Nicole is a community-engaged scholar who uses case studies, interviews, surveys and quantitative analyses to understand how to improve citizen involvement and the ways in which participation can impact governance. Her recent work has examined whether digital technology can be leveraged to reverse declines in citizen participation and improve governance in Canada. As we become increasingly connected through technology, citizens participate and converse online, and governments move services online, studying these developments is critical to understanding and interpreting contemporary politics.

She is currently working on three inter-related projects:

(1) Creating Digital Opportunity is a multi-year project led by David Wolfe (PI) and funded by a SSHRC Partnership Grant. Nicole is a co-applicant on this project and co-leads a component with Zac Spicer that is aimed at defining and measuring the extent to which Canadian cities are “smart cities”. This involves the design of two surveys: one for residents in Canadian census metropolitan areas and another for local government administrators, to assess the extent to which cities in Canada use digital infrastructure to create opportunities for residents. We are also interested in how these stakeholders define a smart city and what indicators best represent the future, ideal city. This differs from previous research that assesses smart cities based on institutional or policy indicators; instead we are considering what a smart city means to residents and understand what community members want to see to improve their quality of life. Several co-authored articles are planned from this project and a municipal report on smart city best practices.

(2) Indigenous Digital Participation & Governance is funded by a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant with the goal of investigating the effects of technology on elections, non-electoral decision-making (e.g. land settlement and rights votes), governance and self-determination in five First Nations. This work answers questions about whether technological adoption affects self-determination, how it impacts community capacity, whether it improves turnout, who uses the technology and why, and how using technology affects governance. The project is a partnership between government (Elections Canada), industry (Scytl), an NGO (Union of Ontario Indians), and several First Nations (e.g. Whitefish River First Nation, Wasauksing First Nation and others). Nicole is a co-applicant on this project along with Chelsea Gabel (PI), Karen Bird, (co-applicant), Jon Pammett (collaborator) and Les Jacobs (collaborator). One peer-reviewed article has been published from this project with two in press and several more planned.

(3) Much of Nicole’s recent work has focused on Electoral Modernization. She is in the final stages of writing and disseminating papers from her most recent project, the Internet Voting Project, which surveyed voters and election administrators in 47 Ontario municipalities during the October 2014 municipal election to examine the effects of internet voting on electoral democracy. Nicole also collected historical data on five waves of municipal elections, dating back to 2000, which represents the first database of municipal election information in Ontario. This research answers questions about who votes by internet and why, whether internet voting improves turnout, and what impact it has on election administration. Three peer-reviewed papers have been published from this project with three more presently under review. Findings also inform two more working papers and a book manuscript on the modernization of elections. Nicole is the PI of this work, funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant. An interdisciplinary proposal with a team of colleagues is currently under review with NSERC to design voting technologies and develop policies and standards for their implementation and evaluation.