Presentation at OMRN

Our team members, Hanif Rahemtulla and Gail Chmura of Mc Gill University and Botshelo Sabone of the University of New Brunswick presented at Linking Science and Local Knowledge session, Oceans Management Research Network (OMRN) Conference presentation, Ottawa, ON, October 23, 2009.

For more information, see the whitepaper series of OMRN's Linking Science and Local Knowledge working group.


Participatory Geoweb Session

The Participatory Geoweb

Session Abstract: The Geoweb—the intersection of geospatial technologies and information and Web 2.0—has created a paradigm shift in GIScience. A significant contribution of the Geoweb is its seeming facility to engage the public, whether this is accomplished through geo-referenced user generated contact, screen scrapings and mashups, or the geolocation of stories and points of interests on digital earths. A small, albeit uncritical, literature is emerging on the participation of the public in this emerging medium.

Presentations in this session showcase applications of and frame a critical research agenda for the Participatory Geoweb, which is the involvement of advocacy nonprofits, local communities, and marginalized peoples—the civil society—in the Geoweb (including the creation of virtual civil societies). They build on prior research in participatory GIS, and look towards assessing the varied technologies of the participatory Geoweb, understanding the nature of public, the extent to which participation is actually occurring and the association between participation and empowerment. Because this is a new medium, and (potentially) a new way of thinking about distributed online geospatial information, existing lessons of PGIS do not necessarily transfer. Finally, application and research agendas demonstrate the importance of responding to actual needs of people and remaining relevant to the civil society that has become transfixed (at least momentarily) by the Geoweb.

Presentation 1: Harris, Trevor. 2008 Participatory GIS and the Geospatial semantic web

Abstract: The Geospatial Web has come alive in the last three years since Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! released their respective Web mapping applications and Virtual Globes and opened up online digital mapping to mainstream Internet users.  This growth began with tech savvy users creating their own sites from the ground up using the included Application Programming Interfaces and was quickly followed by several companies, such as Platial, offering user friendly portals that removed the need to program websites.  Sites such as Geocommons takes this a step further by offering not only background layers for users to overlay onto their own data, but also a wide array of freely available data that users can mash-up in ways that are more meaningful to them.  In the 1990s discussion about Participatory GIS and GIS2 it was argued that the Internet was not likely to provide the core of the next generation PGIS/GIS2.  That belief has been under review for several years as the Internet has developed tools that have enabled communities to acquire, map, and share information in ways that facilitate public participation from the global to the local level.  Coupled with the extensive and growing social networking environment of Web 2.0 and semantic parsing the use of the Participatory Geoweb is likely to grow still more.  This paper explores how the emerging Geospatial Semantic Web can meet some of the fundamental needs of Participatory GIS projects to incorporate local knowledge into GIS, as well as promote public access and collaborative mapping.

Presentation 2: Rahemtulla, Hanif. 2008. A Mobile Spatial Messaging Service for a Grassroots Environmental Network.

Abstract: Strengthening the ability of locally-based initiatives to harness Science and Technology is an essential component of strategies for achieving sustainable development. The current study, conducted by UCL in partnership with London 21, an environmental grassroots network organisation in London, examined the potential of utilising existing mobile technologies to deliver a mobile service to support the goals of the organisation. Using a participatory research approach, an extensive user requirement study was carried out, to ensure the research goals for the development of a mobile service serve the needs and expectations of the host organisation and the other organisations within its network. A Spatial Messaging Service, EcoTEXT, has been developed and deployed for the organisation. This service allows individuals to receive geographically targeted, action-orientated, time-relevant information via text-messages on their mobile phone - information about upcoming local environmental events and activities, which match the interest to the user, when these events occur in close spatial proximity to where that user resides. This type of service represents a powerful new dimension for the provision of data-driven services, in comparison to current text-services, targeting information based on user requirements and interest, relating location to pertinent information giving it additional meaning and value. The introduction of such a service into the organisations range of communication tools offers the potential to create, supplement and strengthen social ties and interactions within the community.

Presentation 3: Burns, Ryan. 2008. Landscapes of Participatory Dialogue: Participation and Geovisualization  in Agora Xchange

Abstract: Agora Xchange is an online dialogue-oriented game where all users contribute to the construction of an “ideal” world. In the game forum users discuss what an ideal representation of the world would entail; topics such as political organizations, social inequality, and violence are usually the centerpieces of conversations. The goal is to develop a world without politics-as-usual: a rethinking of traditional institutions.

This project takes from the Agora Xchange game the dialogue in its entirety and calculates a Self-Organizing Map (SOM) of that dialogue. The result is a high-dimensional dataset of discourse that has been reduced to a 2-dimensional map. Geographic principles and the map metaphor have been particularly useful in conceptualizing information spaces, and this project will test those notions for this SOM. For instance, we expect to see which users are “far away” from each other in terms of their dialogue, the “density” of certain concepts, and “peaks” and “valleys” of dialogue.

This project demonstrates an instance where public participation, the Geoweb, and geovisualization intersect. Implications of this intersection should include increased geographic and social understanding, empowerment of the participators, landscapes of dialogue, and highlighted areas of potential Participatory Geoweb research. The final outcome of the project is highly valuable to geography and several of its subfields, but also to participatory practices.

Presentation 4: Kelly, Maggie and Ken'ichi Ueda. 2008. Participatory GIS in Sierra Nevada Forest Adaptive Management: the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project

Abstract: Plans for Adaptive Management of the Sierra Nevada forest ecosystem face challenges common to other multidimensional natural resource management programs in other areas worldwide characterized by natural, social and historical complexity.   How can dynamic communities with changing needs, aspirations and technologies maintain a sustainable relationship with the environment that is itself dynamic and constantly changing? Any adaptive process that tackles this challenge will require the sharing and discussion of information about the human and natural components of the system being managed. Developing tools to gather new information, optimize the use of available information, and ensure that all parties can effectively participate in the decision-making process are critical components of a natural resource adaptive management process.  Modern tools such as Internet message boarding, Participatory mapping and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have been used often separately as information gathering and sharing tools.  WebGIS systems, a hybrid of GIS and Internet technologies are a promising option for entering and storing heterogenous datasets, indexed by location, and making them widely available in a visual, dynamic and interactive format, are increasingly used in Participatory projects.  This paper presents a case study from the Sierra Nevada forests, and illustrates how webGIS is used in an Adaptive Management process.

Presentation 5: Sieber, R. E. 2008. ParticipatoryGeoweb

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?



Please use this space to post information about the conferences you are attending or have attended. Perhaps you've found a conference that you think some of us should attend. Please post this too.


2nd Climate Change Technology Conference (CCTC2009), May 12-15 2009, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario,

First Open Source GIS UK Conference (CGS), 22 June 2009, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK,  

5th International Conference on e-Social Science, 24 - 26 June 2009, Maternushaus, Cologne,

RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2009, 26 - 28 August 2009, Manchester, UK, http://www/

6th International Symposium on LBS & TeleCartography (CGS), University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK,


Ellul, C., Rahemtulla, H., Haklay, M. and Francis, L. 2009. A Mechanism to Create Community Maps for Non-Technical Users. International Conference on Geographic Information Systems and Web Services, February 1-6, Cancun, Mexico.

Coleman, D. 2008.  Spatial Data Infrastructure and Web 2.0. Presented at the Atlantic Regional Workshop of the Geomatics Industry Association of Canada, September 18, The Delta Hotel Fredericton, Fredericton, NB.

Coleman, D. 2008. Spatial Data Infrastructure and Web 2.0. Invited presentation, International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation,  October 15, Enschede, The Netherlands.

Coleman, D., Latour, S. and Labonte, J. 2008. The Canadian NSDI Experience: Policy and Implementation. Proceedings of NSDI Korea. The 12th International Seminar on GIS, October 2008, Seoul, Republic of Korea. 

Corbett, J., Allen, P. and White, K. 2009. Overcoming the Limitations of Participatory Geographic Information Technologies using the Geospatial Web. Spatial Knowledge and Information Canada, February 24-28, Fernie, BC.

Klinkenberg, B. 2008. The Reflexivity of Geospatial Technology: Exploring the Geographies of Hope and Fear. Spatial Knowledge and Information Canada (SKI) Conference, February 15-17, Fernie, BC.

Kumari, J., and C. Rinner 2008. Participatory GIS for Environmental Planning: A Case Study in the Kawarthas. Abstract and poster presentation at the GEOIDE Annual Scientific Conference, 28-30 May 2008, Niagara Falls, Canada.

McConchie, A. 2008. Web Map Mashups: Cartography of Insurgence? Spatial Knowledge and Information Canada (SKI) Conference, February 15-17, Fernie, BC.

Rahemtulla, Hanif. 2008. A Mobile Spatial Messaging Service for a Grassroots Environmental Network. 2008 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, April 15-19, Boston, USA. ParticipatoryGeowebSession

Rahemtulla, H., Ellul, C., Haklay, M., and Francis, L. 2009. Mapping Change for Sustainable Communities. Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, March 22-27, Las Vagas, USA.

Ricker, B. 2008. Climate Change! Maps! Action! Public Response to Climate Change Projections using Digital Earth and Geoweb Applications. Spatial Knowledge and Information Canada (SKI) Conference 2008, February 15-17, Fernie, BC.

Rinner C. 2008. Bridging the Gap Between Analytic and Deliberative Spatial Decision Support. Abstract for an organized session at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, April 15-19, Boston, USA.

Sieber, R. E. 2008. Introduction to the Participatory Geoweb. Presentation at the 10th GEOIDE Annual Scientific Conference. May 28-30, Niagara Falls. IntroParticipatoryGeoweb

Sieber, R. E. 2008. Participation, Governance and the Geoweb. GIS Science Biennial Conference, Park City, Utah, Sept. 23-26. ParticipationGovernanceGeoweb

Sieber, R. E. 2008. The Participatory Geoweb: A Research Agenda. 2008 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Boston, USA, April 15-19. ParticipatoryGeoweb

Sieber, R. E. 2008. The Participatory Geoweb: Session. 2008 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Boston, USA, April 15-19. ParticipatoryGeowebSession

Sieber, R. E. 2009. Discussant, Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) and GIScience Research (II). Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Las Vegas, USA, March 22-27.

Sieber, R. E. 2009. Neographers meet Paleogeographers. Session Chair and Panelist. Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, March 22-27, Las Vegas, USA,

Sieber, R. E. 2009. Philosophy for GIScience. Panelist. Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, March 22-27, Las Vegas, USA.

Wiersma, Y.F. and Skinner, R. 2009. Update on Ep Research at the LESA Lab. Presented at the Harris Centre Erioderma workshop. Jule 1, Memorial University, St. John's. 

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