I’ve already touched a bit about this (Bowles, 2015), but for me this is an important issue. I have worked as a data scientist for the last couple of decades: working in and out of open data, with demographics, across to scientific and geographic information. It’s an important field: and in fact is one that is exploding, if only because of the absolute glut of data that is available in our culture. “Big data” is getting bigger: there are new techniques and methods being explored for collecting, storing, analyzing and applying that vast collection of data. At least, it appears so everywhere but Canada.
Our census has been decimated under Harper’s watch: and the results are now showing themselves. It’s more than just loss of the census and dependence on other organizations and businesses to collect, analyze and distribute data from polls and surveys: which is questionable if only because they have a vested interest in how that data is collected and used. We are losing the capacity to understand who we are: and as that happens, we become who the government want us to be. If we happen to fail to fit in the classic mold, we cease to exist from their perspective.
A excellent article illustrates the problem: “’Statistics Canada no longer provides a clear snapshot of the country’, says John Stapleton, a Toronto-based social policy consultant. ‘Our survey data pixelates—it’s a big blur. And the small data, we don’t know if it’s right.’” (Macleans, 2015) And much though the bulk of Canada’s population lives in cities, in larger metropolitan areas: the rural influence is still vitally important. And when Stapleton speaks of small data, he’s not just talking about towns and villages: he’s talking about minorities within cities. Racial, ethnic, economic, religious, LGBTQ… all such minorities get lost in the majority blur of data under the Conservative approach to information. We all know that we’re minorities and that we live under the benevolence of Harper’s good will: but to have our voices lost amid the clamour of the majority is insulting. And dangerous for the well-being of our country.