bio blog

Public Funding and Big Data Analysis: Socioscapes.com

6/29/2016

As we a approach a new census year, I’d like to share a project I recently completed as part of my graduate research at the University of Toronto. This work began when I joined Dr. Brent Berry’s research team on a project called “Interactions Across Boundaries: Social Segregation in Multiethnic Urban Communities”. I was surprised to find that though publicly funded data products are available at all levels of government, they are not accessible to most people and require specialized software and training to use. Given our current technological state, this really shouldn’t be the case, so I focused my master’s research project on making the full 2011 Census of Canada publicly available in a clean and simple way. The result is the following web app: http://app.socioscapes.com/ .

Socioscapes allows anyone with a browsers to navigate local Canadian communities in a new and interesting way. Simply enter the name of a municipal area and select from among the 400+ census measures to see a thematic map at the dissemination area level (which is the smallest geographically stable area for which Statistics Canada makes data available). Each question has been mapped to a corresponding population and land area so that users can request raw counts, density measures, or population proportions. Users can also filter results based on self-identified gender characteristics. For the more adventurous, there are tools to change map colours, the number of groups, and even the algorithm used to calculate the groups. The entire project is built using open-source and free-to-use technology and can be reused and repurposed without permission (the source code is available on Github and is covered by the MIT License). The website itself is built using Facebook React, Twitter Bootstrap, and Google Material Design; it should be accessible on all major browsers and is mobile friendly. Please take a look and share!