Nama Budhathoki's PhD Dissertation Abstract

Nama Budhathoki recently joined the McGill node of Team 41 as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow. His recent dissertation abstract on VGI from his PhD dissertation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is posted below. 

Welcome Nama, we are so happy you joined our team!

The Facebook of Forest Fires: Team 41 in the Globe and Mail this week

Featured in the Globe and Mail this week is project investigator Dr. Jon Corbett and GEOIDE students Aidan Whitely and Samantha Brennan from UBC Okanagan with their project that maps forest fires in the Okanagan.

Check out the project's web site at:  

Globe and Mail article at:

Britta's Research Video

Argoo Map in the press!

 Argoo map was featured this week in, News Digest of the Canadian Association of Geographers No. 19, March 8, 2009. Read more at Ryerson Online. 

Good job Claus and Steven Chung!

Microsoft Virtual Earth 3-D new release


A new version of Microsoft Virtual Earth 3-D was released today. Over 300 cities have been modeled and are featured. Also included in the release is a program called Remix allowing users to create their own 3-D mash ups. You can read more on the blogs or the official press release

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.


Nov. 9, 2009 - legal issues? As we prepare to launch our website - we are wondering if anyone has insights on legal issues/disclaimers? I've looked at Brian's e-flora stuff and borrowed some of his langugage around copyright, etc., and also borrowed some disclaimers from re: dangers of going into the wilderness.

But does a blanket copyright statement cover the intellectual property of the data? Or should that be stated explicitly? When VGI is generate, does that implicitly transfer the intellectual property to the owners of the Geoweb-site? If those data are eventually used to form wildlife policy, or show up in a paper, I imagine there would be a blanket acknowlegement to VGI contributors (which is the norm in scientific papers that use citizen science data - eg. Christmas Bird Count data) - but how explicitly does this have to be spelled out on the website?


Here's a place where we discuss the factors that enhance or inhibit the move from desktop GIS or online mapping or online GIS onto Web 2.0.

I've attached a chapter from Woodgate, Peter. 2007. "Factors of Innovation for the Australian Spatial Industry. Ph. D. Dissertation. Business Administration. RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology), Melbourne, Australia.

I'm hoping that we can use some of Woodgate's factors of innovation in geospatial technologies. Hopefully this can form the basis for a user needs assessment.

Google's new satellite

Everyone is talking about it. Google launched a satellite The Geo Eye-1 satellite will take photos with a resolution of 0.41 cm / pixel

It is highest resolution commercial remote sensing satellite, launched successfully today an Vandenberg Air Force Base on Saturday September 6.


google satelite on joetronic

GeoEye on arstecha

 Spatial Sustain

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