Potential for conflict in VGI

In this article, Goodchild asks what motivates people to contribute to VGI. His use of the term asserted geographic information is very interesting to me, because I expect that as the awareness of VGI diffuses into more diverse demographics, ideological elements may cause tension in how a location is identified or described. I was actually quite surprised to know that the city of Medina, the second holiest in Islam, is so thoroughly mapped on Wikimapia, and linked to photos of important mosques. I would not be surprised if this were to cause controversy between those contributors to VGI who think that this is inappropriate and those who do not. Likewise, Uluru is a sacred sight for the Aboriginal communities who live near it, and tensions may also arise from the controversy over whether or not posting photos and information on Flickr is appropriate. While formal sources of information such as guide books might already be ignoring such questions of sensitivity, what makes VGI different is that dissident voices can assert their position. While Goodchild would describe such activity as “subversive” or “anti-social”, I think one must see the nuance in this situation, as place names are often used for asserting competing narratives. Taking the example of the disputed islands in the South China Sea, I would expect OpenStreetMap to have difficulty coping with the competing contributions of Chinese, Vietnamese and Philippine nationalists. As it stands currently, I observe that the Spratly Islands (claimed by China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia) nearly all say “Philippines”, while the Paracel Islands (claimed by China and Vietnam) say “China”. Hopefully OpenStreetMap will be able to devise more diplomatic mechanisms to prevent such tensions from escalating into the “anti-social” behavior that Goodchild fears.

  • Yojo

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