Sean Grisdale

Sean Grisdale

PhD Candidate Dr. Alan Walks, supervisor

Research and Professional Interests

More broadly speaking, my research looks at how digital technologies are increasingly centered in urban planning concerns around sustainability and housing, particularly in the context of post-industrial, western cities like Toronto. In my master’s thesis, these diverse interests were integrated into an investigation into the implications of digital short-term rental platforms like Airbnb for Toronto’s housing market and its local culture.

Extending these interests into my doctoral work, my research is increasingly interested in the emergence of the “smart city” industry and its implications for both economic restructuring and the future of planning and everyday life in cities. Being based in the GTA, I am well positioned to investigate this emerging industry through Google’s ambitious plan to develop Toronto’s waterfront as a digitally integrated smart city via its urban innovation subsidiary Sidewalk Labs. As cities are increasingly pitched as the most important sites for addressing global concerns around climate change, and as the production of sustainable urban technologies are increasingly the domain of private multinational corporations, I hope to provide valuable insight into the extent to which these proposals authentically serve the aims of a progressive and sustainable urbanism.

Why Geography at UTM?

I was drawn to UTM by a supportive supervisor, an inspiring graduate cohort and the department’s generous financial and educational resources.

Honours and Awards

  • 2019-2022 - SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship (Doctoral)
  • 2018 - Michael Ralph Walsh Ontario Graduate Scholarship
  • 2016 - SSHRC Canada Graduate Scholarship (Masters)
  • 2015 - Michael Ralph Walsh Ontario Graduate Scholarship


  • Grisdale, S. (2019). Displacement by disruption: Short-term rentals and the political economy of “belonging anywhere” in Toronto. Urban Geography. Online First.
  • Grisdale, S. (2018). What Airbnb is doing to Toronto’s rental apartment market. Spacing Toronto. Available at:
  • Hawes, E. and Grisdale, S. (2020). Housing crisis in a Canadian global city: Financialization, buy-to-let investors and short-term rentals in Toronto’s rental market. In S. Bunce, N. Livingstone, L. March, S. Moore, & A. Walks. (Eds.), Critical dialogues of urban governance, development and activism: London & Toronto. UCL Press.
  • Grisdale, S. (2021). Mobilizing the platform economy: Regulating short-term rentals in Toronto. In A. Zwick & Z. Spicer (Eds.), The Platform Economy and the Smart City. McGill-Queen's University Press.


Research Supervisor/mentor: 
Dr. Alan Walks


PhD Candidate - University of Toronto
MA Human Geography – University of Toronto
BA Honours Geography, Minor: Environmental Studies – University of Victoria