VGI: crowdsourcing the places that matter to people

The Elwood et al article raises many important and intriguing questions, many of which are very relevant to what I discussed in my presentation on critical GIS. There is definitely overlap between the topics, as is discussed in the article. I appreciated that the authors brought up how deeply political it is to create a crowdsourced data resource. The “long tail effect” that the authors discuss in terms of data contribution is really relates to the Leszczynski quote I brought up in my presentation, that just because a data set is crowdsourced and made available to everyone doesn’t mean that everyone is contributing.

Something I had never considered that the authors bring up is the “scaling up” of qualitative methods in GIS. I had looked at qualitative methods that mostly looks at individuals; for example, oral histories and narratives, and hand drawn maps. It’s difficult for me to imagine how that might look, to scale up qualitative data, but the issue of scaling up is a relevant one, considering that one of the big questions of VGI is how to deal with enormous amounts of contributed information. To do this, the authors point to a need to weave together qualitative and quantitative data in mixed-methods approaches.

I also found it interesting that the authors make such a distinction between space/place and spatial/platial, and the fact that they say that geography has long made this distinction. I’ve never been clear on the difference (or the fact that space and place are even different) so this inspired me to look into it further. I looked into Yi Fu Tuan’s work and found that he defines place as “a center with felt value.” Space, in contrast, is open, abstract and limitless. This is definitely relevant to discussions of VGI and critical GIS since, as the authors state, VGI is more place-based than traditional GIS. I hope that we can use VGI and discourses of critical GIS to explore the places that people identify and connect with.


Tuan, Y. F. (1979). Space and place: humanistic perspective (pp. 387-427). Springer Netherlands.

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