support from other fellows, and camaraderie is what made the experience one that is unique and which I am extremely grateful for!


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