Elwood et al. (2013) investigate the potential research directions VGI can take in GIScience. They touch upon current problems with in VGI, including that of data quality control. As I began researching VGI for this week’s presentations, I quickly began to question aspects of its legitimacy. This stems mainly from my concern that the users who are contributing are preselected. Elwood et al. touch upon this, they refer to it as the ‘long tail’ effect where a few contributors generate the majority of information (2013). They mention that this is likely not the most accurate or reliable, which I imagine is true as a I, a single human being have far less knowledge on a large area (say Canada) than I do on a smaller region (say McGill)—an application of Tobler’s law as addressed in the article (2013). The authors suggest that this can be amended by the use of some sort of approval system but I fail to see how very inaccessible places will be properly mapped if engaging the community is challenging.
A second very interesting point from this read, that I had not considered was that of the social implication VGI has on areas where maps may be dominated by central agencies. Though many online VGI mapping sites keep the users anonymous, I don’t know if they are legally able to keep users information private in all countries (China?). I’m imagining a situation where territories borders are under dispute between to conflicting parties, if that law forces the company to reveal users information then this could potentially endanger users. Furthermore, if this is a known risk then it may discourage participation from large portions of a population. On the flipside, by opening up the power of mapping to the public where it otherwise was restricted maybe VGI will be used as a revolutionary tool! Perhaps comparable social media in the Arab Spring.