items related to citizen, community based organization involvement, user generated content, volunteered geographic information

Chung presentation at GEOIDE 2009

Chung presentation at GEOIDE 2009

Participation On The Geoweb: Map‐Based Discussion To Engage Residents In Local Climate Change Response And Adaptation, Insoo (Steven) Chung, Aaron Sani, Jacqueline Young, Claus Rinner The consequences of climate change concern numerous stakeholders, including governments, NGOs and the general public, in matters pertaining to environment, health, and security. The complex nature of climate change, however, involves large amounts of information and opinions often in a format not conducive to comprehension and contribution during the policy‐making process. Furthermore, the consequences of climate change are inherently local in nature, and thus geography is a critical component in the discussion. The Pilot Project PP‐041 promotes the use of the geospatial Web 2.0 for engaging the public in climate change response and adaptation. One of the case studies is being prepared in the context of the Live Green Toronto initiative where “community animators” are engaging residents in greenhouse gas reduction and green living. The goals for this project, therefore, are to 1) develop an open Web‐based platform to engage the public while avoiding limits imposed by geography and time, 2) stimulate and facilitate local discussion and action, 3) provide a forum by which adaptation strategies and policies to cope with the impacts of climate change can be developed in a collaborative manner, and 4) assess the effectiveness of this approach. In this project, we use an argumentation mapping tool, which enables stakeholders to access and more importantly contribute information to the policy process through spatially referenced discussion. The Argoomap tool is an open‐source discussion forum based on Google Maps. It leverages open APIs and Web standards at the front‐end, and has a back‐end architecture that allows for further extensibility (e.g., integration of Twitter and SMS‐based discussions). OGC compatibility for viewing discussions, and including geoprocessing and spatial decision support is envisioned for future versions. The tool has potential applications in a number of other fields, including public health and disaster response. For example, information regarding areas affected can be contributed during a natural disaster by the public, helping in directing people and prioritizing resource use. In addition, discussion of health issues affecting the community can be used to direct support services. Organizations and communities may find the Geoweb useful for increasing public participation in all aspects of society.

Ricker presentation at GEOIDE 2009

Ricker presentation at GEOIDE 2009

Citizens As Environmental Change Sensors: A Case Study Of Barbados, Britta Ricker and Renee Sieber. The Geoweb is unique due to its low overhead cost, its hackablity and the availability of large and diverse data sets. Applications such as Google Earth and Google Maps are increasing the public’s awareness and comfort with geospatial thinking. The Geoweb is important to the study of Geomatics because of the increasing number of opportunities to share spatial data. A wide audience of Internet users has tapped into the abundance of free and straightforward applications available on the web. The Geoweb has presented an opportunity to share new types of data in the form of photographs, audio, and videos. Users are able to add their own volunteered geographic information (VGI) for other Internet users to observe. Further, users are able act as sensors reporting on their local environment. This research explores the opportunity to use VGI to communicate environmental change concerns of Barbadians on the Geoweb. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are particularly vulnerable to environmental changes. Scientific data reveals that SIDSs are at high risk of losing valuable resources to sea level rise and temperature changes. Economic hardship could occur from beach erosion, fewer tourists, coral bleaching, and an increase in the number and intensity of hurricanes. Spatial data representing some of these vulnerabilities to climate change are available to selected government officials and Non Governmental Organizations. This spatial data does not reveal what the local environmental changes mean to the people living in these regions. During this research project, I spent to Barbados two months and asked forty‐one Barbadians what environmental changes they have noticed. I then asked the participants to report these changes on a Google My Map. In this poster I will describe the results of utilizing the participatory Geoweb to engage Barbadians in a dialogue about environmental change and their interaction with the Geoweb. Some participants were actively engaged with the user interface while others less so highlighting several barriers to current engagement.


1. When we talk about participating in geoweb, how do you define participation? Who participates? Are there different types of participants (e.g. lay people, experts)?
I guess, participation is a two way street. People can upload things (I hesitate to call it information) or manipulate existing material on the web to provide information to answer a question that could not be answered with the material in its previous state.

2. How do people participate? What tools are used? To what end (e.g. what is the purpose of the tool?)? What results from this participation? Is this participation part of a broader process?
Well, if it is the Geoweb, they have to use web based tools.  To me it is software……and I don’t go much further.  Like I was as a user of the original Mac in the early 80s, I am concerned with the input, easy manipulation, and output.

3. What characteristics would you say define effective participation?
Depends on the goal.  As a researcher I consider participation (of others, say Joe and Jane public) is effective if the information provided is credible, properly collected and referenced (when where, conditions, etc.  
For some participants of the public I suspect that experience has to be satisfying.  Contributions to that may be ease of use.
For the partners on my project ease of use would also be a consideration.  The type of data needs to be clear as well as its source, resolution, etc.  Meta data provided in an easy to understand format.  An example of an awful system is the wetlands mapping material posted by Environment Canada or the paleo biomes maps posted by NRCan.  I have tried to use both for teaching and research – to reorganize data to answer my particular questions.  In the end I nearly bashed my head through the monitor.  I had to turn to paper maps for the former and get original electronic files directly from the researcher for the latter.

4. Tell us about how your theory/idea(s) about participation connect to existing literature/theories/ideas about participation? With whose work does your approach resonate (describe and send us references)? Is there friction between your approach and others' (describe and send us references)?
No answer.

** please note: given the range of projects we're tackling in our grant, some of these questions may be more readily answered than others. Do your best.

UBC McConchie

Some last-minute thoughts that may or may not have anything to do with our node’s project (volunteered observations of invasive species).

1. When we talk about participating in geoweb, how do you define participation? Who participates? Are there different types of participants (e.g. lay people, experts)?

A possible definition: Participation occurs when individuals or groups are involved in a process beyond the level of consumer.  Within participation there are many levels of how much influence people have on the goals, direction, and outcome of the process (Arnstein 1969).  A focus on process helps us think about how to involve the public both in the formulation of our projects, and in the final analysis and application of the results.

And who instigates a process?  Is the instigator still a participant, or are they in another class?  Who guides/facilitates/directs (to use Jon’s term) a process?  Does a completely participatory process (if that exists) not need a director?  Does it still need a facilitator?  Does it still need an instigator?

Is expertise the amount of influence one individual wields on the outcome of a project?  Or is it how much an individual can direct others’ influences?  Or how much credence others give to that individual’s opinions (because of the individual’s academic degrees, the social status of their job, or their apparent real-world experience)?  On Web 2.0, in the era of the “cult of the amateur” (Keen 2008), are there really no experts, or are there new (and multiple) standards for expertise, from the point of view of the masses online?  Taking the example of Wikipedia, the new experts may be the people with more technical skills to edit and moderate, the early adopters who set the social standards for participation, or the volunteer editors who simply have more time on their hands to edit others’ submitted data.

Even within the same degree or level of participation (the same rung on the participation ladder, perhaps) individuals will have different capabilities to participate.  For example, in the case of VGI, the volunteer’s local knowledge of an area might help them place a data point on a map more accurately, but their map reading skills also influence how accurately they can identify a location, and similarly their technical skills in using the map interface might also affect how accurate their data is.  So who is the expert here?  Clearly there exist different types of expertise.  

2. How do people participate? What tools are used? To what end (e.g. what is the purpose of the tool?)? What results from this participation? Is this participation part of a broader process?

Geoweb (and Web 2.0) tools present a number of unique challenges.  On the one hand, the tools must be made as simple and user-friendly as possible.  The gap in usability between Google Maps and other heavier-weight GIS-based mapping servers is stark.  However, an important facet of Web 2.0 is its promise of flexibility and interchangeable, interlocking components.  Most sites that use Google Maps, however present an interface that is just as inflexible and un-customizable as ArcIMS, for example, just in different ways.

I suggest that in the spirit of open participation, we need to accept the challenge of allowing participation in formulating and adapting the Geoweb tools we create.  This means providing input and output in standard formats such as RSS, and through a variety of clients (such as Twitter) when feasible.  But we should also consider how to allow users to modify the tools we provide, that is, how do we “design for hackability”?  In this case, the results are not necessarily refined tools, but tools that have been adapted by/for specific users or groups for their own needs.  Results are not a set of tools but of protocols, practices, components, and the skills gained by the participants.  Balancing this flexibility with user-friendliness is, of course, a massive challenge.

3. What characteristics would you say define effective participation?

Participants should not only have an influence on the thing being participated in, but their skill or knowledge level should also be enhanced by their participation.  Effective participation should result in people who will be more empowered participants in the next phase or project, or be able to have more of a leadership/facilitating role in subsequent settings.  This kind of knowledge and skill transfer is not only more effective, but it is also essential if we are to solicit participation ethically, without exploiting the participants.  

For example, our partner organization, the Community Mapping Network, emphasizes building local capacity to more effectively collect and manage information.  This knowledge transfer is also intended to promote increased environmental awareness and active stewardship of the environment.  An effective participatory project must produce or enhance engagement in (“participation” in) the surrounding social and environmental context.

However, knowledge transfer is complicated by the web-only setting of Geoweb projects.  The knowledge transfer that takes place in the Community Mapping Network includes in-person training programs.  How much should our Geoweb projects incorporate offline education to ensure effective knowledge transfer?  In an online-only setting, how can we ensure that the participants have learned the necessary technical skills and environmental knowledge to be effective participants?  Can we (or should we) track participants to keep them from “falling through the cracks” and not getting the education they need, or so that we can identify the skill or knowledge level of the individual who submitted a particular piece of geodata?

4. Tell us about how your theory/idea(s) about participation connect to existing literature/theories/ideas about participation? With whose work does your approach resonate (describe and send us references)? Is there friction between your approach and others' (describe and send us references)

We might also find useful theories of participation if we look a bit further afield:

i. Open Source

The open source software movement clearly includes a strong ethic of participation: by making source code freely available, anyone can participate in developing, modifying and fixing the code.  Eric Raymond contrasts the top-down development of proprietary software with the bottom-up open source approach using the metaphor of the cathedral and the bazaar.  (Raymond 2001)  The creator of Linux, Linus Torvalds, argues that open source software is less buggy, stating that “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”.  Can our Geoweb projects find any benefit in applying some principles or observations from open source?  Should we help our participants be bug-checkers and fixers for our software and our data?

The open source model also has its problems.  The open source community is hierarchical and exclusive in its own ways, with a high technological barrier to entry.  Despite its rhetoric of openness and distributed effort, most open source projects are developed and maintained by a handful of core individuals who write the vast majority of the code.  In our Geoweb projects, how can we avoid having only a few individuals dominate all the activity?  How do we level the playing field of participation?

ii. Digital Literacies

Does more effective participation require more “digital literacy” (Lankshear and Knobel 2008)?  Here theories of digital literacies (and similar terms such as “new literacies”, “technoliteracy”, “(new) media literacy”, “information literacy”, etc) interpret literacy broadly, going beyond simple reading and writing skills to include the ability to understand, critically evaluate and synthesize information.  A broad interpretation of digital literacy also includes the social practices and contexts in which the act of reading and writing is embedded.  Theories of digital literacy might help us think about the levels and kinds of participation possible on the Geoweb, giving us another way to assess the empowerment of the individual through active participation.  The notion of literacy helps us ask whether individuals know the how and the why of participation, gaining an understanding of the inner workings of the process (technological, social, and environmental) they are participating in. 

Also, in our case, what role exists for “ecological literacy” (Orr 1992) or geographic literacy?  Unlike other Web 2.0 projects, our Geoweb research works with information inherently embedded in ecological systems and geographic space.  How much do participants need to understand spatial and ecological principles to participate effectively?  What are the geographic and ecological interconnections that our projects must consider (and reveal to the user) in order to solicit accurate and meaningful participation?

iii. Participation in contemporary art: consensus or dissensus?

Participation is also a focus of much discussion in contemporary art and architecture.   Participatory practices emerged as a response to the static work of art that only allows passive viewing (geographers might think instead about a static map) in an attempt to engage the viewer as an active participant in the artwork and in the space around them.  There has also been a critique of the term “participation” (Miessen and Basar 2006), arguing that it has been overused to the point of meaninglessness, particularly in situations where there is little true participation (that is, situations that are very low on Arnstein’s participation ladder) and where the real intent is to manufacture the illusion of consensus.  If the public is allowed to participate fully and control the outcome of a process (the top of Arnstein’s participation ladder) then we must accept the possibility that subsets of the public may disagree, possibly irreconcilably.  If consensus is illusory, we have to make room for “dissensus”.

In our projects, how do we reconcile the multiplicities of answers and solutions that might arise through truly open participation with the scientific need to find a single answer?  How do we allow for dissensus if participants have different opinions about which areas are valuable for conservation, for example?  Is it always possible to find a compromise?

The literature on PPGIS and the “GIS and society” debates (Schuurman 2000) have addressed similar concerns about collapsing complex and contradictory human knowledge into simplified digital representations, but Web 2.0 may present further challenges.  Some argue that the “disorganized” and “disordered” nature of Web 2.0 is one of its strengths.  (Shirky 2008, Weinberger 2008).  If this is an inherent attribute of Web 2.0 (is it?) then how can our participatory projects take disorganization into account?  Can we (and should we) go against the grain?


Arnstein, Sherry R. 1969. A Ladder Of Citizen Participation. Journal of the American Planning Association 35, no. 4: 216.

Keen, Andrew. 2008. The Cult of the Amateur: How blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the rest of today's user-generated media are destroying our economy, our culture, and our values. New York: Doubleday Business.

Lankshear, Colin, and Michele Knobel. 2008. Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices (New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies). Peter Lang Publishing.

Miessen, Markus, and Shumon Basar. 2006. Did Someone Say Participate?: An Atlas of Spatial Practice. The MIT Press.

Orr, David W. 1992. Ecological Literacy: Education and the Transition to a Postmodern World. State University of New York Press.

Raymond, Eric S. 2001. The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary. O'Reilly.

Schuurman, Nadine. 2000. Trouble in the heartland: GIS and its critics in the 1990s. Progress in Human Geography 24, no. 4 (December 1): 569-590.

Shirky, Clay. 2008. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. New York: Penguin Press.

Weinberger, David. 2008. Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. Holt Paperbacks.


Participation and the Geoweb: Reflections 
Korbin daSilva 

It is my opinion that participation is too fluid a word for any definition to be properly 
extrapolated from a dictionary and then applied to the Geoweb. My initial reaction to this was a desire 
to better define the Geoweb and then build a more concrete definition with the Geoweb acting as the 
structural support. Although I still believe this to be a more suitable approach, I have instead chosen to 
be even more specific by using my own research and experience in constructing a dynamic Geoweb 
application as the framework upon which participation relative to the Geoweb will be further defined 
and discussed.  

In my project participation was required from two separate groups, the farmers and the 
consumers. To participate in my application a farmer must proactively come to my website and fill out 
an online form that aggregates information about their location and what they sell. For a consumer to 
participate in my application they also need to visit my website and then click on what products they are 
looking for. This then provides them with a map of relevant famer locations. This is how my target 
audience participates in my project. If I were to conclude a crude definition from these actions I would 
say that participation is: the active desire and ability to contribute to a project either for one’s own 
personal benefit or for the desire to contribute to a “greater good”. Although somewhat simple of a 
definition I believe it highlights the two parts of participation I wish to discuss further. 

Participation on the Geoweb is directly influenced by one’s ability to participate on the 
Geoweb. This statement may seem redundant, and in truth what it states is fairly intuitive. Never the 
less the most common critics directed towards the Geoweb are focussed around one’s ability to access 
and take part in all of the benefits of the Geoweb. Aside from the inability to access the Geoweb due to 
socio‐economic reasons associated with access to the Internet, is also the issue of the knowledge barrier 
that prevents participation. Companies like Google Maps attempt to overcome this by simplifying the 
process of creating maps as much as possible (i.e., Google MyMaps). My project reflects this as it becomes 
the median that removes the difficult programming from the hands of the users and allows them to 
create maps suitable to their needs. 

The other key element to participation is desire. Motivation plays an important part in 
participation. In the example of my project the farmers are motivated by a desire to attract customers 
and the consumer is motivated by their desire to locate products they desire in the simplest and most 
efficient way. Because the consumer only uses the Geoweb because it is efficient and simple, it can be 
presumed that any Geoweb application must also be simple and efficient (or at least the most simple 
and efficient option in the case of more complex issues). Often the ability to participate is given more 
consideration then the desire or motivation to participate. Focus is given to making applications 
accessible under the pretence that, “if we build it, they will use it”. It is important treat both accessibility
and desirability with equal consideration when attempting to create a Geoweb application that relies on 

Unfortunately sometimes providing for both accessibility and desirability can be difficult. For 
example if we wish to create a program that is more accessible we need to make it simpler. Simpler also 
makes a program more desirable because simpler usually means faster and easier. The issue arises when 
we make things very simple, like in the case of My Maps; we limit the abilities of these programs and by 
limiting the abilities the desire to use the applications decreases. The solution to this is creating more 
specific applications that are then able to simplify tasks. This can be difficult because often the allure of 
a “do‐it‐all” application is strong, as in the case of Google Maps where they are trying to simplify as 
many tasks as possible.  

I am interested in a section of Jon Corbett’s presentation on participation and the Geoweb 
where he describes “the creators, the directors and the audience”. I do not disagree with this method of 
aggregation or the claim that in the Geoweb there is relatively low number of creators contrasted 
against a large participatory audience. What I do want to suggest is that by breaking down the barriers 
between these different categories of participants a more "end‐user friendly” participatory Geoweb will 
be fostered. To elaborate allow me to explain my current concerns with participation and the Geoweb. 
Under the Web 2.0 user generated content is usually heralded as the "great leap forward" from the Web 
1.0. Unfortunately, the majority Geoweb user generated content seems to be polarized between user 
generated pushpin maps and the more complex maps that Corbett described as being limited by the 
complex programming. To decrease this gap, the directors Corbett mentioned need to take on a 
different role. According to Corbett's presentation there are more directors then creators in the modern 
Geoweb, for this reason, directors should take on a role where they create applications that facilitate 
the creating of maps. He already described the director as having a facilitator role within the Geoweb, 
but to further participation on the Geoweb the director should be take over much of the technical 
programming knowledge. With this knowledge they create the aforementioned applications that would 
allow the audience to then create their own maps as much as possible. Thus aside from the few creators 
at the very top who supply the directors, the audience becomes the creator. The more we facilitate this 
relationship the more the richness of the participation on the Geoweb will increase. This logic partially 
motivated my project as it aimed to empower the user by allowing them to feel like they participated in 
creation of the map are using.  

Effective participation is when all parties are satisfied. Looking at my project, even if the farmer 
did everything correctly, if the consumers do not use this data to generate maps then any participation 
on the farmers part has left them unsatisfied. Thus for participation to be effective it goes beyond the 
effectiveness of each individuals participation. Instead each group must participate effectively for 
participation to be effective. In simpler terms the projects goals whatever they are must in some way be 
met otherwise any participation by its contributors is ineffective.  

These thoughts are taken from my own reflections of my participatory Geoweb application. I 
then applied them to a frame work Jon Corbett supplied in his Web Video on participation and the 
Geoweb. Although I have not drawn directly from any literature for my explanation of participation and
the Geoweb, I believe the concept of ubiquitous cartography as presented by Gartner, Bennet and 
Morita (2007) could be used to help support my points. Unfortunately they do not delve into the details 
of creating maps instantly anywhere anytime, instead they focus more on the ramifications this has for 
cartography and cartographic principles. I do believe though that the notion of ubiquitous cartography 
will play an important role in participation and the Geoweb.

(identical material attached as a file)


Participation on the Geoweb
“Definitions are turtles all the way down”

Sieber and Rahemtulla

(1) How do you define participation? 

According to Wordnet, which has become the standard lexicon of the Internet, participation is “engagement: the act of sharing in the activities of a group”; involvement (the condition of sharing in common with others (as fellows or partners etc.))  ( The definition forces us to then define engagement. And involvement. And group. And sharing. And then we’d have to define each of the definitions. So participation is sufficiently vague that “it’s turtles all the way down” (Stephen Hawking 1988: A Brief History of Time). Even if we did create a single definition, it’s contextual. Participation is “not a unique and shared construct. It is a complicated process with multiple meanings that lead to numerous expectations” (Smith and Graglia 2001, p.5).

You may know of the classic ladder of Sherry Arnstein (Figure 1). This ladder shows participation in the context of policy making. You can see that it focuses on political power and communication. As one ascends the ladder, the communication changes from one-way communication and top-down diffusion of information to two-way communication and a bottom up contribution of information. Power shifts from government-controlled to citizen-controlled.

These days, there are multiple participation ladders and models (Kingston 2002, 2003) that offer fundamentally different approaches/orientations to the basic idea of participation. In addition to Arnstein, (political power orientation), there’s Wiedemann and Femar (with an administrative orientation), Conner (conflict resolution) and Dorcey et al. (which also focuses on the planning process). Like Arnstein these models are sequential, progressional and hierarchal (see Kingston 2002). 

Traditional participation techniques/approaches follow these types of models. Where do we position the Geospatial web (Geoweb) in terms of participation? For instance, is the Geoweb about enhancing citizen power and control over decision-making (Arnstein) and/or about the continuous involvement in the planning process (Dorcey et al.) and/or conflict resolution (Conner)? Is participation on the Geoweb unidirectional (one-way, top-down), progressional and hierarchical in line with current participation ladders/models? Perhaps it’s simply about uploading content; not uni-directional but many to many interactions.

Furthermore, simply implying that one wants participation in his or her Geoweb effort can imply radically different interpretation of the supposed outcome of participation. As Smith and Graglia (2001) state, without clearly identifying and defining orientation and objective of participation (e.g.. context, interest and motivation) there is ample room for confusion between the multiple actors who are governing, administrating or participating in the process (see Q2).  

Finally, is participation on the Geoweb an end in itself? As Smith (2001, 6) states, the nature of participation “can change overtime even within a single decision-making process; that certain public participation approaches (e.g., traditional GIS such as paper-mapping) maybe necessary at the beginning of the process, while other participation methods maybe more appropriate towards the final stages (e.g., public participation GIS). Conner (1988), Jackson (2001), Schlossberg (2001) and Kingston (2001) echo this dynamic nature of participation as well.    

(2) Who participates? Who are the actors? 

Assuming one can define participation on the Geoweb … 

In Smith and Graglia (2001) and Ellul, Rahemtulla and Haklay (2009), there is no single public (or actors), but different levels of public (or actors) based on context and differing levels of interest, motivation, ability (spatial and computer literacy) and engagement with information and communications technology (ICT). This matches Bosworth and Donovan (2002, also see as well.

Actors on the Geoweb likely include the following categories of people: general and interested publics, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), public and private sector (see Sieber and Rahemtulla, in process a, b). Note that in the Geoweb, as opposed to traditional forms of participation, government (public sector) is as much an actor as the others. On reflection, one could explore the characteristics of those “general and interested publics” participating on the Geoweb through geodemographic profiling (see Longley et al. 2000), level of new ICT engagement (see Longley et al., 2002), position in the innovation adaptation cycle (e.g., early adopters, see Rogers, 1965) and formal learning curve, as well as integrating/ assessing the factors outlined above.

Figure 2. Types of participants on Web 2.0 (Forrester Research)

(3) How do people participate? 

This can be addressed with reference to Forrester’s Research Web 2.0. model (Figure 2) based on an analysis of online participation and consumption practices, the authors identify six segments of users, ordered by way in which people participate:

On the Geoweb, participation activities include: consuming information; contributing digital multimedia, information and applications (e.g. mash-ups); webinars, crowdsouring, building on existing value-added information and immersive experiences.  

(4) What tools are used? 

The Geoweb can be said to exist within the [Internet] cloud as “an integrated, discoverable collection of geographically related web services and data that supports the use of geographic data in a range of domain applications” (Lake and Farley, 2007, 15). Geoweb tools and services are platform independent and include numerous tools: digital earths, social networking tools and applications, crowd-sourcing applications (e.g., Open Street Map) and even the immersive massively multiplayer online role playing game Second Life.

(5a) To what end (purpose of tool)? 

When we consider the purpose of the tool from which perspective are we looking? From the commercial (e.g., Google), developers (e.g., application developer) or users’ perspective? The purpose of the tool will depend on the context (e.g., informal, play, social, and formal), interest, motivation (e.g., individual, group or community project/initiative, planners) and ability of the individual (see Q2). Purpose could range from contributing and sharing information, social inclusion or reducing marginalisation, altruism, building social capital, collective intelligence, empowerment, self-promotion and/or generating revenue, to mention just a few. 

(6) What results from this participation? What characteristics define effective participation?

How does one define ‘results’ and ‘effective’ on the Geoweb? We probably have to refer back to purpose (see above)? For any one project (if we can call Geoweb activity a project), commercial companies, developers and users likely do not have the same purpose or goal. By extension, there are multiple measures of effectiveness. For instance, effective participation for a commercial company maybe about the click-throughs per hour while for a community site it maybe about information exchange, contribution and sharing. 

(7) Tell us about your theories of participation? Is there friction?

Theories include: (a) Participation ladders (e.g. Arnstein, Wiedemann and Femar, Conner and Dorcey et al); (b) Social construction and power (e.g. Foucault); (c) Social networks (e.g. Castells); (d) traditional participatory methods like participatory rural appraisal, and (e) studies of the Internet (see Rheingold; Turkle; Pew Research).  We also draw on the Public Participation GIS and Participatory GIS (Renee, Jon), Geoweb (Scharl), Neogeography (Turner) and Volunteered Geographic Information (Goodchild, Elwood).

We see some friction in applying the Geoweb to participation. These include the way the Geoweb challenges: (1) the sequential and unidirectional nature of the participation ladders; (2) the motivation of people to participate underpinning the current set of participation ladders/models; (3) a change from the top-down nature of participation as outlined in these models which have wider implications on the role of new ICTs. We will expand on these during the conference call.   


See the attachment below for identical text and figures


See attached doc below...

Addition (written May 14, uploaded May 18):

Upon re-reading our input, I would like to offer the following, more pointed definition of participation on the Geoweb:

  • A person's contribution(s) to a decision-making process submitted through an online mapping or geo-tagging application

The type of contribution(s) might be described with reference to Simon's (1965, 1977) phases of rational/strategic decision-making:



*Simon, H.A. The shape of automation. New York : Harper and Row, 1965.
**Also, Simon, H.A. The new science of management decision. Englewood Cliffs , NJ : Prentice-Hall, 1977
+Cited from Sabherwal, R. & Grover, V. Computer Support for Strategic Decision-Making Processes: Review and Analysis, Decision Sciences 20(1): 54-76, 2007
++Using the two dichotomies of observations & opinions and contents & comments that have come up in the Ryerson projects thus far


Here's the place to post your participation notes. You can add your own link (remember to mix upper and lower case in one word, e.g., YolandaWiersma, and then follow the directions to create a page) or just attach a file (see commands at the very bottom of the page; click on 'File Attachments' near the submit button).


[Renee] We didn't touch on the what of participation, that is, what are people doing or contributing? For the Newfoundland crew, it's both digital content and scientific observations. For RinnerChung, it's "observations or opinions, contents or comments". Don't know why we dance around the issue of "what". Perhaps because some of us see participation as a process and not something that produces stuff (another difference between PGeoweb and VGI). 

[Claus] Please see Ryerson-RinnerChung page for an addition. I am trying to include the different "whats" (field observations, multimedia, opinions) through reference to different phases of decision-making.

[Renee] Another difference concerns NewfoundlandGroup's comments "Degree of investment in the issue (geographic proximity, interest group, economic ties, political ties)". We believe that we can distinguish between Web 2.0 and Web 1.0 on, for want of a better phrase, how nebulous the project is. Traditional venues for employing participation with geospatial technologies are stuctured (e.g., planning processes, an expert coming into a village, a grassroots-led initiative to preserve/prevent something). You can't say the same for Web 2.0. People contributing content? That could be done for any number of reasons, none of which may have to do with a structured venue. Still, Hanif and I are hard-pressed to conceptualize PGeoweb without some kind of structure (perhaps Mc Conchie would call it "instigation"). So this ultimately ends up being an area of commonality.

[Renee] According, to RinnerChing, effectiveness is "A continued or recurring, sustainable participation process; and a range of people that are, and remain, engaged." But shouldn't participation and the process in which it's embedded have a beginning and end point? For example, are we talking about blogging about city problems or blogging about a specific problem until the problem is solved (maybe participation via blogging is like potholes: you blog to get them filled, but as soon as you think it's over, the potholes have returned).

[Alan] ...Give a person a blog, and their potholes will get fixed once. Teach a person to blog, and their potholes will be fixed forever?

[pamela typing] Renee, I am intrigued by your comments about how web 2.0 researchers will push back against efforts to contextualize. Intuitively I 'get' that but can you direct me/us to a reading/post/something where these ideas are articulated? thanks! [Renee] I'll have to look for one. I get this from conversations with the Web 2.0 guys, who by the way, care nothing about how geographers, planners frame things (part of Keen's argument in Cult of the Amateur). If I were to link it to any other concept, I'd say that it's part of the crowdsourcing quality. It seems a bit counter-intuitive. They'll say that the ideas occur in the cloud. At some point the content gets aggregated (knowledge through accumulation, eyeballs, and co-mingling) and purposed (or repurposed). In other words, it's not purposed from the beginning; purpose is a happy accident. That's the organic and inductive dream of Web 2.0.


[Renee] NewfoundlandGroup points to the issue of "Observer engagement with the issue beyond generating observations. YES. For us, participation is a means to an end. That end is action of some kind. How do we encourage that action? Maybe online participation, by its nature, discourages action.

[Renee] Outcome or goals of P Geoweb differ by group (see RinnerChung), goal (Chmura). "Other Ryerson" makes me wonder if effectiveness/ outcome is determined exogenously.

[Renee] Following on Mc Conchie's tension between simplicity and flexibility, I also wonder what is the role of tool building in PGeoweb? It's certainly left out of VGI.


There is a call for papers for a special issue of Geomatica with the title "Volunteered Geographic Information", see Do you think that the results from this collection and the conference call might yield material for a joint submission?

That sounds like a neat idea - and would be a nice first piece for our group to put out. Tight deadline though - we'd need someone from our group to commit to taking it forward. But worth adding as an agenda item on the conf. call, I think. - yw

Also, we agreed to continue the conversation with one-on-one (or more) chats

Pleas post your notes of the chats

Audio recording of the conference call:

Also available at:

Toronto team portrayed in Ryerson research news and student newspaper

The Toronto node of the project is portrayed in a

Under the headline "Geography prof's map tool lets citizens have their say", The Ryersonian student newspaper of January 28, 2009, discusses the Argoomap tool developed by Ryerson students and researchers. A scan of the article is included below.


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