Ryan  Burns, phd

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See below for selective HTML version, with links.

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academic positions
research activities
conference organizing
public scholarship
technology proficiencies

Academic Positions

2016-present Assistant Professor
Department of Geography, University of Calgary

2021 Visiting Scholar
Department of Geography, University of British Columbia (by invitation)

2017-present Faculty Member
O’Brien Institute for Public Health

2017-present Mentor
Scholars Academy

2019-present Instructor
Arts & Sciences Honours Academy, University of Calgary

2015-2016 Assistant Professor of Instruction
Department of Geography and Urban Studies, Temple University


2015 Ph.D. Geography
University of Washington
Committee: Sarah Elwood, Mark Ellis, Victoria Lawson, Jin-Kyu Jung (Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, UW-Bothell) Dissertation title: Digital Humanitarianism and the Geospatial Web: Emerging Modes of Mapping and the Transformation of Humanitarian Practices

2009 M.S. Geographic Information Science, San Diego State University

2006 B.A. Geography (Magna Cum Laude), Eastern Kentucky University

Grants, Fellowships, and Awards

2019 Eyes High Postdoctoral Scholars Competition. 2 years of funding, total value of $110,000. Post-doc will start July 1, 2019. Co-PIs: Ryan Burns, Victoria Fast.

2019 $525,000. Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). “Artificial Intelligence for Public Health (AI4PH): A Focus on Equity and Prevention”. Collaborator.

2019 Graduate Student Association Excellence Award in Graduate Supervision

2018 $53,655. SSHRC Insight Development Grant. “The Politics of Knowledge Representation in Open Data and Smart Cities” PI: Ryan Burns.

2018 $16,500. Urban Alliance: City of Calgary and University of Calgary. “Exploring North American Municipal Data Sharing Agreements”. PI: Ryan Burns. City of Calgary Collaborators: Nichole Wyatt, Cameron Stark.

2016-2019 $150,000. University of Calgary, Human Dynamics Research Strategy. “The Social and Environmental Implications of Smart Cities: A Global Comparative Research Agenda”. PI: Byron Miller Co-PIs: Ryan Burns, et al (see PDF CV)

2017 $25,000. SSHRC Connection Grant. “The Social and Environmental Implications of Smart Cities: Toward a Global Comparative Research Agenda.” PI: Byron Miller. Co-applicants: Ryan Burns, et al (see PDF CV)

2017 $28,000. Mellon Foundation, through University of Calgary. Academic Research and University Libraries: Creating a New Model for Collaboration. “Open Data for a Smarter City: Creating A Data Infrastructure Pilot Initiative”. PI: Ryan Burns.

2017 Department of Geography Graduate Student Association Recognition Award

2017, 2019 $3,000. Calgary Institute for the Humanities Working Group. “Social Justice and the Smart City”. Conveners: Ryan Burns, et al

2013 $4,000. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: “Humanitarian Research and Innovation Grant”

2009 $9,000. UW Geography Top Scholar Award (1 year of funding)

2009 $500. Cartography & Geographic Information Society (CaGIS) Master’s Award

2007 $6,600. SDSU McFarland Award

Research Activities

2018 Technology, Law, and Society Summer Institute. University of California - Irvine. Competitive application.

2018 Globalization and Digitization - (New) Geoinformation Relationships in the World. Forum for the Study of the Global Condition: Jena, Germany. Personal invitation as participant and keynote speaker in 4-day workshop.

2017 Ethical Issues of Digital Humanitarianism. Invited as participant for one-day workshop. Montreal, QC.

2016-2017 Ethics of Location-Based Technologies in Crisis Workshop. American Association for the Advancement of Science. Washington, DC. Invited as participant.

2016 Participant, Summer Institute in Economic Geography. Lexington, KY, University of Kentucky.

2015 Fellow, Data Science for Social Good Fellowship. eScience Institute, University of Washington.

2014 Participant, “Revisiting Critical GIS”. Friday Harbor Laboratories, Friday Harbor, WA.

2013 Oxford Internet Institute Summer Doctoral Programme. i-School, University of Toronto, Canada

2011 Bergen Summer Research School University of Bergen, Norway


Select Articles and Book Chapters

2019 Burns, Ryan, G. Wark. Where’s the Database in Digital Ethnography? Exploring Database Ethnography for Open Data Research. Qualitative Research. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468794119885040.

2019 Burns, Ryan. New Frontiers of Philanthro-capitalism: Digital Technologies and Humanitarianism. Antipode 51(4):1101-1122. https://doi.org/10.1111/anti.12534.

2019 Burns, Ryan. A City of Digital Engagement. In R. Kitchin, J. Shaw, M. Graham, S. Mattern (eds.), How to Run the City Like A Corporation, and Other Fables. Meatspace Press.

2019 Burns, Ryan. “Let the Private Sector Take Care of This”: The Philanthro-capitalism of Digital Humanitarianism. In M. Graham (ed.), Digital Economies at the Global Margins. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

2019 Burns, Ryan. Review of S. Noble, “Algorithms of Oppression”. Antipode. Review symposium including J. Thatcher, B. Hawkins, O. Igbinedion, with Safiya Noble’s response. https://antipodeonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/2.-Ryan-Burns.pdf.

2018 Burns, Ryan. Datafying Disaster: Institutional Framings of Data Production following Superstorm Sandy. Annals of the American Association of Geographers.

2018 Burns, Ryan. Synergizing Geoweb and Digital Humanitarian Research. In Thatcher, J., A. Shears, J. Eckert (eds.), Geographic Research in an Age of New (Big) Data. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

2017 Burns, Ryan, C. Dalton, J. Thatcher (alphabetical). Introduction: Critical Data, Critical Technology Focus Issue. Professional Geographer.

2016 Thatcher, Jim, L. Bergmann, B. Ricker, R. Rose-Redwood, D. O’Sullivan, T. Barnes, L. Barnesmoore, L. Beltz Imaoka, R. Burns, J. Cinnamon, C. Dalton, C. Davis, S. Dunn, F. Harvey, J.-K. Jung, E. Kersten, L. Knigge, N. Lally, W. Lin, D. Mahmoudi, M. Martin, W. Payne, A. Sheikh, T. Shelton, E. Sheppard, C. Strother, A. Tarr, M. Wilson, J. Young. Revisiting Critical GIS: Reflections from Friday Harbor. Environment & Planning A 48(5): 815-824.

2015 Schwartz, B., B. Tellman, R. Burns, C. Andersson. Big Data, Satellites, and Disaster Monitoring. Incorporated into UN Global Sustainable Development Report

2014 Burns, Ryan. Rethinking Big Data in Digital Humanitarianism: Practices, Epistemologies, and Social Relations. GeoJournal. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10708-014-9599-x (last accessed 10/15/2014).

2014 Burns, Ryan. Moments of Closure in the Knowledge Politics of Digital Humanitarianism. Geoforum 53 (2): 51-62.

2013 Shanley, Lea, R. Burns, Z. Bastian, E. Robson. Tweeting Up a Storm: The Promise and Perils of Crisis Mapping. Photogrammetric Engineering & Remote Sensing 79 (10): 865-879.

2013 Burns, Ryan, A. Skupin. Towards Qualitative Geovisual Analytics: A Case Study Involving Places, People, and Mediated Experience. Cartographica 48(3): 157-176.

2013 Burns, Ryan, L. Shanley. Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management: Workshop Summary. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. http://www.scribd.com/doc/165813847/Connecting-Grassroots-to-Government-for-Disaster-Management-Workshop-Summary (last accessed 3/7/2014).

Edited Journal Issues (with Peer Review)

Accepted Miller, Byron, R. Burns, V. Fast, A. Levenda. “Between Provincializing and Worlding Smart Cities”. Special Issue of Urban Studies. (Manuscripts due 1/31/2019)

Accepted Thatcher, Jim, R. Burns, C. Dalton. “Regional Approaches to data, environment, and society”. Special issue of Regional Studies.

2018 Burns, Ryan, C. Dalton, J. Thatcher. “Critical Data, Critical Technology in Theory and Practice.” Special Issue of Professional Geographer.

2017 Burns, Ryan, N. Lally. “Toward a Geographical Software Studies.” Special Section of Computational Culture.

2015 Burns, Ryan, D. Meek. “The Politics of Knowledge Production in the Geoweb.” Special Issue of ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies.

2014 Burns, Ryan, J. Thatcher. “What’s So Big about Big Data? Finding the Spaces and Perils of Big Data.” Special Issue of GeoJournal.

Select Conference Presentations

Papers presented

2019 “(Digital) Neocolonialism in the Smart City”. 4S 2019 (Society for Social Studies of Science). New Orleans. Presented with Morgan Mouton.

2019 “A Data Story in Two Parts: Smart Cities, Open Data, and Their Inequalities”. Invited presentation at Data for Good - Calgary. June 27, 2019.

2018 “The Taming of Knowledge: Digital Infrastructures of Humanitarianism” Invited presentation at University of Toronto, Toronto, ON. Part of the “Infrastructures of Development” speaker series.

2018 “Where’s the Database in Digital Ethnography? Exploring Database Ethnography for Open Data and Smart Cities Research”. EASST (European Association for the Study of Science & Technology) 2018. Lancaster, UK. Co-authored with Grace Wark.

2018 “From government to community: ethnographic insights into the political dimension of data production.” Invited presentation at University of Exeter, Exeter, UK. Co-authored with Grace Wark. Presented with Morgan Mouton.

2018 “Development, Normativity, and Criticality: Three Points of Coalescence in Open Data Research and Practice”. Invited presentation (by video) at University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria.

2017 “Open Data and Smart Cities: Promises, Questions, Pitfalls, and Hopes”. Invited presentation at Macalester College, Minneapolis, MN.

2017 “Knowledge Politics and Representational Inequalities in Open Calgary”. Nordic Geographers Meeting: Stockholm, Sweden.

2016 “Big Data, digital humanitarianism, and smart cities: New directions for GIScience research”. Invited presentation at San Diego State University Department of Geography: San Diego, CA.

2016 “The inequalities of economic and representational inclusion in digital ‘solutions’ to urban crisis”. Regional Studies Association: Smart City-Regional Governance for Sustainability. Dresden, Germany.

2014 “Crisis Mapping as Social Process: Research and Policy Implications of New Digital Technologies”. Keynote presentation at Crisis Mapping Seminar, Heidelberg University, Germany.

Conference Sessions Organized

2019 Organizer. “Gendering the Smart City: Towards Just and Feminist Urban Futures”. Annual Meeting of the AAG. Washington, DC. Organized with Ayona Datta, Nabeela Ahmed, and Max Andrucki.

2018 Panelist and Organizer. “Interdisciplinary Critical Data Studies”. Annual Meeting of the Association for Information Science and Technology (57% acceptance rate). Vancouver, BC.

2018 Organizer and panelist. “My City Is Smarter than Yours: Deconstructing the Buzzwords”. Annual Meeting of the AAG. New Orleans, LA. Organizer with Victoria Fast.

2018 Organizer. “Making Smarter Environments: The Environmental Politics and Practices of Smart Cities”. Annual Meeting of the AAG. New Orleans, LA. Organizer with Anthony Levenda.

2017 Organizer. “Urban-economic Perspectives on Technology”. Annual Meeting of the AAG. Boston, MA. Organizer with Daniel Cockayne.

2016 Organizer. “Hipster Geographies: Socio-spatial Practices, Politics, and Economies of Culture’s Most Maligned Figure”. Annual Meeting of the AAG. San Francisco, CA. Organizer with Cristina Temenos and Jesse McClelland. (2 sessions)

2016 Organizer. “Toward a Geographical Software Studies”. Annual meeting of the AAG. San Francisco, CA. Organizer with Nick Lally. (4 sessions)

2013 Organizer. “Whither Small Data?: The Limits of ‘Big Data’ and the Value of ‘Small Data’ Studies.” Organizer with Jim Thatcher. Annual meeting of the AAG. Los Angeles, CA.

2013 Organizer. “Critical Interventions into Gender & the Geoweb.” Organizer with Monica Stephens. Annual meeting of the AAG. Los Angeles, CA. Presenting panelists: Brent Hecht, Monica Stephens, Michele Masucci, Adrianne Wadewitz (Center of Digital Learning and Research, Occidental College).

Conference organizing

2018 Organizer. 13th Annual Critical Geographies Mini-conference. University of Calgary.

2017 Co-organizer. “Emerging Theories in Critical Cartography and GIS”. Workshop concurrent with the North American Cartographic Information Society. Montreal, QC.

2017 Co-organizer. “The Social and Environmental Implications of Smart Cities: a Global Comparative Research Agenda”. Workshop at University of Calgary.

Select Teaching Experience

Advanced Research and Applications in GIS; Urban and Environmental GIS; Introduction to Geospatial Methods; Urban Studies Capstone; Spaces of Urban Politics (U of Calgary)

Smart Cities Asia: Geography Field School (UofC study abroad)

Capstone Seminar (UofC Arts & Sciences Honours Academy)

Representation (UofC Arts & Sciences Honours Academy)

Web and Mobile GIS; Digital Mapping; Fundamentals of GIS (Temple U)

GIS Databases and Programming; Cultural Geography; The Making of World Regions; Urban GIS (U Washington)

Select Professional Service

2018-present Book review editor, The Canadian Geographer

2017-present International Advisory Board for ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies

2016-present Masters in GIS Renewal Committee, University of Calgary

2017, 2019 Program Committee for Spatial Knowledge and Information – Canada 2017

2015-2016 Professional Science Master’s in GIS Steering Committee

2013-2014 Secretary and Treasurer, “Geographic Information Systems and Science” Specialty Group of the AAG

2012-2013 Leadership Collective Member, “Socialist & Critical Geography” Specialty Group of the AAG

2008-2012 Webmaster, “Socialist & Critical Geography” Specialty Group of the AAG

Select Advising

Post-docs: Debra Mackinnon (2019-present), Morgan Mouton (2018-2019), Anthony Levenda (2017-2018)

PhD: Joyce Percel

MA & MGIS: Preston Welker, Dare Adeyemi, Angela Ambrose, Prakash Gautam

Undergraduate: Brian Lau (Health & Society Honours project), Grace Wark (2017-2018; honours thesis project)

Extracurricular: Catherine Tran (undergrad; UofC Scholars Academy), Duncan Lucas (undergrad; UofC Scholars Academy), Dante Bencivenga (2017-2018; undergrad; UofC Scholars Academy), Jessica Waldinger (2016; Temple U undergrad; CARAS project grant), Jing-Huei Huang (2015-2016; Temple U MA; Community Service GIS project), Blake Hawkins (PhD, UBC, HASTAC project)

Community and Public Scholarship

2018 Inaugural lecture, “Social and Technological Humanitarian Studies” program, University of Calgary. A lecture I organized to report to my department the research I’ve been doing.

2018 Keynote presenter, “Open Data Community of Practice” workshop. City of Calgary, AB.

2018 Organizer, “YYC Data Collective Launch Workshop”. Community engagement session for YYC Data Collective, in collaboration with local volunteer and research organizations.

2017 2-day University of Calgary map-a-thon for Geography Awareness Week and GIS Day, contributing to Building Canada 2020.

2015 Formatting and Sharing Your Syllabus with Markdown and Github. Invited workshop at Temple University, 10/30/2015.

2013 Interview for the Digital Humanitarian Network, “Guidance for Collaborating with Formal Humanitarian Organizations.” http://app.box.com/s/w25sqotkg4qc2f2ch1ii.

2012 Interview for Simpson Center for the Humanities News, “Doctoral Student Ryan Burns Selected to Present on Digital Scholarship at UW HuskyFest 2012.” http://bit.ly/HUCIQS.

2012 Interview for UW Today, “UW Leads in Connecting Scholarship with Community.” http://bit.ly/yQ77sX.

Technological Proficiency (messy)