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The Urban Ethnography Lab Launches Second Workshop on Urban Transformations from the Perspective of Urban Everyday Life

By: Dr. Emily Hertzman (Postdoctoral Fellow, Asian Institute, University of Toronto), Jessika Tremblay (Phd Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto), Carolin Genz (Phd Candidate, Department of Geography, Humboldt University), Dr. Aylin Yildirim Tschoepe (Phd Candidate in Anthropology and Middle East Studies, Harvard University).

Urban Anthropology today The urban, as a concept and a place, has undergone vast transformation since the beginning of the 21st century. Global macro forces of neoliberalism, environmental change and urban inequalities have  significantly changed the everyday lives and practices of urban dwellers. Along with these shifts, scholars, policy makers and urban actors are seeking new ways to reach in-depth understandings of the processes of urban social change at various scales. The Urban Ethnography Lab is an international research collaboration at the forefront of understanding these  unprecedented transformations through a people-centered qualitative research paradigm. Initiated in 2016, the Urban Ethnography Lab is a partnership between the Ethnography Lab at the University of Toronto and the Georg-Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies at Humboldt University in Berlin. Initiated by faculty members, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows working in Berlin and Toronto, the collaboration aimed to enhance ethnographic research methods that operate at the intersection of anthropology, human geography and urban design. Our priority is to explore the possibilities, limitations, and new uses of ethnography to build theory that considers how researchers’ positionalities and subjectivities intersect with research methods and the empirical urban field. Ethnography in Urban Settings “How to capture what you…

This is a picture of some of the University of Toronto City Studies students took the pen, drafting briefing books for 15 City of Toronto councillors on current issues. class=

Briefing the city: 60 UTSC students advise councillors on crucial city issues

By: Alexandra Flynn, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto Scarborough

  Every day, dozens of city staff write detailed reports for councillors. These reports help elected officials navigate the winding, difficult path of decision-making. But, this past winter, instead of staff, 60 University of Toronto City Studies students took the pen, drafting briefing books for 15 City of Toronto councillors on current issues like laneway suites, backyard chickens, creating ‘complete streets’ in Scarborough, and expanding daycare spots for kids. After they were done, the students briefed their councillors - and Mayor John Tory! As one fourth year student said, “This was a fantastic way to end off my university career, because I was able to learn the reality of working in the field with others.” City Structures and City Choices: Local Government, Management, and Policymaking is an upper-year course offered by the Department of Human Geography & City Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough. This course examines the structure of local government, how local government is managed, and how policy decisions are made. The first part of the class canvasses theories of urban governance - how do we conceptualize power and governance related to municipalities? Next, students look at City Hall in action - what really happens when decisions…


Partnership between Evergreen and School of Public Policy and Governance leads to innovative course on community-led policy making

By: Gabriel Eidelman, Assistant Professor, School of Public Policy and Governance

Earlier this year, U of T’s School of Public Policy and Governance (SPPG) entered into a partnership with Evergreen Canada to develop collaborative research opportunities and educational programming on issues of urban governance, environmental sustainability, community engagement, and economic development. As the first step in this newly formed partnership, SPPG and Evergreen co-developed a 2nd-year elective course in the School’s Master of Public Policy program, entitled “Making an Impact from the Outside,” which focused on community-led policy making in cities from the perspective of non-governmental organizations. The course was jointly delivered by Prof. Gabriel Eidelman, SPPG's Associate Director for Teaching Innovation, and Jo Flatt, Evergreen’s Senior Program Manager for Policy and Partnerships (and SPPG alum, Class of 2011). Hosted at the Evergreen Brick Works, the course took students out of the classroom and into the community through site visits, field assignments, and close interaction with experienced practitioners. Instructors and students chronicled their learning experiences on a collaborative blog. Read their course recap and reflections here, or browse all forty-six blog entries on the main site:

This is the logo for the Centre for Community Partnerships. It is orange and white. The text is on the upper left-hand corner. The logo is similar to a star and occupies the right-hand side of the image. The logo is in white. class=

Reciprocity in Community-Engaged Learning

By: Nicole Birch-Bayley (Department of English), Christina Turner (Department of English) and Jennifer Esmail (Centre for Community Partnerships)

At the University of Toronto's Centre for Community Partnerships, community-engaged learning opportunities are understood as reciprocal in that students can both learn from, and contribute to, the community organizations with which they work. Community-engaged learning is a form of experiential education where, in addition to learning course content, students also undertake placements with non-profit organizations and reflect on the integration of course-based and community-based learning. The Centre for Community Partnerships, with support from the School of Graduate Studies, offers a community-engaged learning seminar that brings together an interdisciplinary cohort of doctoral students to learn about the pedagogy of community-engaged learning while also undertaking a project for community partners. Students in the seminar discuss how to best mobilize their disciplinary skills and knowledge in community projects through an asset-based approach that understands community engagement as a process of reciprocal learning and teaching. Here, two students in the Doctoral Seminar on Community-Engaged Learning (CEL), Nicole Birch-Bayley and Christina Turner, reflect on their time working with a community organization and their thoughts about their own roles in both university-based and community-based research, teaching and learning. Nicole’s community engagement experience: Story Planet describes itself as a “creative community hub” that inspires diverse young people…

Vehicle travel times on King between Bathurst and Jarvis, showing times for which we have data. The blank spot is due to a database issue. The blue lime marks the start of the pilot project and the red line shows a smoothed average. class=

Travel time variation on the King Street pilot project

By: Nate Wessel, PhD Candidate in Urban Planning

This blog was first published on Spatial Analysis of Urban Systems Lab at the University of Toronto. Last week, we looked at transit data from the area around the King Street pilot project and noted increased average streetcar speeds across most times of day in the area effected by the project. There were a lot of things that we didn’t address in that post though: headway variability, congestion effects on nearby streets, and variability in travel times to indicate just a few. In this post, we’ll be taking a closer look at variability in travel times through the pilot project area (King Street between Bathurst and Jarvis). We’ll also take a quick look at a control case on a different section of King Street to see if travel times changed there as well or just in the section directly affected by the pilot. There’s a lot more to be done on this topic, but we’re just going to eat this elephant one bite at a time. So! We’ve accumulated about another week’s worth of data, and now have about 27 days of pre-pilot observation, 16 days post. As we noted before, the above chart seems to show a pretty clear change between…


Town-Gown symbiosis: U of T and City of Toronto celebrate a new level of partnership

By: Meric Gertler, President

Toronto and its namesake university provide a perfect illustration of the ways in which the relationship between a post-secondary institution and its host city-region is fundamentally symbiotic; the idea that a strong university helps build a strong city, and vice versa – a strong host city helps a university become even stronger. On October 2, 2017, I hosted an event at City Hall to celebrate this partnership, attended by Mayor Tory, Councillors Wong-Tam, Cressy, and Hart, senior City officials, and a sample of U of T’s many outstanding urban scholars. The event featured the signing of an historic Memorandum of Understanding, to give our partnership even greater focus and momentum. U of T’s role in enhancing the region’s urban vitality extends beyond the research and teaching of the more than 230 scholars who work on some aspect of cities, in at least nine faculties across our three campuses. It goes beyond our impact on the economy, in which our total annual expenditures of $2.8 billion generate some $12 billion in economic impact throughout Ontario. And it goes beyond our beneficial impact on the built environment of the city, as dramatic projects such as the new home for the Daniels Faculty…

picture of Ninh Binh, Vietnam, 2009 class=

The Urban Climate Resilience in Southeast Asia (UCRSEA) Partnership: A critical perspective on climate change issues in developing cities

By: Gwenn Pulliat, Postdoctoral Fellow

Over half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas and this share could reach 70% by 2050. Moreover, most of this urban growth will take place in the Global South. But in this context of developing countries, what is the “city” we are talking about? As a result of the city expansion within the world urban system as new focal points, strong attention has been paid to megacities and emerging “world cities”, such as Bangkok or Jakarta or Ho Chi Minh City. But beyond the well-known picture of megacities lined with skyscrapers and criss-crossed by congested freeways, the urban phenomenon actually stretches out throughout Southeast Asia. Specifically, secondary cities in the region have experienced a rapid and intense urbanization process, combining significant demographic growth and noteworthy urban sprawl – or what can be called the ‘ordinary city’, following Jennifer Robinson. Those cities, however, have been given little attention and it is therefore important to explore the spatial, social and economic dynamics of these spaces. Within the climate change field, the 2014 IPCC report for Asia recognizes that “more research is needed on impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation in urban  settlements,  especially  cities  with  populations  of  less than 500,000”. There…


Coding Flux: In search of resilient urbanism in South Florida

By: Fadi Masoud, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism

In November of 2016, an Octopus made its way into a parking garage in Miami Beach. A “King Tide” flooding event (a seasonal phenomenal brought on by the super moon) carried the creature deep into the urban fabric of the city. A study from the University of Miami found that since 2006, high-tide related flooding has soared by 400 percent. Even though the threat that climate change poses on coastal communities has now been long established, coastal urban populations continue to grow, and massive urban developments continue to be constructed in South Florida and around the world. Rising sea levels, increased storm frequency, storm surge, coastal erosion, and salt water intrusion are having a visible impact on many aspects of the fabric of our cities. Compromised infrastructure such as sinkholes in roadways, flooded intersections and basements, overflowing septic tanks, and rotting foundations are appearing all too often. In some places salt water intrusion through tidal inundation, like the one carrying the octopus, are corroding sewer lines, contaminating freshwater drinking water wells, impacting soil profiles, and changing eco-systems and habitats. Nowhere is this more visible than in South Florida. With nearly 20 million residents, Florida is one of North America’s fastest…


Igniting Potential: Role Model Moms Post-Secondary Academy

By: Roxanne Wright, Community Health Placement Officer

It’s incredible to see how big ideas can come from tiny, unlikely places. “Maybe our students could come for a tour sometime?” This small request, made offhand in a phone conversation about another topic, planted the seeds for what has grown into an event that supports and encourages mothers from low-income backgrounds in their pursuit of post-secondary education. The Role Model Moms Post-Secondary Academy event is an example of what can happen between institutions and communities when we work both responsively and collaboratively, and when staff are encouraged to let their talents and passions drive their work. In my role at the Faculty of Medicine, I work with more than 140 community organizations who supervise service-learning placements for our first- and second-year students, including Role Model Moms (RMM), an organization which helps mothers to complete educations which have been interrupted, usually because of family responsibilities. In supportive community classrooms in Jane-Finch & Victoria Village, these dedicated and hard-working women pursue their General Equivalency Diplomas (GEDs), taking the first step towards making the lives they dream of for their families. The women who participate are a diverse group with ambition and determination that is beyond inspiring. In 2016, a request for…


What is a Smart City? Achieving Conceptual Clarity in the Smart City Space

By: Adam Churchard, Nicole Goodman and Zachary Spicer, and David Wolfe

Confronted with challenges such as density, population growth, environmental sustainability, and improving service delivery for residents, cities are increasingly looking to utilize information and communication technologies (ICTs) as a potential solution. Much of this narrative focuses on becoming a ‘smart city’ or adopting smart technologies. The demand for tech-driven solutions to urban problems has also been picked up by the private sector; it is estimated that the smart city technology market will be valued at $757 billion USD by 2020. Despite burgeoning interest and investment, there remains little consensus as to what a smart city actually encompasses. With more than 30 terms used to describe the future city that harnesses technology to improve quality of life for residents, definitional precision is vital to policy development and the decision-making of local governments. Drawing upon scholarly literature and key technical reports, our research employs an evolutionary concept analysis to provide conceptual clarity and develop a better understanding of what a smart city really is. Evolutionary Concept Analysis is a method employed in health studies, particularly in the field of nursing, with the goal of identifying: A concept’s antecedents – the ideas or phenomenon that precede the concept Its attributes – the characteristics…

Architecture and urban studies major Josh Estrella works with youth participating in Art City programing to design and build a buddy bench stencils on a buddy bench (photo by Geoffrey Vendeville, U of T News) class=

Toronto as Urban Laboratory: Community-Engaged Learning in the Urban Studies Program

By: David J. Roberts, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream

It has become almost cliché to describe Toronto as the laboratory in which our students learn about the world, but for students enrolled in Introduction to Urban Studies II course (INI236), community-engaged learning opportunities across the city provide a key component of the educational experience. As an early facilitator of community-engaged learning, the Urban Studies Program at UofT’s Innis College has been placing students within community organizations as part of the introductory course for nearly a decade. The hope is that through working in community organizations on projects that these organizations have identified as a key need, students will appreciate the course content as well as the complexity of life in Toronto in new ways. Each year, course faculty solicit potential community projects from community organizations throughout the city. Each organization submits a proposed project for Urban Studies students to undertake that addresses a pressing community need within their organization or the communities within which they work. The professor then works to match students and facilitate their placements during the winter term. This past year, projects ranged from homework support and mentoring, to working to staff food and clothing banks, to the building of a buddy bench for an arts-based…

The first of three data visualizations featured in the Institute on Municipal Finance & Governance’s data visualization pilot project focuses on residential property taxes, the bedrock of local finances class=

Visualizing Ontario’s Municipal Finance Data: U of T’s Institute on Municipal Finance & Governance Launches Data Visualization Pilot Project

By: Institute on Municipal Finance & Governance (IMFG)

The Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG) at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and the Institute without Boundaries (IwB) at George Brown College have worked together on a data visualization pilot project that brings municipal finance data to life. Leveraging the municipal finance expertise of IMFG and the design experience of the IwB and School of Design at George Brown College, this collaborative project is intended to create new interest in municipal finance data, enhance its accessibility, and introduce new and creative ways to shed light on the chosen topics. From June–August 2017, IMFG will publish three visualizations in this pilot project. The first of these visualizations, released on June 1, 2017, focuses on residential property taxes: the bedrock of local finances. A common perception is that property taxes are rising quickly, but the reality is quite different once inflation is taken into account. Property taxes account for more than 97% of total tax revenues for local governments in Canada. According to most economists, it is a good tax for many reasons: property is immovable, and property taxes are visible, economically efficient, and clearly tied to local spending. But the property tax is unpopular and difficult to…

21 Chinese Case Studies of Urban Districts Built on Reclaimed Land. Image Credit: Developing the Littoral Gradient Atlas (Masoud / Ryan) class=

Developing the Littoral Gradient – Urbanism on Reclaimed Land

By: Fadi Masoud, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism

Seemingly infinite, sand is the second most consumed natural resource on the planet. Like the presence of water, only a marginal percentage of sand grain (water-withered flat sand grains) is considered suitable for construction and recreation. 40 billion tons of a year goes into urban development, twice the amount of sediment carried by all the worlds’ rivers combined. In large quantities, sand is engineered into the most fundamental of all infrastructures, and a precursor to any development - land itself. Along with concrete - the most ubiquitous material in city building – “land reclamation” from water bodies and coastal plains is the largest consumers of this resource. [caption id="attachment_664" align="alignnone" width="1074"] Development on Reclaimed Land on the Bohai Bay near Tianjin. Image Credit: Matthew Niederhauser and John Fitzgerald: Future of Suburbia Exhibition – MIT Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism[/caption] As part of an ongoing research project with collaborators at the MIT Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism and Professor Brent Ryan (MIT), my research team aims to map and showcase decades of coastal urban expansion through artificially constructed terrains. While the relationship between cities, coastlines, and resilient planning and design has now long been established, this research looks at…

surat smart city centre class=

The Future of Smart Cities: University of Toronto partners with IIT-Bombay, Tata Trusts and Government of Ontario to deliver two-day Smart Cities workshop in Mumbai, India

By: Shauna Brail

India, the 2nd largest country in the world by population with just under 1.3 billion people, is urbanizing at a rapid pace. The Government of India has committed funds to develop100 smart cities across the country, with an emphasis on building and supporting the physical, digital and data infrastructure required to accommodate unprecedented urban growth at a key point in the nation’s transformation. It is projected that the population of India’s cities will grow by an additional 200 million people over the next fifteen years. India’s 100 Smart Cities initiative represents an opportunity for India to guide physical, economic and social opportunities for its citizens and for the nation as a whole in the coming decades. In connection to this agenda, nine faculty members and researchers from the University of Toronto traveled to Mumbai, India in May 2017 to lead a workshop on The Future of Smart Cities. Participants included faculty from Arts & Science; Daniels Faculty of Architecture Landscape & Design; Applied Science & Engineering; Dalla Lana School of Public Health; University of Toronto at Mississauga; and research directors from the Institute on Municipal Finance & Governance and the University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute. In addition, faculty members…


Online flipbooks: UofT Libraries Preserves Toronto’s Past by Digitizing Municipal Handbooks

By: Debbie Green

Many of us are fascinated but bewildered by the financial workings of the City of Toronto. We cannot connect the amounts of money under discussion with what we see happening in the city around us. Taking a peek at previously inaccessible city documents from the past can give us a taste of how that work is done. Imagine yourself as City Treasurer R.T. Coady using his City of Toronto Municipal Handbook as an essential tool to providing knowledgeable administration of Toronto in the 1910s. Items like the Municipal Handbooks are the kind of working manuals which are typically discarded or lost as cities develop and the needs of city bureaucrats change. They provide an invaluable glimpse into the day to day business of running the city and offer rich material for research and general interest. For instance: -The total cost of building what we now refer to as Old City Hall was $2,500,000, including furniture -In 1905, the value of property and assets owned by the City was $15,000,000 -There were 265 ¼ miles of streets in Toronto, most of which were built using Macadam, Cedar Block or Asphalt Births, marriages, deaths and the protocols for citizens to report these…