by MF Goodchild

GeoJournal 69: 211-221

This paper begins with reference to Martin Waldseemüller’s map of America in 1507 as an early echo of the widespread engagement of many private citizens, often with minor formal qualifications, in creating geographic information. For centuries the role of creating geographic information systems (GIS) was fulfilled by official agencies, but not anymore. The paper focuses on a particular case of volunteered geographic information (VGI) known as user-generated content. Some good VGI examples include Wikimapia for the participatory creation and editing of maps Flickr site to help upload and locate photographs on the Earth’s surface by latitude and longitude. Openstreetmap is an international effort to create a free map data source through volunteer efforts. The advent of Google Earth marked the democratization of GIS. The public can now access GIS capabilities and superimpose geographic information from sources distributed over the web (mash-up or fly-by maps). To enable users’ contributions, the web transitioned from the focus on granting remote access to sites (browsing) to a higher level (Web 2.0). The information stored in a server’s databases can be accessed and improved. The broadband connections using satellite cable and phone-line technologies enabled the sharing of VGI and access to the Global Positioning System (GPS). Humans also serve as sensors as they use their synthesizing and interpreting skills. This is where the concept of citizen science finds its application to VGI in the elaboration of rich maps and the sound of an early warning alarm when the conditions change. Contributors to these projects are driven by the desire for self-promotion or just contributing, in the case of anonymous projects.
Publication Type: Journal article
Keywords: community participation and GIS