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

Spoofed GPS!

CBC reports how GPS units can be spoofed. Scientists at Cornell University created a device about the size of  a brief case that, when it is placed near a GPS unit, will modify signals that will reach the GPS. The research is a test of the vulnerability of a GPS. What could this mean for neogeographers and the participatory geoweb?

Cricket and Climate Change in the UK (no not the sport)

"'When you get in trouble and you don't know right from wrong, give a little whistle'. Jiminy Cricket. As if to prick our conscience about climate change, the humble cricket is providing powerful evidence of its impact." (BBC News) Monitoring crickets on the other side of the pond using maps is yet another example how UGC can help scientists. This article also provides the link to a butterfly watch in the UK as well.

Participatory Geoweb: A Research Agenda

[Can't find the orginal abstract. Will post it as soon as I find it.]

This paper frames a critical research agenda for the Participatory Geoweb, which can be defined as the involvement of advocacy nonprofits organizations, marginalized peoples and local communities—the civil society—in the geospatial technologies and information of Web 2.0. It builds on prior research in participatory GIS, which has demonstrated the importance of understanding the extent of participation and its association with empowerment.

The Geoweb forces us to ask new questions, for example, what constitutes participation in a virtual community such as Second Life and reiterate old questions, for example, how do we surmount the wikipedia, June 29, 2010: "the gap between people with effective access to digital and information technology, and those with very limited or no access at all. It includes the imbalance both in physical access to technology and the resources and skills needed to effectively participate as a digital citizen." For us, the digital divide includes access to a range of platforms, from Internet to mobile technologies. It includes the availability of data to make effective use of those technologies (e.g., a coarse resolution digital background on Google Maps may make it difficult to effectively use that technology).">digital divide to increase access to digital earths. This presentation will delineate a taxonomy for that research agenda. It includes the nature of participation on the Geoweb (ranging from inserting a pushpin and geotagging a photo to building a community mashup and constructing a site such as It interrogates the empowerment gained from interaction with the Geoweb. It calls for a consideration of participants/users and user generated content. At minimum, it “maps out” the emergent applications of geographically represented information on Web 2.0, that merely begin at Internet enabled digital earths but extend to geo-referenced mashups on mobile devices. The Participatory Geoweb is contextualized within a libertarian and egalitarian online ideology of equal access and opportunity, a civic sphere in which it is perceived that anyone can create content (blurring data supplier and user) and that everyone’s an expert. So what is the role of the expert, heretofor a staple of PGIS applications? What about legitimacy (will digital earths be seen as legitimate) and trust? Access means digital divide but also in an age of the surveillance society and multi-tiered Internet 3.0.

Some questions that must be asked:
Participation has been cast as involvement in policy making.
What is community? (Why does it matter how we define community? Can we separate users from place)? What do we do about virtual communities?
Digital Divide?
User generated content (usually the community generates the content. However, here there are tiers of users) It blurs, like PGIS did not do, the distinction between user and supplier.
Access to data (or access to scraping technology? Or presentation tools. What about data currency)?
Do we need to reconsider bottom up and top down?
Can we participate in a commercial sphere? Can we carve out a public sphere within a private sphere?
Getting heard above the noise? (geospamming and geoflaming)
What is the difference between participation and interaction of Web 2.0?



Renée E. Sieber, Mc Gill University,


The civil society – the general public, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), voluntary associations and social networks – are core stakeholders in democratic governmental decision-making processes. GIS has been promoted as a means to engage members of the civil society in policy making because the cartographic medium can help facilitate a higher level of comprehension of complex spatial planning issues (Mac Eachren, 1995; Kraak, 2004). Despite its popularity, however, GIS has been found to both empower and marginalize (usually simultaneously) those publics (Harris et al., 1995). The terms Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) and Participatory GIS (PGIS) (Sieber, 2006) were coined to situate and evaluate the role of GIS in these decision-making processes (Corbett and Keller, 2005). The Internet has been seen as a medium to broaden public involvement and has been used to assess community engagement in a number of somewhat isolated P/PGIS case studies (Tang and Coleman, 2005; Sidlar and Rinner, 2007; Rinner and Bird, Accepted).

The Geospatial Web (Geoweb) has emerged as a platform that could build upon current P/PGIS practice and broaden public engagement. The Geoweb enables the integration of data from multiple sources and the communication of information through a simple layered map interface using second-generation World Wide Web (“Web 2.0”) scripting languages and applications (Helft, 2007; Scharl and Tochtermann, 2007). Accompanying platform development, there is an exponentially growing volume of user-generated content and online communities that develop and share volunteered geographic information (Gibson and Erle, 2006; Tapscott and Williams, 2007; Goodchild, 2007). This trend has been largely fuelled by the widespread availability of Geoweb tools on the Internet, its platform-independence, and its opportunities for integrating user-generated content. Geoweb-based digital earth platforms such as Google Earth, Microsoft’s Virtual Earth, and Wikimapia, allow any Internet user to view location-specific information in an informative, interactive and attractive way, provided that the appropriate information is available. Considerable scepticism surrounds the ‘hype’ of the Geoweb for enhancing meaningful communication among stakeholders (Keen 2007).

To date, Geoweb research and practice focus on the leisure-related or business aspects of Web 2.0. In this paper, we examine the participatory governance potential of the Geoweb and, in particular, its potential to enable a two-way dialogue between government and civil society. In part, this means comparing and contrasting the participatory Geoweb and traditional P/PGIS (including web-based P/PGIS). The findings will contribute to a more nuanced understanding of how citizens might act as distributed sensors for local knowledge (Goodchild, 2007), providing data and information that could aid their governments in addressing and developing policy and legislation that responds to this change. Academically, we seek to close the gap between GIS concepts, methods and tools, and the ad-hoc development of Geoweb technologies and applications.


This paper frames the theoretical social and technological platform for a project on the participatory Geoweb. The platform consists of the following three questions:

  1. What defines effective participation on the Geoweb? Arguably, the Geoweb has changed the manner in which we conceptualize participation. We will discuss how participation in this new global platform spans a multitude of actors and reasons to participate. We also will characterize the politics (cultural, regulatory frameworks) of participation and begin to identify organizational and geographic scales at which participatory processes occur within the Geoweb as compared to policy making, which tends to be jurisdictionally bound.
  2. How do we better contextualize web-based models, applications, and data? The ideology of the Geoweb proposes a transparent and egalitarian infrastructure (Turner 2006), which varies from traditional literature that exposes a wikipedia, June 29, 2010: "the gap between people with effective access to digital and information technology, and those with very limited or no access at all. It includes the imbalance both in physical access to technology and the resources and skills needed to effectively participate as a digital citizen." For us, the digital divide includes access to a range of platforms, from Internet to mobile technologies. It includes the availability of data to make effective use of those technologies (e.g., a coarse resolution digital background on Google Maps may make it difficult to effectively use that technology).">digital divide. We plan to delineate potential divides and needs for technical literacy. Additionally we will cover the need for trust mechanisms to increase government confidence in citizen-sensed data and to navigate the differences between authoritative (i.e., from official sources) and assertive (i.e., from non-official sources) information.
  3. How do we begin to build the cyberinfrastructure and enabling policies that serve two-way interaction? Lastly, we need to understand the migration from Web 1.0 tools to Web 2.0. Many GIS-using organizations have invested considerable resources in existing GIS applications and may be unwilling to invest extensively in the Geoweb (beyond publishing kmls). We will briefly outline the opportunities and constraints posed by rapidly emerging Geoweb development environments, application and standards.

In laying the theoretical foundation for the case studies it is hoped that we will identify emergent knowledge and evaluate changes in stakeholders and policy that result from the use of this new platform and promote case study lessons for broader use in planning and policy decision-making.


Corbett, J., and Keller, C.P. (2005). “An Analytical Framework to Examine Empowerment Associated with Participatory Geographic Information Systems.” Cartographica 40: 91-102.
Gibson, R. and S. Erle 2006. Google Maps Hacks. O'Reilly Media, Inc.
Goodchild, M.F. (2007). “Citizens as voluntary sensors: spatial data infrastructure in the world of Web 2.0” International Journal of Spatial Data Infrastructures Research 2: 24–32.
Helft, M. (2007). “With Tools on Web, Amateurs Reshape Mapmaking.” New York Times, Technology Section, 26 July.
Keen, Andrew. (2007). The Cult of the Amateur: How today's internet is killing our culture. Doubleday, New York, NY, USA.
Kraak, Menno-Jan. (2004). “The role of the map in a Web-GIS environment.” Journal of Geographical Systems 6: 83-93
Mac Eachren, A.M. (1995). How Maps Work. New York, The Guildford Press.
Rinner, C. and M. Bird (accepted) “Evaluating Community Engagement through Argumentation Maps - A Public Participation GIS Case Study.” Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design.
Scharl, A. and K. Tochtermann (Eds). 2007. The Geospatial Web: How Geobrowsers, Social Software and the Web 2.0 are Shaping the Network Society. London: Springer. Information and Knowledge Processing Series.
Sidlar, C. and C. Rinner. (2007). “Analyzing the Usability of an Argumentation Map as a Participatory Spatial Decision Support Tool.” URISA Journal 19(1): 47-55.
Sieber, R.E. (2006). “Public Participation Geographic Information Sys-tems: A Literature Review and Framework.” Annals of the American Association of Geographers 96(3): 491-­507.
Tang, Teresa and D.J. Coleman. (2005). “Design of a GIS-based Online Discussion Forum for Participatory Community Planning.” Proceedings of the 98th Annual Conference of the Canadian Institute of Geomatics, Ottawa, Canada. June.
Tapscott, D. and A.D. Williams. (2007). Wikinomics: How mass collaboration changes everything. Penguin Group, New York, NY, USA.
Turner, A. (2006). Introduction to Neogeography. O’Reilly.

Make your own icons for Google Maps

In case any of you are using google maps or google earth and want to make your own unique icons for this project This site helps you do just that. Happy icon making!

Pandemic Preparedness Map

USAID and Inter Action have come together to collaborate on issues of pandemic preparedness across the globe. These organizations have created a function to map on-the-ground public health organizations' capacity to respond to outbreaks. "The goal of the site is to both improve both data collection from public health organizations on the ground and improve data visualization for policy makers here in Washington, D.C."

Read more here.

Google Earth Outreach

At Google, employees are required to work on their full time job and work 20% of the time on a  side project of their choice. Rebecca Moore started working with NGOs and indigenous peoples around the world introducing them to Google Earth and Google Maps. Google Earth Outreach applies Google's mapping tools to communicate pressing issues such as environmental conservation, human rights, cultural preservation and creating a sustainable society.
For a little over a year, Google Earth Outreach has been Rebecca Moore's full time gig. She and her team have provided impressive layers on Google Earth as well as easy to follow and informative tutorials for users to learn how to use tools offered by Google Maps and Google Earth. Rebecca Moore introduced new layers featured in their show case at the Google Earth Outreach Geneva kick off.  

British Foreign and Commonwealth office embraces Web 2.0 technologies

The British Foreign and Commonwealth office seems to be taking full advantage of Web 2.0 technologies. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband took part in press conference hosted in the virtual world of Second Life...a year ago! The event marked the end of a vital meeting of the world's Small Island States in the Maldives 13-14 Nov 2007. Reporters (well their avatars) were encouraged to attend.

Read more here and view screen shots  from the Second Life conference on the British Foreign and Commonwealth's office Flickr site. On top of the Flickr site and Second Life meetings, several of the diplomats also keep blogs

Searching the FCO website further I found an interesting article by Evan Potter about online vs. real life diplomacy. Second Life may sound silly but the potential for more enriched communication and broad participation is there. 


Participation is a difficult concept where it concerns the Geoweb. All Web 2.0 is considered to be participatory, by design, whether it's a Twittervision post, a mashup, or the development of code to change society. Public participation GIS, by contrast, defines participation as being involved in specific public policies.

Here's an excellent typology of participation on Web 2.0 from Business Week magazine.

If we use this as one axis of participation and use, as the other axis, Sherry Arnstein's classic Ladder of Citizen Participation in Governance then I think we'd have something workable. It still leaves some gaps, for example, what happens when a single person simultaneously occupies multiple categories? And it still fails to capture motivation to participation or some factor that could be called "stake in physical locality".

Here's a definitions of participation I found from article on video conferencing I reviewed for a conference.

Participation, or the active contribution by participants, can be facilitated in many ways. Participation includes verbal communication and gestures that signal recognition, rapport or a connection with others, understanding, and openness to new ideas or information. Participation in group videoconferencing also includes the potential engagement of participants who interact with others before during and after the videoconferencing to engage in learning, empowerment, the formation of identity or self definition, as well as individual or group action leading to individual, group, organization or community change. 

 Here's a beautifully detailed contribution from our partner at CEC, Cody Rice,

What is participation?

Comments/reactions, volunteered information, voting/rating, agenda-setting, learning, data collection

Who are participants?

Internet access, general public, interested public, stakeholders, NGOs, government (all levels), academia

What is expected of participants?

Time, mental effort, homework, communication of values

Why are they participating?

What is the payoff for the participants?

How do they participate?

Creating content: writing, video, maps; editing content; commenting; voting; submission of data; photos; citizen science; responding/reacting to moderated content; sharing/pushing contentInformation, consultation, participation

Is it just online?

How are they recruited?

Promotional mechanisms

Where do people gather?

Existing communities of interest (off the internet)

Existing (on the internet): Flickr, Youtube, Blogs, media websites, etc.

What is the motivation of the sponsor?

How does the sponsor benefit from participation?Is anyone listening?Are there feedback mechanism?Just to collect information? To “make the invisible, visible”? To change attitudes, opinions, perspective?

Is anyone learning?

Informed vs. uninformed participation, opportunities for collaborative learning

What are the various participatory technologies?

Listserv, SMS




Voting/ Rating

Meet Up


Footprint, carbon calculators

Google Maps, Google Earth

Social Media: Facebook, My Space, Linked In, etc.

Data standards: xml, kml, Geo RSS, APIs

Wikimapia: Let’s describe the whole Earth

GEOWiki databases: GEOWIKI is essentially a means of many people contributing to the development of a large database (sometimes called crowd-sourcing). On this page are a number of databases that are being developed using a Google Earth based GEOWIKI and which, after quality control, will be used to answer some important environmental questions and will also be made available for download in common GIS formats.

CONSERVATION_EYE is a land use change alert system based on the MODIS Vegetation Continuous Fields tree cover product (Collection 4, release 3). CONSERVATION-EYE is designed to allow rapid regional and local visualisation of areas of forest cover loss and gain over recent years. The data are at 500m resolution and so do not pick up small scale change. See Terrascope (Terrascope) for detailed visual change analysis in Google Earth. The rationale for CONSERVATION-EYE is to provide an easy mechanism for hotspotting land use change in and around protected areas for non remote-sensing specialists.

In Dot Earth, reporter Andrew C. Revkin examines efforts to balance human affairs with the planet’s limits. Supported in part by a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, Mr. Revkin tracks relevant news from suburbia to Siberia, and conducts an interactive exploration of trends and ideas with readers and experts. Impact Man is my experiment with researching, developing and adopting a way of life for me and my little family—one wife, one toddler, one dog—to live in the heart of New York City while causing no net environmental impact.

Journey North: Journey North engages students in a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change. K-12 students share their own field observations with classmates across North America. They track the coming of spring through the migration patterns of monarch butterflies, robins, hummingbirds, whooping cranes, gray whales, bald eagles— and other birds and mammals; the budding of plants; changing sunlight; and other natural events.

Geo Commons: The Geo Commons beta validated the great demand for Intelligent Mapping Solutions that enable people at all skill levels to find, create and share geographic knowledge for learning, decision making and problem solving. Our focus on data sharing and visualization coupled with an easy-to-use Web interface created tremendous interest. All told, the Geo Commons community created over 4,500 datasets, 70,000 layers and over 10,000 maps.

Many Eyes: Many Eyes bets on the power of human visual intelligence to find patterns. Our goal is to "democratize" visualization and to enable a new social kind of data analysis. All of us in CUE's Visual Communication Lab are passionate about the potential of data visualization to spark insight. It is that magical moment we live for: an unwieldy, unyielding data set is transformed into an image on the screen, and suddenly the user can perceive an unexpected pattern. As visualization designers we have witnessed and experienced many of those wondrous sparks. But in recent years, we have become acutely aware that the visualizations and the sparks they generate, take on new value in a social setting. Visualization is a catalyst for discussion and collective insight about data.

My Starbucks Idea: You know better than anyone else what you want from Starbucks. So tell us. What’s your Starbucks Idea? Revolutionary or simple—we want to hear it. Share your ideas, tell us what you think of other people’s ideas and join the discussion. We’re here, and we’re ready to make ideas happen.

Vulcan Project: The Vulcan Project is a NASA/DOE funded effort under the North American Carbon Program (NACP) to quantify North American fossil fuel carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at space and time scales much finer than has been achieved in the past. The Vulcan project has achieved the quantification of the United States fossil fuel CO2 emissions at the scale of individual factories, powerplants, roadways and neighborhoods.

Danaus plexippus Flickr group: Please share your photo of the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) or their habitat. If you have an interesting story about the photo, be sure to include it in the description. If you share the location, we will include your photo and caption in an interactive map layer we are developing.

Oil Shale and Tar Sands PEIS Maps: Several of the following maps, including oil shale and tar sands resource areas and alternatives boundaries maps from the Draft PEIS, are also available in KML format, for interactive viewing with Google Earth or ArcGIS Explorer "virtual globe" software.

The Geoweb: a revolutionary and empowering technology?

A prime reason that we are attracted to the idea of the participatory Geoweb is that user generated content (UGC) is supposed to revolutionize geography and traditional geographic information systems on the web:

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